They said we are all equal but just not the same . But rarely we talk about the social imbalances that happen in context of the demographic dividend. The wave of feminism has opened so much doors and opportunities for most women but the question that remains is …is it all the women?
Women and men have different needs and access to and control over resources. As of 1 July 2021, the population of Africa is projected close to 1.37 billion people (World population prospects ,2021) and it is no surprising that a greater percentage of that number consist of women and girls. In sociology social imbalance is an observer able tendency to secular distortion in the allocation of resources. Social imbalance can emerge through a society’s understanding of appropriate gender roles or through the prevalence of social stereotyping. Looking at the global statistics population in the world is currently (2020) growing at a rate of around 1.05% per year (down from 1.08% in 2019, 1.10% in 2018, and 1.12% in 2017). The current average population increase is estimated at 81 million people per year (UN Women Statistics report). These numbers reflects that the world is growing in terms of numbers so the space is likely to continue shrinking.
If we cascade it down to social institutions that makes up a society, we notice that the fight for social equilibrium is still far from ending. There are major social institutions which have so much bearing on our attitudes and beliefs towards how we view each other. The first one is the economy and Although all people irrespective of age and sex consume goods and services, only the working- age population, often referred to as the “employed” population, produces them. Types of economic activity pursued are influenced by the nature of the economy and level of socioeconomic development (Hull, 2009). In most years, the share of females engaged in the informal economy has been higher than for males. Women’s prevalence in the informal sector could be attributed to a variety of factors such as lack of education and women’s greater commitment to family responsibilities, which may prevent them from entering the formal sector.
The second social institution is Education. I am a recent graduate who had the privilege of passing through primary, secondary and tertiary but l am one of the few who got “lucky” . Access to quality and inclusive education especially in my country is exquisitely on paper (Section 75 of the Zimbabwe Constitution) but the reality on the ground is heartbreaking. During the 1st quarter of 2021, about 5000 teenagers fell pregnant while 1800 of them entered into marriages and all of them left school.. These numbers are disturbing. What does the future hold for these young women?. The affordability, availability and accessibility of Education has not been the same for both girls and boys especially using the global pandemic. As if the global pandemic was not enough, women and girls were expected to continue with their normal household chores as if nothing is happening and still managing it to balance with school. This is hard of myself living in the city and it was more harder for a rural girl.
Politics is another social institution and over the discourse of the democracy generation, we have seen more women taking interest in governance procedures. In 2020 the government of Zimbabwe amended its constitution to also allow 10 young people to be part of the National Assembly and it has raised different reactions amongst the populace but somehow this was a step to also include young people in key decision making. However, in a country where over 60% are young people and only 10 get to sit in parliament is still a cause of concern and still require us to answer if we have a balance on governance representation.
Since 2019, we have been living in the global pandemic and we have seen several players taking a part in the health system which is another social institution. While most of our governments were focusing on locking and unlocking the country due to Statutory Instruments on COVID-19 , women and girls had to pay the prize of not having access to sexual and reproductive health services admits the pandemic. I remember my friend and l were forced to explain to every police on the roadblock that we are driving to the pharmacy to get emergency pills because my friend had just had unprotected sex. This was uncomfortable and unethical but we had to plead our case with every officers for us to pass. The Covid-19 shadowed almost everything and we seemed to forget that people are still menstruating and if we lock all roads how are they going to get pads or emergency pills or any SRH services. To me , this was a reflection of the dysfunctionality of our society in terms of its response to the urgent needs of women and girls.
The last social institution which l consider every important is the culture. Our African culture is our pride , our heritage and our power. However, there are instances where we have allowed ourselves to be chained and bound by culture. We have allowed changes on our food, clothes, names , dressing etc but when it comes to how we see men and women , it is more like an irreversible treat. We hold men a who are formally employed in high regards and call bad names to women who stay at home and graciously do unpaid care work. We may seem balanced on our imbalances but culture plays a significant roles on the social imbalances that exists.
A quest for intersectionality
Intersectionality is the acknowledgement that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and oppression and we must consider everything and anything that can marginalize people – gender, race, class, sexual orientation, physical ability. Above, we have raised the situations in different social institutions that shows the status of the society. The imbalances that exists also shows that people are on different levels , status and point of privileges or vulnerability. The intersections that exist in the society somehow creates an equilibrium as propounded by the functionalists .
While l agree with that notion, l disagree on the capitalist and cultural imperialism that comes with having social stratification based on gender, status and class. I believe we all can use our different levels of interactions to speak on behalf of others.
While l was doing my researches on customary law in rural areas, l noticed that period poverty is still a prevailing issue amongst girls and young women but in the city, where l stay , pads are costing less than a dollar and many people are affording that. However, the main challenge is that we are all not using our point of privilege to speak on behalf of others. We have many young girls and women in the city who have access to social media, internet, top government officials and networks, they might not be facing period poverty but they might use what they have to address issues affecting other girls. This is how GIRLS get EQUAL.
Men too have been enjoying the privileges of living in a male dominated society, most of them have access to resources, land, voters and police makers. If they can use that place to speak on behalf of women and girls who are still not going to school or to work then our dream for a society that is balanced can be achieved. I believe we can contribute to a balanced society , that is not measured by how many policies or Acts are written in support of women and girls but by the actual implementation of these policies. Creating an equal society might still seem like building castles in the air …but creating a Just and Balanced society is very possible if we all contribute to the collective strength.
About Hazel Jojo
Hazel Jojo is an African feminist that has so much interested in gender and culture. She is a 23year old activist from Zimbabwe whose politics rose from a younger age. She is the youngest board member at Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust and also sits in the ATHENA Network young women governance board. Hazel is currently engaged within the Education Plus initiative which is co-led by 5 United Nations Agencies. She is a holder of a Bachelor degree in Social Work and holds certificates in HIV criminalization , HIV testing and counseling and Social Accountability Monitoring on SRH for young people. Hazel is a blogger on medium.com and she enjoys writing and researching about new stuff.