First things first, women/girls go through most of the general problems in the society that equally affect men, however, for the sake of simplicity and clearity this write-up will ignore generic issues and focus on women/girls specific struggles. Please note, though I strive to make this a general issue, I may want to highlight more on the African sphere, since gender based issues are more glaring in Africa, especially, Sub Sahara Africa. Enough said, lets cut the chase and dive straight in. I will split my assertions into 10 key points to make things hazzle free.
1) Violence against women and girls (Gender based violence)
According to WHO, 1 in 3 women experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes. These ranges from domestic abuse, rape, to sexual trafficking. Irrespective of the nature of abuse, gender-based violence denies far too many women and young girls the opportunity to live happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.
2) Chronic Digital gender divide
Internet and communication technology can be a great enabler for girls but lack of opportunities, skills and a fear of discrimination prevent many from using and creating digital tools and online content. The gender digital divide in terms of access to the internet its largest in developing countries at 32.9%, worse case being Africa, while in terms of mobile phone ownership, the gender digital divide is highest in South Asia where women are 26% less likely to own a mobile phone than men.
Without equal access to technology and the internet, girls and women are not able to equally participate in our ever more digital societies. Holding back girls and women in this area affects every aspect of their lives, including their ability to speak out and campaign on issues that affect them, hence worsening the existing gender inequalities.
3) Reproductive Health & Rights
Girls in developing countries have an unmet need for family planning, contributing to 74 million unplanned pregnancies and 36 million abortions every year, according to “Women Deliver”. Helping women take charge of their reproductive lives reduces unsafe abortions and maternal deaths by over 70% each, and conserves precious resources that would otherwise have gone toward pregnancy-related costs. Worse still, when girls are faced with unwanted pregnancies, its almost entirely their responsibility to bring up the child, and most time this could mean an end or severe interference with their education or careers.
4) Societal trappings, Sexism and economic inequality.
The extremely dangerous combination of sexism and economic inequality connotes on both a domestic and global front, and all the individual challenges of women may just be symptomatic of years of social conditioning/trappings and massive systemic power and economic imbalances, working in tandem.
5) Underrepresentation in policy making
The Patriarchial arrangement of the society (which is more obvious in Africa), is shunning women from positions of authority, even when these women have the merits. Patriarchy works by convincing people that an outspoken and intelligent woman represents a problem; a disruption to the social order rather than an integral part of it. It is therefore no coincidence that the entire world is completely out of step when it comes to electing a woman as president, though we are seeing better trends now, which only indicates a promising future for strong women.
6) Social Media Euphoria and sexting
The advent of social media is becoming more of a distraction to young women than a tool to foster and empower them. This problem is hightened in Africa, and getting worse by the day. To get a glimpse of this assertion, check trending social media platforms today (mostly video based), biggest culprits; Tiktok and Instagram. The tendency to spend time doing demeaning things that add no real value to society only makes the gender gap widen with continuous shunning of women or visualizing them through the age-old sex toy mentality. Why do I say this?… young black women have suddenly turn the social media space into a subtle porn hub with increasing appetite to go naked online (sexting) or spend hours doing non-yielding erotic dance, things that adds no real value to their lives and society. Sexting is a major call for concern as many teens do not understand the lomgterm consequences that sharing explicit photos can have on their lives. Normalizing such behaviours only creates a vicious cycle of subjugation, and abuse for young girls.
7) Genda Gap & struggles in STEM
Girls and women are systematically tracked away from science and math throughout their educations, limiting their training and options to go into these fields as adults. Women make up only 28% of the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), despite holding more than 60% of all undergraduate degrees worldwide. This is mostly secondary to gender stereotypes, male-dominated cultures (especially in Africa) and ofcourse lack or fewer role models (which only leads to postitive feedback). Young men on the other hand, vastly outnumber women majoring in most STEM fields in our universities. The gender gaps are particularly high in some of the fastest-growing and highest-paid jobs of the future, like computer science and engineering. This futher widens the finacial gap, inequalities and shunt girls from becoming major stameholders and life-changing policy makers.
8) Feminism gone wrong ( Trauma based/centered feminism)
This is a global issue, but more glaring among western women, but gradually creeping into the African space. Western women (especially Americans) are among the safest, freest, healthiest, most opportunity-rich women on Earth. In many ways, they are not just doing as well as men, they are actually surpassing them. But everywhere, especially on university campuses, young women are being taught that they are vulnerable, fragile and in imminent danger. A new trauma-centered feminism has taken hold. Its primary focus is not empowerment of women or equality with men—but rather protection from them. This new ethic of fear and fragility is poisonous and debilitating, but it’s gaining ground, a dangerous one. Toxic feminism is very unhealthy for young girls who always want to play victim, as it may only create social tension and worsen the gender devide.
9) Period Poverty and Stigma (menstrual struggles)
The shame and sense of the taboo surrounding menstruation goes hand-in-hand with period poverty.
Period poverty is a global issue impacting women who lack access to hygiene products, sanitary facilities, and education on their bodies, both through issues of financial poverty and a culture of silence surrounding menstruation. Period poverty is an often ignored intersection between issues of health, gender, and income. It is very common for girls experiencing period poverty to be forced to miss school or work, either due to a lack of period products or a stigma surrounding menstruation in their communities. Not only does period poverty impact their mental and physical health, it can also negatively impact their futures by forcing them to miss out on education and job prospects.
10) Increasing Maternal Mortality
Solely a problem in the developing world which accounts for about 99% of total maternal deaths and precisely a major problem in Sub Saharan Africa where, 66% of total maternal deaths occur (WHO). WHO estimates that 800 women die every day from preventable, pregnancy-related causes. World wide. That’s roughly 300,000 lives per year needlessly lost during what is fundamentally a life-creating event. Despite recorded changing from Sustainable development goals, maternal mortality is clearly still a major problem to girls/women and the psychological implications are grievous. Why this could be an actual problem for women, its societal burden is huge.