paying greater attention to gender equality will support faster and more inclusive human development and economic growth for Africa, the 2016 Africa Human Development Report has indicated.
The report, which was launched on Thursday in Kigali, focuses on ‘Accelerating Gender Equality and Women’s empowerment in Africa’ and analyses many of the factors that either impede or advance this agenda.
It was prepared by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The report commends the latest developments and achievements, but it recommends governments to support the adoption of legal reforms, policies and programmes to advance women’s empowerment.
This will ensure that more progress in economic growth and human development is fully inclusive for all citizens and sustainable in the long term, it said.
Speaking during the official launch ceremony, Stephen Rodrigues, UNDP’s country director, said there’s been an important progress in attaining gender equality and women’s empowerment in many African countries, but a lot is yet to be done.
“We are impressed by how much African countries have done to improve gender equality and empower women in different aspects of life. Particularly, Rwanda has been one of the top performers in all of Africa and in some cases in the world. In terms of improvements in human development, Rwanda is one of the top two countries in the world that has seen the fastest improvements in education, health and income of its people,” he said.
“However, there are varied challenges that require our attention to act. Women still face gender based violence and other forms of violence. Africa is losing billions of dollars because of gender inequality. We need to create a level playing field for both men and women,” he added.
The report estimates that, on average, there has been a loss of about $95 billion annually since 2010 in sub-Saharan Africa due to gender inequality.
Similarly, Africa still tops the world with the highest level of gender based violence with over 45.6 per cent of women on the continent still facing violence over their life time.
It indicates that, in Rwanda, since the adoption of the 1995 Beijing Declaration, which came barely one year after the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, Rwanda has moved swiftly from being a highly unequal society to a global model for gender equality and the empowerment of women.
Yemesrach Assefa, UNDP’s economic advisor, said that, despite the achievements, more remains to be done to ensure that men and women are treated equally across Africa.
“Women are not paid equally for the same work as men and are more likely to be working in vulnerable employment, particularly in the informal sector. Even the report shows that for every US1 dollar earned by men in manufacturing, services, and trade, women earn only $0.70 cents. This is a pervasive gender gap in economic activities that constrains the continent’s achievement of its full economic potential,” she said.
Special focus on private sector
The report highlights that although Rwanda is the world leader in promoting women’s participation in Parliament, there is still a lot more to do in the private sector.
For example, based on 2011 data, women occupy slightly over 12 per cent of the seats on company boards. Similarly, less than 20 per cent of firms in Rwanda have female top managers.
“While the report indicates that there has been progress in many areas in the public sector, it does also point out that there’s not much encouraging in the private sector. Now we are talking about the difficulties and challenges that women have in the private sector, but also take actions,” Rodrigues said.
Rodrigues argued that companies should invest more in enabling women to achieve what they are capable of, highlighting mentorship, training, coaching and all that’s required to harness the potential of women in the workplace.
On the social front, the report shows that in 2014, only about half of African countries had reported gender parity in primary school enrolment while only 12 countries achieved parity in secondary school education.