The missing link in the women’s empowerment and gender equality drive has been accountability. For so long our governments and international bodies, have made high sounding proclamations on women’s emancipation.
Year after year to decade after decade commitments towards women’s empowerment are being reaffirmed. Why then has the women’s lot not improved?
Simple — leaders have failed to walk the talk. On the African continent, most, if not all our governments, have over the decades committed to a plethora of international declarations and instruments on the advancement of the status of women.
Some of these are; the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, (CEDAW), Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPFA), and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); regional instruments including the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women and the African Union Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality.
Sadly the status of women has not advanced to satisfactory levels that match the spirit of the above instruments. Meaning the commitment has remained on paper without being translated to tangible actions on the ground.
The above scenario necessitated the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) to then ask the pertinent question, in the report; “Who answers to women? Gender and accountability.”
The bottom line of this report is to ensure that those in power answer or are made accountable to women. The emancipation cause has been a burden unfairly dumped on the shoulders of the already - - marginalized women.
It has been up to women to convince their governments on their emancipation; they have had to organize, mobilize and agitate for their rights. Notwithstanding that the burden to liberate African countries from colonial rule was shared, women have been left on their own.
Among the accountability failures UNIFEM points out is the fact that women still earn well below their male counterparts for the same jobs. According to the report women earn on average between 15 and 17 percent less than men for the same work.
The report focuses on five areas to demand accountability; politics and governance, access to public services, economic opportunities, justice and the distribution of international assistance for development and security.
On the whole, the visiting Executive Director of UNIFEM, Ines Alberdi, will be impressed on her first visit to Rwanda, that this country, has had to account through legislative and constitutional provisions that have empowered women. These have been translated into action.
Currently the country has the highest number of women in parliament in the world at 56.2 percent. For instance looking at UNIFEM’s five points; zero tolerance on corruption which continues to claim more public officials, means resources are used to the nations good and women also benefit.
Perhaps ‘little Rwanda’ might have one or two best practices for Alberdi to pick from, as the global ambassador for women.