Striving for gender equity and equality.

The path to inclusive governance

An article originally published on

Achieving gender equity and equality is key to the effort to create a just and fair society. Disparities still exist despite significant advancements in recent years, underscoring the continuous need for coordinated efforts to remove systemic prejudices and restrictions. On the other hand, in spaces such as education in countries like the US, there is a school of thought that females have, by now, surpassed males in terms of representation. You could say therefore, as Richard Reeves points out in his book ‘Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do About It’ (and video at the foot of this article), that the equality efforts to get females more represented in education has worked very well. Equality was reached in this case and now equity needs to take over, to create a new balance. Fostering an inclusive atmosphere is crucial as we manage the complexity of governance and policymaking because it will pave the path for a future where everyone will live in greater equity.

What is the difference between equality and equity?

Gender equity refers to the fair distribution of resources, opportunities and responsibilities between individuals, regardless of gender. It recognises that historical and societal structures have often favoured one gender over another, resulting in imbalances that create barriers, hinder progress and perpetuate inequalities. Achieving gender equity requires proactive measures to dismantle these barriers, ensuring that all individuals have the chance to thrive and contribute meaningfully to society.

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However, gender equality is more than just equity. It includes the idea that every gender ought to be represented in all areas of life and have equal rights and opportunities. It promotes the abolition of gender-based discriminatory behaviours and conventions that restrict people, fostering a society in which everyone is free to follow their goals without worrying about bias or discrimination.

Parliamentarians and members of the public listen as Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo delivers his annual state of the nation address on March 30, 2022. 
Francis Kokoroko/Reuters

What is the challenge we are tackling?

There needs to be a point where one can expect that certain roles are not reserved for men, in ideology and also in practice. For us, at AWPL, addressing this means that we speak up, continue to show up and be even more inclined to doing, than talking. We spend time listening to the great people we work with in socially-constructive spaces (volunteers, change-makers, public servants, diaspora change agents, etc). Organically, we find that our teams that implement and are critical to the success of project operations, are typically 59% female. This has direct implications for who should be included in policy making at a fundamental level.

In our interactions in political, public and private spaces, it is evident, especially in areas such as Northern Ghana, that we have a long way to go as a society, where open-mindedness and female participation is concerned. The cultural status quo is for women to be subservient and submissive to male thought, leadership and will. The result of this is a community where female voices and contribution to leadership, governance and policy making takes a backseat to that of males. Granted, there is also a strong cultural expectation for men to overwhelmingly bear the responsibility to provide for and protect the community (which has some positive outcomes but we can also point to many conflicts arising from patriarchal ethnic disagreements over political representation and land ownership). Here again highlights the required balancing role that equity plays.

Aiming for gender parity and equality in the field of governance is not only morally desirable, but also practically essential. Empirical studies repeatedly indicate that diverse teams produce more innovative solutions, improved problem-solving skills and better decision-making. As a specific example, a study titled Gender Diversity and Performance of Local Government Councils in South Africa: A Case of Gauteng Province finds that councils with diverse gender representation exhibit higher levels of performance, characterised by improved problem-solving skills, innovative solutions and better decision-making processes. These findings underscore the positive influence of gender diversity on enhancing the overall effectiveness and efficiency of local government operations in the African political context, emphasising the importance of inclusive governance practices for achieving better outcomes in public administration.

Moving forward to further gender equality and equity progress

Governments and policymakers must give gender mainstreaming top priority in all facets of governance and policymaking in order to overcome these issues. This entails incorporating a gender perspective into the planning, execution, oversight and assessment of policies and initiatives to guarantee that the outcomes are equitable for all members of society. It also requires proactive measures to address the root causes of gender inequality, including discriminatory laws, cultural practices and social norms.

Achieving gender equity and equality also necessitates the active involvement of all stakeholders, including civil society organisations, the private sector and the international community. Collaborative efforts are essential to challenge entrenched biases, promote gender-responsive policies and empower individuals to advocate for their rights and interests. As we strive for gender equity and equality, it is crucial to recognise that progress will require sustained commitment and collective action. While significant strides have been made in recent years, much work remains to be done to dismantle systemic barriers and create a more inclusive and equitable society for future generations.

In conclusion, gender equity and equality are essential principles that lie at the heart of inclusive governance. By prioritising these values and taking concrete actions to address systemic inequalities, we can build a world where everyone has the opportunity to thrive, regardless of gender.

Take a look at the following resources which explore the subject of gender inequalities (including male inequalities):


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