The perception of genderhood in sustainability

The adoption of multiple international conventions in favour of women (from the Convention of political Rights of women, 1952 to the Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, 1999) launched a great dynamism contributing to the construction and deconstruction of paradigms linked to the social role attributed to male or female  across the globe: from the perception of ‘woman-property’ to the ‘moral valorisation of womanhood’; from the concept of ‘shut-up and be beautiful’ to an emerging trend of women frequently having ‘decision-making powers’ in public affairs.

Thus, an evolution of the social paradigms with social institutions as impulse engine is noted. Among these institutions, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), more specifically SDG5. The latter is presented as a development strategy aimed at promoting gender equality and the achievement of women and girls’ empowerment in the form of:

  • ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls,
  • promoting the sharing of responsibilities in the household and family,
  • ensuring the full and effective participation of women and their equal access to administrative functions at all levels of decision-making in state public affairs,
  • access to sexual and reproductive health care for all,
  • equal rights to economic resources,
  • Access to key technologies.

Defining the global transhumance from MDGs to SDGs

The SDGs came in response to the limitations of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The overall mission of the MDGs was to ‘promote gender equality and women’s empowerment’; the action focused on the appropriation of the concept by the State authorities; the SDGS on their part, have as aim to ‘achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment’; the action is centered on the appropriation of the concept by the targeted individuals: the girl, the woman, the boy and the man.

The starting point of the implementation of the adopted strategy was education. Education has been identified as playing a central role in inclusive growth, equity, social transformation and sustainable development. The main challenge faced by this action plan is precisely the social habitus that remain a hindrance to the effectiveness of institutions’ implemented programs for gender equality. It’s all about extracting socio-cultural factors that hinder the development and well-being of women and girls in different sectors of society. Homes/families are defined as the primary cell of society where each individual receives first notions of community life. It is also noted in most African homes/families that the initiation to society has a fairly significant relay of patriarchal tradition. Children learn at an early stage the concept of male superiority as an objective and natural state of fact. The result of the transmission of this mindset is the self-devaluation of womanhood; often leading to acts of violence.

According to psychologists, acts of violence usually cause a self-devaluation that can lead to a depressive and suicidal attitude (Clémentine Autain, 2003). Considering that the female population in Sub-Saharan Africa is 50,12% (World Bank, 2017) and that about  36.6% of these are reported victims of violence and thus exposed to suicidal tendencies, it is an alarm that highlights the great need to encourage women and girls to denounce any act of violence issued against them and also having platforms that work in rebuilding the dignity of the victims.

The demands of having the future we want: sustainable and resilient society

According to sustainable development theorists, a balanced society is that which takes into consideration both female and male contributions. In most African countries, female contribution is expected on two fronts: the social front and the professional. At the social front, women are considered to be reproductive agents. In that line, they are called up to give birth to children, and at the same time avail themselves of their function as socialisation nuturers by guaranteeing the well-being of each member of the household. In terms of professional demands, women are confronted with the expectations of maximum productivity. The result is the double day task. This fact does not contribute to the full development of women. Working conditions in the African context do not sufficiently take into consideration the socio-cultural attributes of women. The legal system in the current state at the professional level is not conducive for women who at a point of time have to choose between career and family life. This entails that either they prioritise their responsibilities of housewives or stop their maternity and follow-up the education of their toddlers. This observation raises the need for the provision of public services, infrastructures and social protection policies that regulate the domestic care and duties allowing all women to flourish both professionally, economically, socially and be healthy.

In the African and particularly Cameroonian context, it is a challenge for women to have control over their own bodies in accordance with the legal texts in force. The right to decide what happens to your own body is not yet apprehended by a large number of women. Customary perception is the cause. Some cultures still describe the use of contraceptive methods as an aberration. The gynecologist in Cameroon suffers from a poor perception among the population. The result of this misperception is therapeutic abstentions by women even in the occurrence of illness. In the case of consultations, the diagnosis of the gynecologist is not always received in good faith. Consultations are often done on semi-conflictual relationships between the medical specialist and the patient. In Cameroon, nearly 20,000 women suffer from obstetric and non-obstetric fistula. There are 2,000 new cases each year and only 200 women can be treated per year (UNFPA, 2014). These statistics highlight the importance of taking measures to reinforce the means of sensitization and strategies of community mobilizations and prevention (Pierre Marie Tebeu, 2016).

For an efficient achievement of the SDG5, the main target has to be laid on the reinforcement of human capacity. It is not just about the State engaging in a unilateral commitment to design and implement public policies, but also about  partnering with the civil society. Having this hand stretched, it will be up to each female actor to step up to the challenge set ahead. Christine Ockrent said women are their own hope, they can only rely on themselves to change the society. Every time we advance our rights to all, mankind steps towards a fairer world (2006). It is thus up to each woman to become aware of her intrinsic value and the assets made available for her in order to achieve full development.

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2 replies
  1. Nandom Lere
    Nandom Lere says:

    It is most pathetic that the perception of gender hood in the most enlightened century in human history is still that which places the female gender not just on the disadvantage side of our economic, social and political life but the worst victims of societal ills and mischiefs.
    Gender roles must be popularized and legislated to be reversible to stop the enslavement of women as domestic servants in their homes. It is not a woman’s duty to carryout household chores, it is a general family duty. And that means the husband can carryout some chores just like the wife. The males children can sweep just like the females. Only sex roles are irreversible such as conceiving pregnancy, breast feeding and giving a spouse sexual satisfaction. This must be made known in our homes and communities to end the discriminatory confinement and subjection of women to certain roles that deny them the opportunity of contributing to society.
    Women must also know that politics determine policy and therefore they must unite, giving their population to have greater participation in the political process. This will enable them have influence the decision making process.
    It must also be known that certain religious and cultural beliefs and practices have subjected women to inferior role and considered as unequal with the male counterparts. This must be reviewed.

    Reply
    • Victorine Munongo
      Victorine Munongo says:

      Thank you Nandom Lere for your contribution into this discussion. Indeed there is a need for a review of mindsets.

      Reply

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