By Tokunbo Kujore, Impact Analyst and Founder, Afro Girls
Being a woman is beautiful, but complicated.
In some cultures, a woman is expected to give birth to a boy - before she is even pregnant. If she gives birth to a boy, she is celebrated. If she gives birth to a girl, well, she is encouraged (more like pressured) to try again for a boy.
We can’t win.
SDG 4, Gender Equality, seeks to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls in a world where girls are not allowed to go to school like their male peers, women are underrepresented in leadership and undervalued in places of business. Society expects us to be seen and not heard. The targets promise the eradication of gender-based violence, sex-related exploitation, early and forced child marriages, female genital mutilation, the digital divide, economic and ownership discrimination for the empowerment of women and girls.
Aside from the humanitarian benefits of inclusion, economically, it doesn’t make sense to silence a people who have the power to increase the annual GDP an average of 3 percent. We’re excluded from innovations, movements and industries like the evolution of technology and basic healthcare. Even our unquantified unpaid labor, which has come to light since the start of the pandemic, seems to be inconsequential to the projected rise of growing economies. Unfortunately, gender-based violence and abuse are harsh realities for many women and girls. 243 million women and girls (aged 15-49) across the world had been subjected to sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner since April 2019. The quarantine measures put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic created the shadow pandemic - increasing the number of domestic violence against women and girls who are were confined to their homes with no resources available. Girls in many parts of the world are also more vulnerable to early marriage during this time and other unfavorable challenges that young women in underdeveloped countries are susceptible to.
Since the start of the year, we have seen a number of cruel injustices against women and girls come to light. The most heartbreaking of them were the stories of Emergency Medical Technician, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department officers, 22-year old, Uwa Omozuwa, who was raped and killed in church in Nigeria, and 5-year old, Kadijah Saccoh, who was raped and murdered in Sierra Leone.
Sadly, stories like this happen every day - many going unreported. There’s nothing that breaks my heart more than knowing that people are okay with taking advantage of helpless women and girls. It’s disgusting and horrifying. The aforementioned stories of injustice just remind me that they are not the first victims of cruelty, and they won’t be the last unless we do something about it.
Enough is Enough, We Need a Mind Shift
Protecting women and girls is not just a job for parents, leaders, or organizations. It is a job for all of us. If you are fully capable of using your voice, power and resources to help impact sustainable change, do it.
Changing Mindsets to Achieve the Goals
My challenge to leaders and global institutions is to stop talking about wanting to change - make it happen. You have the power to change things, change and enforce strategies, laws and curriculum that ensure the protection of our girls and women. You have the means and the resources to do so.
My challenge to citizens is to demand justice, change and equality in all spaces. Let’s stop covering up these issues. We are responsible for each other.
My Challenge to fellow organizations and Influencers of change is to keep doing the work that you have been doing and do your best to make sure that your efforts are affecting real change. Use your resources, use your voices. We can’t be empty barrels in this fight.
To achieve gender equality, we have to change mindsets. By excluding indispensable groups from important matters, we are doing just that. If we plan on ending extreme poverty, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and solving the issues surrounding gender equality, then we must take action. We must unmute the voices of historically marginalized people and include women and girls in pivotal conversations, or else the cycle will continue.
Nobel Peace Laureate and women’s rights activist Leymah Gbowee said it best when she said, “It is time for women to stop being politely angry.” We refuse to play nice anymore. We can’t afford to.
Check out more posts in the SDGs in 20/20 series here.