International Women’s Day 2020

The theme for International Women’s Day, I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights is aligned with UN Women’s new multigenerational campaign, Generation Equality, which marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

The year 2020 is a pivotal year for advancing gender equality worldwide, as the global community takes stock of progress made for women’s rights since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action. It also marked several other galvanizing moments in the gender equality movement: a five-year milestone towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

SAYWHAT  though the  Web for Life Network, a movement for young women in Zimbabwe and Southern Africa Region, sent online messages on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp) to commemorate this day. The messages were centred on encouraging other young women to assume leadership positions in different spaces.

Multiple obstacles remain unchanged in the governing laws and our culture. Women and girls continue to be undervalued; experiencing multiple forms of abuse at home and in public spaces. SAYWHAT through the Web for life Movement have made strides to empower these   young women to advocate for their rights and needs beyond the international women’s day but in every day of their lives. It is important that people work together to make the world equal and a better place for women.

Female students have many choices to make regarding their college experience. While there are female students in leadership positions on campus, the critical question remains, how do we get more women interested in running for positions in student governance?

These days just about every institution has a diversity and inclusion policy, which typically lays out the institution’s commitment to serving a diverse population. It all sounds pretty promising, yet recent figures show just how much further we have to go to truly achieve diversity in all aspects of development. 

SAYWHAT as an organization working with students has noted with great concern in its programming the unequal participation of female students compared with their male counterparts in governance structures meant to design and implement activities for student’s welfare. In response, SAYWHAT has therefore been offering an enabling platform for young women and female students to actively advance the recognition, protection, and fulfilment of their human rights.

SAYWHAT’s philosophy is rooted in the belief that education can liberate or oppress a people hence our institutions of higher learning should provide that space were both male and female students realize their full potential within and outside the lecture room through participating equally in decision making and governance of students.

 Anecdotal evidence suggests that the unequal participation of female students might compromise the quality of female academia’s produced by our institutions of higher learning as programs designed for the social development of students are not gender sensitive and tailor made to groom female students to be active citizens who contribute to sustainable national development.

This, attributable to structural challenges that limit the extent to which female students can fully participate in governance structures, with institutions playing a key role in stifling the overall operations of student unions and male students playing their  part in discouraging female students, female students remain nepios in college governance.

To create the female friendly college governance platform, institutions need to ensure student governance structures are autonomous and execute their mandate without influence from the administration and from mainstream political parties.

Taking you down the history lane a bit and get to appreciate the massive involvement of students and youth in the bringing about emancipation from the repressive, social unjust and exploitative effects of colonialism, female students participation in activism is well documented.

 If that energy was celebrated then, we can celebrate the same energy, now tailored around achievement of sustainable development and propel the gender agenda. Youthful energy can be organized to propel, defend and extend the recognition of females in governance, even at national level politics.

When young people are empowered with the knowledge of their rights and supported to develop leadership skills, they can provide leadership and drive change in their communities and country. Therefore there is need to prioritise capacity building and mentoring of female students to build their confidence to be able to participate even beyond the spheres of college governance structures and  build their ability to influence others to access SRH services.

As Malala Yousafzai put it: “I raise up my voice not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard, we cannot all succeed when half of us are held back” so should every female young person be, through representing fellow ladies in spaces of key decision making processes.

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