All I Want For Christmas – and Beyond.
It’s Christmas Eve and I’ve decided to publish my wish list for Christmas. I highly doubt if Santa has these gifts in his bag but it’s not too bad to hope, is it? Also, erm, Santa Sir, you can also pay (slight) attention to the other list that has ‘An Apartment’ and ‘New Phone’ written on it. Thank you!
These are the 12 things I, and all of us at Coloured Africa, want for Christmas and beyond.
1. Equal pay, fair compensation, paid maternity and paternity leaves.
Analysts project that it will take 108 years to close the Global Gender Gap. One hundred and eight years! Based on the piles and piles of bias already entrenched within our economic systems, it will take at least a century to achieve gender equality in the light of wages and compensation. Some countries like Iceland, Norway and Finland are far ahead of others like Nigeria, Kenya and the US. Iceland’s journey towards gender equality reached a pivotal point on the 24th of October, 1975. That day 43 years ago, Icelandic women went on strike: for an entire day, they refused to work, cook and look after children. They did nothing. That day forever changed the way women were seen and regarded in Iceland: “it completely paralysed the country and opened the eyes of many men.” When Vigdis Finnbogadottir, a divorced mother, won the presidency seat of Iceland in 1980, she said she would never had become President if not for the events of 24th October, 1975. The country kept moving and in 2017, it became illegal to pay women less than men in Iceland.
Today, Iceland ranks first for gender equality worldwide. Its gender gap has closed by 86%; men and women now get at least 3 months paid parental leave; and employers must prove to the government that they are paying women equally to men. It’s the best place in the world to be a woman right now although they still have sexual harassment. Africa’s Namibia is the 10th best place in the world to be a woman, after closing 79% of its overall gender gap. In Rwanda, women make 88 cents to every dollar a man makes and 3 months of paid maternity leaves are guaranteed.
While these figures seem great, the real gift for me and feminists everywhere would be when all countries have completely closed the gender pay gap and made paid parental leaves, that is both maternity and paternity leaves, compulsory for at least 3 months. No country in this world has been able to achieve this. Lawmakers in Nigeria rejected a bill for the introduction of paternity leaves for male workers just this year.
I just want my country, all of Africa, and the world to have equal pay in the work force and paid parental leave.
2. Maternal health care and reproductive rights
These rights are neglected or at bare minimum in most African countries. According to the WHO, about 830 women die worldwide from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth every day. Most African countries fail to ratify or adequately implement relevant international instruments such as the Maputo Protocol and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). If we had more women and feminists occupying positions of decision-making and governmental bodies, this problem would be greatly reduced.
Reproductive health rights include the rights to legal and safe abortion; to access quality reproductive health-care services; freedom from coerced sterilisation; the right to birth control; and the right to education and access in order to make free and informed reproductive choices. Basic human rights for women.
I just want a safe world where women can have kids with proper health care and their health and reproductive rights are safeguarded, promoted and respected. That’s not too much to ask.
3. An end to Victim Blaming
For as long as I have to, I’ll keep saying this: rape is not caused by victims. Rapists caused rape and the rape culture promotes this evil.
It behoves on everyone to put on the garb of common sense and seek for consent in sexual relations. This consent must be sought and obtained from the person who is free and capable to give it. This excludes under-aged persons, persons under duress and undue influence/manipulation.
Don’t sexualise a 5 year old for wearing shorts; its neither hers nor her parent’s fault that you’re a predator. A person who does that should be arrested, tried and appropriately sentenced-like, rot in jail. Don’t blame rape victims. Don’t blame victims of assault. Don’t blame vicims of any kind of abuse. Believe and listen to victims.
4. No more Body-shaming
Fat.Slim.Thin.Darkskinned.Lighskinned.Albino.Everything and Everyone.
We all are beautiful and should be encouraged to stay healthy, not shamed.
Though men are sometimes also body-shamed, women are mostly the victims of body-shaming. It’s a result of sexual objectification of the bodies of women and the unhelathy beauty standards pushed by Wester media. These have paved the way for eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, bleaching (and consequently skin discolouration and skin cancers) and body dysmorphic disorder.
If you’re black and or African, your natural hair defies gravity and your skin absorbs sun rays, love and care for it. Love and care for your body no matter the type, shade or tone. You don’t have to bleach your skin or change who you are to achieve your dreams.
Love your body(type). Respect other peoples’ bodies. We are all beautiful.
5. Equal Inheritance Laws
Inheritance and land-ownership laws that are free from gender discrimination would be really great. Unequal inheritance laws, where men are prioritised over women, imply that the female child is not as important or as good as the male and that women cannot handle responsibility like men can. These are deep-seated stereotypes that have been proved false over and over again. We’ve had enough of excluding women from cultural groups and traditional decision-making bodies based on their gender. I’ve had enough of inheritance practices that say women should not inherit, or should not inherit land, or are property to be inherited themselves. Enough of these.
6. Respect for single/unmarried girls. Respect for divorced women. Respect for single mothers. Respect for widows.
We’ve got to put an end to our practice of placing value on women only by their attachment to men. Women should not need a male signatory when they want to let a house; this is so disrespectful and derogatory to the person of a woman. Respect women for who they are regardless of the presence/absence of a man in their lives to fit your traditional expectations.
Respect women’s life choices. Stop trying to make women feel small for being single. Stop the unsolicited show of pity at the single-hood of a woman.
7. No more taxes on tampons and sanitary pads. Free sanitary pads in schools and healthcare centres in countries across Africa.
Menstruation is not a crime, society should stop punishing girls for it. We need to put an end to negative perceptions about menstruation, every single one of them.
We also need to create room for working women and school girls when they experience bad menstrual cramps.
8. Harassment-free bus rides/car-rides/walks-down-the-streets/market-visits/concerts/parties.
I want a harassment-free life, thank you very much.
Stop sexually harassing people; don’t be a predator. Resist the urge to drug a girl at a party. Don’t force people to dance with you or talk with you at a party. If you see a drunk girl/boy anywhere, trust me, that’s not an invitation and its not consent to anything sexual. Resist the temptation to touch people inappropriately. Not everyone likes hugs, you should ask before giving them. Please don’t touch my face, thank you. Respect people’s privacy.
9. Education for all children and girls.
Those 13.2 million children out of school in Nigeria have a right to be in school and to receive quality, bias-free education.
Importantly, girls want an education, not a husband. Remember this and work towards it.
10. An actual end to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting
As human beings, women deserve autonomy over their own bodies. FGM is despicable and derogatory and must be entirely stopped.
11. No under-age marriages, no child marriages, no forced marriages, no money marriages.
I want an end to every decadent cultural practice.
12. Gender Equality.
The star on my Christmas tree. I want for men and women have equal rights, statuses and opportunities socially, economically and politically. And gender equality can only exist if every other listed gift has been granted. The course of patriarchy is over. Now we know that women are people too.
I’m expecting my 12 gifts from Santa as he journeys from the North Pole tonight.