International Women’s Day – celebrating initiatives around the world to end gender inequality

IMG_3378According to a recent study by the British Council, gender equality still exists worldwide. To be honest this is something that most people notice – if paying attention with a critical eye – as we walk through life every single day.

Gender inequality exists worldwide, as summarised in the British Council report:

  • In politics, where only 23% of members of parliament are women;
  • In work, where 50% of women compared to 75% of men are in formal work;
  • In pay, where on average women earn 24% less than men;
  • In entrepreneurship, where there are only 10 countries where as many women as men start their own businesses; and
  • In society, where 1 in 3 women experience sex or gender based violence.

At Watipa, an organisation founded by 9 visionary women from 6 different countries, we are trying to do what we can to support young women be the change they want to see in the world. The majority of the Watipa scholarships awarded in 2016 and 2017 have been to young women. Each of the young women are under the age for 25, and have a defining ambition for how they would like to develop their communities; yet each also are facing challenges in securing resources for their studies, their livelihoods, and navigating gender inequality in their own cultural contexts every day. The Watipa scholars are living, studying and dreaming in a range of countries in Africa and Asia.

In February, we partnered with the Africa Technology Business Network and the Cambridge Social Ventures programme to host a discussion about “Driving Gender Equality in Africa.” It was a fantastic panel of women with experience as activists, entrepreneurs, journalists and leaders. Across Africa, gender inequality poses one of the biggest barriers to personal, economic, social and national development.

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Insights shared covered many key themes, touching on a cross-section of women’s lived experiences in different contexts. “Technology in Africa is helping to solve longstanding challenges like access to education, healthcare and financial services” said Eunice Baguma Ball, the Executive Director of the Africa Technology Business Network at the event. “Technology is therefore key that African women and girls are part of driving this innovation so that technology will help to solve – and not further contribute to – inequality.”

For Watipa, our focus is on education, which can be high tech or low tech depending on the context and situation and individual learner. By focussing on supporting their education, our approach enables young women to strive for the highest and pursue their studies so that they can transform their dreams into a reality. We see the Watipa scholars as leaders of today, as well as the leaders of tomorrow. We listen to young women’s ambitions for their future and the future of their communities.18CO01-024 (1)

Other speakers at the event spoke of innovations in diplomacy and inter-organisational partnerships in a developing country context, inequality in access to land rights and housing, and sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls around the world. We were honoured to hear from

  • Paola Totaro, London based journalist, immediate past President of the London Press Association (2014-6), and leader of the development of Place for the Thomson Reuters Foundation;
  • Naana Otoo-Oyortey MBE, Executive Director, Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development (FORWARD);
  • Liliana Biglou, the former Director British Council Ghana and a social impact consultant; and
  • Dr Pauline Essah, programme Manager Cambridge Africa.

For too long the gatekeepers of power have not done enough to transform existing inequality. It is new thinking, new approaches, and new leadership that will ensure that gender inequality is eliminated worldwide. We need this to ensure that in politics, work, pay, entrepreneurship, society and all facets of life, people are given the tools and opportunities to thrive equally.

On International Women’s Day today, we celebrate the diversity of women and the great women that we each carry with us in our hearts and minds everyday to inspire us to be better people. We also celebrate everyone worldwide who is taking initiative and challenging gender inequality when they see or experience it.

Change starts with each one of us, so that we can make improvements in our lives and societies as well as for generations to come.

Lucy Stackpool-Moore

**Photos 2 add 3 courtesy of Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge. 

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