Monday, 18 May 2015

Gender Inequality: The plight of the world's women

Anne-Marie and Me Matsepo- Spring of 2014

"The fate of girls and women is precisely the fate of their countries their communities and their world."

No offense guys.........

In 1994, eight hundred thousand people we slaughtered in 100 days in the Rwandan genocide.  A brilliant description of the complicated social, cultural and political events that lead to this catastrophe can be found in Romeo Dallaire's book, 'Shake Hands with the Devil' and in James Orbinski's book, 'An imperfect Offering'.  Both of these books changed the way I think about the world.

Human beings are hard wired with resilience and the people of Rwanda are remarkable examples of this.  Seventy percent of Rwanda's population was female in the aftermath of the genocide.  Women played a very small role in the political and cultural tensions that lead to the slaughter.  Only 2.3 % of  those who were jailed for the killings were female.  As a result, ' there was a broad sense afterward that females were more responsible and less inclined to savagery'.  Whether that is true or not, the country was prepared to give more rights and freedoms to women and allow them to seek after positions of power.

Paul Kagame, Rwanda's president since the genocide and the rebel leader who defeated the perpetrators, was very wise when he turned his focus on rebuilding the country.  

He said, "You shut that population (females) out of economic activity at your peril.  The decision to involve women, we did not leave it to chance.  In the constitution we said that women have to make up 30 percent of the parliament."

By 2007, forty-eight percent of the seats in parliament were held by women and in 2008, Rwanda became the first country in the world with a majority of female legislators at 55%.  It is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.  It is also one of the least corrupt and best governed.

I don't think that men in particular are at fault for the vast number of nations in economic peril or for the resultant hardship, poverty, corruption, death and disease that exists in a struggling or failing state.  I do believe that whenever large groups of people are left powerless, stigmatized, abused and victimized, whether male or female, the over arching loss is the collective power, intelligence and creativity that can be used to prevent and overcome such darkness.

Another book that changed my life is ' Half the Sky' by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.  A must read for anyone looking for ways to overcome our greatest challenges as a world.  The theme of the book is summed up in this quote.

"In the nineteenth century the central moral challenge was slavery.  In the twentieth century, it was the battle against totalitarianism ( remember Hitler?).  We believe that in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality around the world."

I help run an organization ( Bracelet of Hope ) whose goal is to end the AIDS pandemic in Lesotho.  Seventy percent of those infected with the virus worldwide are women.  This is not because of some gender-related biological quirk or some risky exposure that is unique to women.   This is because the women in our world struggle everyday to survive in households, villages and countries where their lives are ruled over by predominantly male power brokers.

Bring everyone, male and female alike, into the places of work and around the decision making tables, and not only will AIDS be eradicated, but so will poverty and needless child mortality.

Join Bracelet of Hope this Sunday, May 24th at Apt. 58 in Guelph for an afternoon of shopping, good conversation and food as we support the women of Lesotho.  A group of students from Ross CVI will be combining beautiful beads made by women in Lesotho with Canadian materials and design to create custom bracelets for order and sale.  Tickets are $20 and available online at or at the door.   All proceeds go to Bracelet of Hope and our efforts to assist the women and children affected by AIDS in Lesotho. 

For those of you living  in other countries who follow this blog, you can donate online at the same website: or you can add your thoughts by emailing us at  We would love to add your voices to this conversation and I would love to write about your experiences and opinions.  

Dr. Anne-Marie Zajdlik MD CCFP
Founding Director, Bracelet of Hope

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