Women's Past Contribution, Input to Future Gender Equality

Jun 18 , 2022
By Tigist Solomon

Women have been a part of the labour force since ancient times. They mainly engaged in agricultural work to support their male counterparts. Later, the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th and 19th centuries allowed women to work in industries in the Western world. In times of war, women supplemented the shortage of labour created by so many men having been sent to the battlefield.

After World War II and during the economic booms in Europe and the Western world, women also contributed to economic development by actively engaging in industry. They played a key role in increasing the sales of modern home appliances by buying them themselves. Household appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines and the like were first introduced into the home in the 1950s, which eased the domestic workload of most women and thus enabled them to participate in the labour market and have enough time to take care of their children. Support from extended families in child care has enabled most women to join the labour force and thus earn an income.

The phenomenon was tremendous because it enabled women's freedom by engaging in the workforce and inspired movements for gender equality, first in Western countries and then worldwide. Women become independent and decision-makers at home because they can earn money themselves and not have to depend on the income earned by their husbands.

In the early 20th century, automotive giant Ford hired men and women into its industry to produce market-ready vehicles. At the same time, the renowned company enabled the workers to utilise the product by organising a credit system, thus improving the majority's standard of living. Women have played a key role in economic development and the expansion of most industries. After the industrial revolution, they mainly engaged in the service sector, where their skills and especially soft skills were in high demand.

The outcome was positive, although debates around women's income levels were later raised by activists promoting gender equality in most societies. Inequalities in salary, job stability, and sector of activity, as well as the difference in responsibilities held between men and women workers and professionals, have been major debates for years, including today.

Strategies and mechanisms for gender equality in most regions of the world, including sub-Saharan Africa, have been put in place, sometimes with positive results.

Professional women hold many positions requiring responsibility and decision-making, including in political affairs. However, the effort needs greater attention for a more successful outcome in gender equality across the world. Consequently, governments in Sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere have introduced policies and principles that uphold women's rights in societies and, therefore, gender equality.

Several initiatives to promote gender equality across the globe have shown promising results, although additional efforts are needed for improvement. Research has shown that when the unemployment rate is high in Sub-Saharan Africa, women are more likely than men to find themselves without work or training, a situation that calls for active engagement.

Despite criticisms of women's position in society by most activists in their efforts to promote gender equality, women have long played an essential role in the household, the labour market, and society. Most of the responsibilities given to women in the past across the world were enormous and it is essential to give importance and value to the roles they played in society.

Thus far, women have stood together in initiating successful economic activities after the world wars in Western countries and after colonial independence in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Women have also supported conflict resolution by acting as foundations for their community. The additional efforts made in recent years by activists and the media to empower women to take more responsibilities in society, in general, have shown promising results and need more attention for better results. There is a need to recognise the past efforts made by women in society to promote gender equality across the world.

PUBLISHED ON Jun 18,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1155]

Tigist Solomon is passionate about socio-economic issues, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. She can be reached at tgstsolomon@gmail.com.

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