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Gender equality: Women still lag behind

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  • Strong cultural norms have influenced legal approaches to gender issues resulting in subtle and, at times, open legal discriminations against women.

By Lynnet A.S Farirai

THE marginalisation of women in socio-economic and political affairs in society has always been a major talking point since time immemorial.

Mainly led by feminists, the quest to push for equality between men and women was witnessed between the 17th and 19th century and it was rooted in the liberal tradition of rights and freedoms.

The idea behind this drive was to push for formal equality for women within existing rules and laws.

During that period rose liberal feminists who advocated for the formal legal and political equality of men and women.

They were later joined by socialist feminists who were eager to achieve radical economic rather than political equality.

Women equality movements generally disregard Plato’s view that women are accustomed to creep into dark places and when dragged out into the light they will exert their utmost power of resistance and be too far much for the legislature.

Yet, for all the gains made by the international community and all the rights women have managed to claim, there is lingering paralysis in societal efforts to close the gender gap and view women’s rights as human rights.

What is disturbing is that the academia, despite its reservoir of intellectual potential to create space for feminist transformations, proceeds at a visibly lethargic pace towards this end.

Gender is socially constructed and as well, gender inequity often is down-played, considered a natural social response to traditional hierarchical roles as a necessary part of community relations in the workforce and also in the home.

Of all the social constructs impacting the contemporary world, gender is perhaps the most pervasive and the most insidious. One area that women find themselves excluded is the mining sector.

Women, as equals according to various international, continental and regional charters, deserve equal access to minerals and benefit from them but in many developing nations, this has not been the case.

In mining for example, women have primarily been involved in crashing, sluicing, washing, panning, sieving, sorting and mercury-gold amalgamation and not actual positions such as managerial of resources.

They have been also active in the provision of goods for example food and drink vending, sales of artisanal equipment such as sieves, and credit for mobile phones and services for example transporting dirt just but to mention.

Women face different economic challenges due to lack of access to use of and control over resourceful land and other productive resources, licences, finance, and geological data when it comes to precious minerals in Africa.

For example in Tanzania, traditional beliefs have prevented women from utilizing these economic factors, denying them any control over earnings.

The inability to access finance contributes to women’s inability to invest in mining equipment and technology necessary for a successful business.

At policy level, the existing discrimination against women often puts them at a lower order in policy decisions affecting them. The de jure and de facto inequity in access to and control over land and property rights have led to difficulties from accessing various other determinants of mining business success, such as finance to women.

Due to the traditionally influenced legal constraints to owning or inheriting land and mineral rights, ending up operating unregistered have been the option for some women.

This increases their vulnerability in the current global efforts to promote formalization, which, in itself, is characterized by arduous requirements many women are unable to fulfil.

Strong cultural norms have influenced legal approaches to gender issues resulting in subtle and, at times, open legal discriminations against women.

What makes it difficult for women to openly air their concerns and ideas in front of men, having a passive participation is because of legal and cultural discrimination, childcare responsibilities and lack of passive participation.

Women have little to no power or influence in actively participating in key decision-making processes due to their lower status. Women’s views, needs, ideas and potential to contribute to solutions are overlooked.

Women’s groups which could represent women’s interests in most cases get off to a good start, only to struggle because of lack of organizational structure and institutional capacity, competition for power and weak leadership

  • About the author: Lynnet A.S Farirai is a Masters in Politics and International Relations student at the University of Zimbabwe.
  • Lynnet can be contacted at
    anesufarirai@yahoo.com

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