Reading to Promote Generational Equality

25Mar 2020
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Reading to Promote Generational Equality

It’s been 25 years since the Beijing World Conference on Women’s Rights,  where a platform for action was set out on how to remove the systemic barriers that hold women back from equal participation in all spheres of life.

By  Lucy Rweyemamu

Have we made any progress towards those commitments? Despite some progress, real change has been agonizingly slow for the majority of women and girls in the world. Today, not a single country can claim to have achieved gender equality. In Tanzania, only 36% of government leadership positions is held by women.  

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day was “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”. Unfortunately, it raises more questions than answers on why women’s rights are still yet to be universally achieved and how the generations are passing on the knowledge.  

Currently, several factors contribute to women’s limited participation in the mainstream political and socio-economic sectors in Tanzania. Lack of formal education, teenage pregnancies, violence against women and girls, female genital mutilation and HIV/AIDS are among the reasons young girls and women get the shorter end of the stick.

While finding answers to my questions, the only overaching response is that women’s equality is possible in Tanzania and young girls and boys need to learn about this while they are still young. Reading – whether in the form of art, drama, books or visuals – could be a powerful tool in promoting generational equality.

By instilling a reading culture in our children, both girls and boys, we can build the world we want and expand access to education to millions of girls who are not in school. We need to create, document and publish all great stories, successes, challenges, movements, struggles and efforts towards promoting women’s rights.

I think it is important to nurture our children along reading because they can internalize social norms and values that respect gender equality from early on, grow with positive attitudes and perceptions about gender equality and become champions of leading the fight against gender inequality.

Reading will also help our girls and boys to witness how far we’ve come and how far we have to go. It is through reading we may empower young women and girls who are systematically left on the sidelines of today. The stories of various inspiring women, feminist heroes for example Prof. Ruth Meena, Ms. Usu Mallya and Ms. Mary Rusimbi; violence against women; fights for gender equality and knowledge which will be acquired by these girls through reading, would help them discover better ways of improving on the call to gender equality and step it up for generational equality while leveraging their potential to drive social progress towards the world we want and deserve.

The author is a Senior Manager at the Institute for Educational Development, Aga Khan University.