The ideal of equality has had its ups and downs for as long as I can remember. It is a touchy issue in many countries around the globe. From Africa to North America, Asia to South America, Australia and Europe all over these continents people are increasingly raising alarm concerning issues that have to do with equal access to opportunities. In this article, I will let the reader know of my observations on the role played by affirmative action towards ensuring that people of all races around the globe get equal employment opportunities, equal education, including the barriers undergone by the respective governments and other institutions to ensure the full implementation of equality.
Let’s face it: we all understand the constraints of implementing equality in many countries around the world. If my memory serves me well, history takes us back in the 1950s in terms of the challenges that faced a country like United States of America in ensuring that all and sundry have equal access to opportunities. But one wonders whose responsibility is it for ensuring that different individuals have equal access to opportunities? Is it the government of the day? Or is it an inclusive responsibility of both the government and its citizens? My conscience tells me that the government has the first priority of ensuring that affirmative action becomes a reality. On a more opposing side of this issue I would like to observe that the majority of the countries have not achieved a lot in terms of gender equality, economic participation and opportunity for their citizens, health issues and not to forget, leadership empowerment – especially to our women. I think part of equality is the notion that no one should be discriminated of any opportunities based on their race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, marital status and even political affiliation. It is because of these issues that I draw my attention to gender equality, for instance. Sometimes I try to sit down and ask myself of how many women in the United States, Africa, Australia, Asia or even Europe are in leadership roles – especially in the political arena. Perhaps your guess is as good as mine because there is an under-representation of women in various leadership roles in most of these countries. My home country of Kenya has never had a female President same to United States to mention a few, for a long time now- as compared to other countries around the world. Even countries with weak democracies like Liberia in West Africa have tried to empower women in leadership positions by electing a female President.
Truly, one can argue that lack of women in leadership roles can represent a failure to exploit the necessary talents and leadership skills possessed by women. Isn’t it time that these countries get to be aggressive on gender equality by empowering women to take leadership roles? You will bear me witness that we need more women as mayors of our towns and cities, community leaders, civil society, ministers as well as heads of states.
On the other hand, these countries have not achieved a lot in terms of economically empowering our women. We need more professionals and technical workers for minorities and women. For many years, the minorities and women have not had equal access to serve as board members in different institutions and corporations across the world. In addition, not much has been done in terms of understanding differences between healthcare needs for women and men. The governments of the day and the institutions responsible ought to carry out civic education of educating our women on deadly diseases such as cancer, heart disease, to give some examples. Enabling young women to avoid early pregnancy will allow our girls to go to school longer and in the end, they will be able to join the labor force.
The idealism of equal opportunity for all should be the right for everyone. Nonetheless, whoever wants to earn that right, he or she has to work for it. To get an excellent education you have to burn the midnight oil and strive to compete with others in a fairly manner. The time for sitting down and waiting for ‘manna’ from heaven is long gone. If you want to be admitted, say for example at Yale Law School, you have to pass the required entry levels. Do not wait for your race, sex or age to help you secure admission. I observe it is two way traffic and you have to earn that right.
Last but not least, my position in equal access to opportunities narrows down to the fact that, much still needs to be done. Sections of different groups in many countries such as youth groups, women and minority groups feel left out and there is need to bridge that gap and ensure that everyone would not be discriminated according to race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, marital status and even political affiliation. For instance, the 14th amendment of the US Constitution outlaws discrimination by government and on the other hand, the Civil Rights Act entitles everyone an equal access to public accommodations. However, it is the responsibility of every person to ensure that they achieve their goals without depending on their race or minority or even majority status to make ends meet in life.
Written by: Humphrey Musila
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