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     GENDER ISSUES
 

Gender equality must be achieved personally, institutionally and programmatically for real change to occur.

What is Gender Equality?

Throughout human history, the roles of women and men in societies have been complementary. Hundreds of thousands of years ago humans learned to work together to survive. Womenís roles of bearing and rearing children complemented menís roles of protecting families and nomadic bands from the dangers of pre-historic life. Menís hunting expertise paired with womenís talents gathering edible plants, berries and roots. Many scholars believe that it was women who "discovered" the agricultural way of life through their gathering knowledge. This enabled people to settle in one place, raise crops and develop many other aspects of human culture such as writing, cities, and commerce.

Several theories exist to explain how gender roles became power-based:

Menís physical strength may have transformed into decision-making power

Womenís ability to give life through childbirth may have pushed men to assert power over womenís mysterious ability

Womenís physical debilitation during childbirth may have led men to take leadership roles in families and groups

There are also plenty of examples of traditional and contemporary societies that demonstrate womenís leadership roles and abilities in families and cultures as well. Unfortunately, these examples are the exception rather than occurring in parity with menís opportunities to aspire to and demonstrate leadership.

Culture is often used to justify inequality or to act as a constraint to equality. However, culture is a living thing created by people and therefore changed by people. Therefore, if women and men push for more opportunities and choices for themselves, their children and their elders, their culture will adapt accordingly. This is not to say that change will always be easy or conflict-free but change will occur as women and men push for it together.

Wile it is important to view the complementary and independent nature of gender roles. It is also important to challenge those stereotypes and attitudes that keep people in low status and prevent them from reaching their full potential. In other words, women and men have to build respect for each otherís roles and goals in life, share resources and decision-making, and demonstrate mutual support for gender equality to become a reality. This is essentially the definition of empowerment.

What is Gender?

Sex and Gender Ė Sex is the biological status women and men are born with. Gender refers to how boys and girls are socialized differently to become productive members of their culture.

Gender sensitive Ė Understanding the differences between mutually respectful gender roles based on shared power and not using those roles to have power over another and restrict his or her personal growth and self-discrimination. Not discriminating or stereotyping on the bases of sex or gender.

Equality and Equity Ė In a perfect world all people are created equal in terms of opportunities to develop and reach their full potential. That is equality, a goal to which we can aspire. However, in reality we know that we are a long way from living in a world in which every person can achieve her/his potential. Equity means fairness, i.e., finding ways to help the disadvantaged and disempowered "catch up" with their more actualized fellow humans through opportunities for development and control over their lives.

When girls and boys are both officially allowed to go to school this is equality because both are given the same possibility to learn and excel. However, official policy and reality are often different: girls more often than boys are restricted from attending the class due to household responsibilities or taboos and the existence of real danger for girls in leaving the households. Therefore, exceptional measures have to be taken to help girls overcome the numerous barriers they face in gaining an education. These extra efforts constitute equity or justice, i.e., ways to give girls more chances at an education in order to close the gap between boys and girls.

Empowerment Ė The process by which women and men achieve skills, confidence and support to determine their own lives and make their own choices. It is the state in which people have access to resources and opportunities to control their own future.

 

Status of Women in pastoral land development projects

Women role has been ignored in pastoral development projects which has been considered a predominantly male sphere of productive activities (Niamir 1993). Women and their children are usually responsible for daily household activities like herding collection of firewood, preparation of meals, fetching water etc.

Pastoral woman hold formal mechanisms of power. Therefore, development policies, programmes and projects should involve them because they have little access to technical and financial inputs, men often rarely passed extension information they have gained from training to their wives.

 

Maasai Women and their role in the Maasai Community

The Maasai Women are traditionally marginalized in terms of educational rights and opportunities. Womenís roles are mainly reproductive, children rearing and undertaking household chores. While boys are normally traditionally favored and receive education opportunities, Maasai girls mostly remain at home and stay uneducated. This leads to a situation where girls are discriminated upon other areas because they are not empowered enough to know their rights.