A manifestation of gender inequalities is women’s poor ability to protect themselves from infections, negotiate safe sex and say no to unprotected sex, particularly when they are economically or socially dependent on their partners.
This problem is compounded by the fact that sex is routinely demanded from women as payment for access to basic needs such as work and education.
Women without skills and resources often resort to prostitution in its different forms. That makes them even more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV.
Male behaviours arising from their social superiority such as their ability to have multiple sexual partners across a wide range of age groups without serious consequences and their ability to demand unprotected sex from their spouses make them vectors in the spread of HIV/AIDS.
One result is the high mother-to-child transmission of HIV, which accounts for about 15 per cent of all modes of transmission.
This situation is not helped by the fact that having children is very important in our societies. Women’s need to have children to consolidate their status within marriage and in society at large is often incompatible with safe sex methods such as condom use.
All these factors have made HIV/AIDs a woman’s disease in much of Africa.
On the question of education levels, there are big differences between men and women.
According to The Ghana Living Standards Survey in 2000 (GLSS 4), 44.1 per cent of women as opposed to 21.1per cent of men have no formal education.
Given that formal sector employment now requires secondary or higher levels of education, it follows that women are disadvantaged in terms of access to work in this sector.
Current enrolment figures do not give room for optimism. Average enrolment rates at the basic school for males are 66.2 per cent and 58.4 per cent for females. More girls than boys drop out of school at all levels of education.
Factors such as poverty, early marriage and teenage pregnancy prevent females from continuing their education to the tertiary level.
Even where dropouts enter apprenticeships, females have a narrower range of opportunities- mainly sewing, hair dressing and catering, while boys have a much wider range.
Furthermore, male dominated occupations pay better on the job market. Beyond jobs, education is very important for social development in general.
To be continued...
Source: Culled from The Women’s Manifesto for Ghana
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