Today is International Women’s Day (IWD). Let us use it to highlight the efforts that have been made, the results that have been achieved and the issues that still require our attention on the path to women’s empowerment and gender equality.
Let us also remind ourselves why it is such an important struggle, for both men and women, in Tanzania, Sweden and the rest of the world.
Sweden has a feminist government and is the first country in the world to pursue a feminist foreign policy that aims to make the vision of gender equality a reality.
This means that gender equality is not an issue treated separately; instead, women’s rights are seen as crucial for the overall pursuit of human rights, peace, democracy and economic growth.
In short, for the Swedish government it is about 3 Rs – Rights, women’s access to Resources and the Representation of women in all parts, and on all levels, of society.
Girls and women should enjoy the same rights and same opportunities as boys and men. This includes the right to work, the right to own land, the right to control our own lives and our own bodies.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for all women today. All over the world, women are victims of gender based and sexual violence. This needs to stop, NOW.
Gender equality, women’s rights and women’s economic empowerment are also absolutely essential to achieve economic growth and a prosperous society. Reports from the UN show that if women farmers had access to the same resources as their male counterparts, agricultural production could increase by 30 per cent.
World Economic Forum also reports that gender equality enhances productivity and economic growth. Needless to say, the more people who contribute to a country’s wealth, the wealthier the country will get. To put it simply - Equality makes sense.
This year’s national theme for International Women’s Day is “Industrialised Tanzania: Women are the foundation of economic change”. To achieve Tanzania’s national development vision to become a middle income, industrialised country by 2025, the whole working age population needs to contribute.
Women in Tanzania work hard and they work a lot. But as women are more likely to work in the informal sector, they often do not enjoy the same rights as men.
For example, only 34 per cent of Tanzania’s formally paid employees are women, whereas 70 cent of the unpaid informal family helpers are women. Equal access to decent and productive employment is not a reality, despite its importance for economic development and industrialisation.
The theme for IWD in Tanzania fits well into the global theme #BeBoldForChange. Without change, women’s participation on equal terms will remain a vision, and the society will be held back because of it.
Tanzania has taken important measures to ensure that all girls attend school. I hope that when they graduate, they have just as big a chance at succeeding in their careers as their fellow male students.
Sweden is a leading advocate for gender equality. Globally, as well as in Tanzania, it supports a wide range of organisations and projects that in different ways are working towards women’s empowerment, gender equality and that join us in the important struggle against gender-based and sexual violence.
Predictions show that at the current rate of progress, we will have to wait until 2186 to achieve gender equality. I think we owe it to the girls in this world to push harder and make it happen faster.
We should give them a fair world to grow up in. Policies and national strategies are of course necessary, but everyone can take action and do what is within their power to reduce inequalities.
I encourage every effort to create an equal society with equal opportunities for all, in Sweden, Tanzania and around the world. #BeBoldForChange is an encouragement for everyone supporting the pursuit of equality to step up and take action. All of us are needed if we want to move things faster.
This might be International Women’s Day, but it is important to remember that men have a crucial role to play. The participation of men and boys in gender equality efforts is essential.
Men’s involvement is crucial in removing social and cultural barriers for women and girls.
Indeed, we should recognise that men and boys are also victims of gender stereotypes. Investing in gender equality is therefore a means of domestic resource mobilisation that will benefit all members of society.
We need to make the vision of gender equality a reality. Not only do the inequalities affect the girls and women of the world, they hold back whole societies and everyone who lives in them. Equality makes sense and it is high time we achieved it.
• Katarina Rangnitt is the Ambassador of Sweden to Tanzania.