Equal work for Equal pay…

This is a dead phrase, but I will use it anyways. “Remove the peg in your eye before you remove that in your neighbors!”. I watched the President Obama’s speech with my 9-year-old daughter. When he mentioned,  “equal work for equal pay” she turned to me and said, “mum that rhymes! ‘Equal work for equal pay,’ I don’t understand what it REALLY means though.” How was I to explain to her that this means that when she grows up, if things don’t change by then, we would be paid less than a man, even if they have the same qualification and do the same work?

As an African who grew up in Africa, Gender gaps is not a new conversation in my world. In most countries, women make up over 55% percent of the population and yet, there are huge gaps between women and men in everything from health, education, economics, politics, etc. according to the UN’s 2012, Women, business and the law, “Women perform 66 percent of the world’s work, produce 50 percent of the food, but earn 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the property,” Women are also mostly not present at the decision table!

It sounds foolish, ignorant and downright ridiculous that men want to be at the table alone, making all the difficult decisions when they clearly can use some help. Its like two people who can swim, but are in danger of drowning and one of them insist to the other “ don’t swim, just hold on to me; I am a good swimmer for both of us” not only is this foolish, but puts in danger both of their lives.

But then, even where women help fully and in most instances, do more, they are paid less because they are women.

Americans travel to Africa and tell us not to stand for this. They tell me to stand for my right and defend my place as a human being. The catch phrase is “advocate for your right!”  To this end, large sums of money are made available to organizations like the Africa Business Women Network, to advocate and close gender gaps. Don’t misunderstand me; I commend such initiatives. My confusion though, is the realization that women in America also suffer similar fates!

My mind goes back to the time when blacks were only 10 percent of the population and yet, fought for its right as equal citizens. That right was granted, but now, softly under our radar, 50 percent of the population is denied the right to equality, but we sleep soundly, thinking our society is healthy and all is right with our world; at least, in the matter of human rights in America, the land of Justice and Equality. Until recently in Massachusetts, Women were charged more by insurance companies, and oh guess what? They by the way earn less at the work place also because they are women, even though they do as much work as their male colleagues and have similar qualifications!

As President Kennedy said of the black revolution, “ this is not even a legal or legislative issue alone – it is a moral issue! We preach freedom around the world, but are we to say to the world – we have no second-class citizens except ‘women’?”

Despite this, America must be commended.  In most African countries being a girl means no education. In many countries a woman cannot buy land or open a bank account without a man’s signature nor can she drive by herself. If America wishes to hold itself by such standards, then off course, America is doing very well by comparison!.

Let us not undervalue the ripple effect of our actions. We cringe when we hear stories of baby girls being killed because of their perceived lack of value.  We point fingers at those who perpetuate such crimes against their fellow human beings. Let us not be too quick to point fingers though. First consider if you stand on the moral high ground.  What injustice do you consider acceptable?

I daresay that injustice only has one name no matter which level on the scale it is positioned. Perchance the stone is our eyes stops us from having the right to tell others to remove the very large rock in their eyes…


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