The 2017 theme for International Women’s Day “Be Bold For Change” was chosen to inspire drastic action for gender equality. SWHAP and its partners held various events to commemorate the day and ramp up support for the cause.
Peer Educators from the Atlas Copco office in Dar es Salaam Tanzania visited a local orphanage to conduct an awareness talk on menstrual hygiene for the young women there. They also donated sanitary wear and money raised by their colleagues. UNESCO estimates that one in ten adolescent girls in Africa miss school and eventually drop out due to menstruation-related issues (www.theguardian.com).
At the Mwanza offices awareness sessions were conducted for 33 members of staff on raising children and offering them equal opportunities in terms of access to education. The predominantly male audience was encouraged to embrace their responsibilities regarding parenting and to be supportive partners.
More than 200 workplace and Spouse Peer Educators from Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe joined the call to be “Bold For Change”. During gender dialogues held in the four countries Peer Educators were challenged to declare the bold actions that they would take to help close the gender gap and to identify potential risks and their mitigation.
In Zimbabwe Anna Sofia Erasmie, Counsellor Political and Commercial Affairs was at the event sharing on the great progress Sweden has made towards gender equality. Divine Ndhlukula Managing Director of Securico and Tendayi Kateketa Coordinator at the Pan African Positive Women’s Coalition gave rousing talks on the events that lead them to make bold changes that improved not only their own circumstances but those of other women as well.
The dialogues in Botswana focused on identifying the key issues affecting women in Botswana and the involvement of men in meaningful action aimed at promoting gender equality. The participants also examined current programmes and policies to see whether they encouraged male engagement and how these services could be made more relevant and accessible. This was in recognition of the generally poorer health seeking behaviours exhibited by men and the impact this has on the health of their partners. The dialogue was held in collaboration with Gender Links, Bonela, Men and Boys for Gender Equality, Young Women’s Christian Association, Kagisano Women’s Shelter and the Botswana Business Coalition on AIDS.
In Zambia, participants shared what they had been doing to address gender in the workplace and community. Encouragingly most companies in Zambia were already creating spaces for dialogue on gender with one company having created a workplace gender committee.
In general, the dialogues provided a good platform for focused and systematic interaction on the issue of gender parity. This this should raise the profile of the subject at the respective workplaces.
SWHAP in South Africa participated in a workshop with the National Institute for Occupational Health promoting partnerships amongst employers, trade unions and government departments involved in the workplace response to gender.
In the DRC, the SWHAP Country Coordinator raised the profile of gender sensitive workplace programmes during an interview on national television and the union La Confédération Syndicale du Congo (CSC) held a gender sensitisation event for its members in Lubumbashi. SWHAP is supporting the Union to set up HIV and wellness workplace programmes in 29 companies where the organisation has representation.
Companies in the SWHAP network also showed their appreciation for the women in their workforce. For example, SKF Zambia gave their Spouse Peer Educators and female employees fabric to make matching outfits for the national commemorative march. UD Trucks in South Africa encouraged its workforce to wear bold colours on the day: a symbolic gesture of the bold actions they would take for gender parity.