Women are the Backbone of the family and society throughout the world. They positively contribute to the molding and development of their communities and the society as a whole. The UNDP (United Nations Development Program) said and I quote “women are the pathway to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and sustainable development”.
These Goals are
- The eradication of extreme poverty and hunger.
- Achieve universal primary education.
- Promote gender equality and empower women.
- Reduce child mortality
- Improve maternal health
- Combat HIV/AID Malaria and other diseases
- Ensue environmental sustainability
- Develop a global partnership for development
However globally many women suffer from gender discrimination and are treated as second class citizens. Their empowerment is restricted which results in gender inequalities, this means to say that in some societies men and women do not have the same opportunities to contribute or benefit from economic, social, cultural, and political development. In many countries they are not afforded the same rights and opportunities as men. Women who are disenfranchised within their societies are proven to have higher fertility rates which compounds the problems associated with high population growth and the utilization of scarce resources.
In societies where women are considered less than men, fewer resources are invested in them. As a result facilities such as health care, education and food are not afforded to them equally as men. Women with few choices or opportunities will become dependent on men to provide for them. They will usually marry younger and become reproductive earlier and have more children in the hope that their sons will take care of them in old age. Coupled by high mortality rates, they are forced to have many children in the hope that some will get to adulthood. These patriarchal societies concentrate their limited resources to the development of the male folk at the expense of females.
With limited food resources and large families girls who are less valued, are not given adequate nourishment which results in them becoming malnourished. This results in girls being underdeveloped and suffer from protein deficiency with high infant mortality rates. As mentioned before women with limited opportunities marry younger which lead to higher fertility, young mothers have a higher risk of having complications during childbirth and dying, they are also at a higher risk of having premature births. Maternal mortality rates are higher due to nonexistent or inadequate pre natal and post natal care. This is compounded by the fact that young girls not afforded the same educational opportunities as their male counterparts. The global literacy rate for women is 74 percent, in comparison males are 86 percent therefore they are less educated and receptive to family planning education.
It has been proven that women who are educated are more self sufficient they can obtain better jobs and make better decisions for their families. Women are also marginalized in obtaining gainful employment, this lack of employment opportunities usually results in them having more children than those who are gainfully employed. This lack of empowered results in them being tied to the land to do remedial work such as most of the chores around the home. They grow most of the family food and collect firewood this work ties them to the land and they are the first to feel the effects of environmental degradation and pollution. There is also evidence to show their limited involvement in politics as only 17 percent of parliamentarians worldwide are women. These facts clearly highlight some of the challenges faced by females in some parts of the world to be treated equally and afforded the same rights and privileges as men. When these problems are addressed and as they become empowered and equal partners, they have less children, family size decreases, population growth and resource depletion slows.
Gender equality implies a society in which women and men enjoy the same opportunities, outcomes, rights and obligations in all spheres of life. Equality between men and women exists when both sexes are able to share equally in the distribution of power and influence; have equal opportunities for financial independence through work or through setting up businesses; enjoy equal access to education and the opportunity to develop personal ambitions. A critical aspect of promoting gender equality is the empowerment of women, with a focus on identifying and redressing power imbalances and giving women more autonomy to manage their own lives. Women empowerment is vital to sustainable development and the realization of human rights for all.