It can hardly be denied that gender equality has immensely influenced lifestyles the world over.
The concept advocates for equal opportunities for both men and women in all fields of human endeavour.
It meant that both sexes would no longer be defined by their occupation or decision-making roles as both had equal abilities.
But for the goal of attaining equal opportunities for men and women to be achieved, more work needed to be done.
As such, the concept of gender equity was introduced, which took into account the different abilities and responsibilities that would hinder men and women from accessing equal opportunities.
Deliberate measures were also sought out and put in place to ensure that barriers inhibiting women from competing favourably with men were eliminated.
In education, for instance, focus was placed on the girl child in order to accommodate her in the receipt of education, as it was believed that she had been neglected far too long.
This saw more girls being enrolled in schools, and, to this end, co-education was to be encouraged in order for large numbers of girls to be accommodated.
Several schools that were for boys such as the famous Munali in the capital Lusaka were restructured into co-educational learning schools.
Additionally, girl children were to be taught their rights and worth.
As a result, school enrollment for girls has sharply risen. According to the Living Conditions Monitoring Survey, the enrollment rate for adolescents 11–18 years of age grew from 68 percent in 2002/03 to 81 percent in 2010.
Also, gender parity in primary school was attained and the fight now remains in secondary school where the gender disparity resurfaces.
According to “Keeping Girls in School: Situation Analysis Report For Zambia,” the gender parity index drops to 80 percent from 100 percent in Grades 10–12. Boys and girls enroll in relatively equal numbers up to Grade 5, but the ratio starts to alter in Grade 6, yielding a composition of 54 percent boys and 46 percent girls by Grade 12.
But regardless of the above statistic, the fight for gender equality could be described as a success and is headed in the right direction.
In recent times, however, the attention on girl child education has had some sections of society call the movement a bias against men and pure feminism.
However, a University of Zambia lecturer and gender studies expert Dr. Mutambashiku Bwalya does not side with such sentiments.
He believes the fight for girl child education has not been perverted but that it is still genuine and well-intended, just as it was from inception.
“A girl child is not favoured more than the boy child because the boy child in earlier times had been given more time for school and leisure than the girl child. So, in order for the girl child to catch up with the same level of education as the boy child, she had to be given more opportunities just to level the field but not to raise her to an unrealistic privileged height.” Dr. Bwalya said.
He explained that gender equality being the goal, there was need for everyone, both male and female, to be sensitized on their rights.
Dr. Bwalya’s statement, “unrealistic privileged height,” must be underscored as it suggests that all efforts aimed at uplifting the girl child must be reasonable and motivated by the need to achieve gender equality and equity as opposed to extremist feminism that aims at achieving superiority over men.
But what is feminism?
Mr Rolalind Delmar in his article “What is Feminism” describes the concept as an active desire to change women’s position in Society.
He stated that linked to this view was that feminism is par excellent, a social movement meant for change in the position of women.
Some forms of feminism, however, are a somewhat extremist in nature and were usually not supported by some women.
One type known as intersectional feminism supports gender equality. It stands for men’s rights and makes sure no one is left behind.
In the final analysis, though arguable, integrating this stated form of feminism in the fight for equality and equity in education may be more fair unlike feminism that unrealistically seeks to subdue the male folk.