A total of 19 private companies and government agencies that have fronted gender accountability by promoting a gender responsive work environment were recognised on Friday, March 11. They were certified with the Gender Equality Seal (GES) for private companies and the Gender Equality Award (GEA) for government agencies that have been pushing for the agenda’s implementation. Pioneered by UNDP since 2009, the Gender Equality Seal is the first of its kind to be awarded on the African continent, with a target to empower the private sector to achieve excellence standards of promoting women empowerment in the business world. Most of the institutions that were awarded had established the policies promoting a gender responsive work environment by setting up gender equality committees in their offices and scaling up the percentage of female workforce in the managerial roles. Other factors assessed included the length of the maternity leave given to mothers and whether the office has a crèche room or facility to cater for babies who still need their mother’s care. Among the 19 institutions, nine of them were private companies awarded with a golden seal as they adopted the gender equality action plan and implemented it. These are MTN Rwanda, Wolfram Mining and Processing Limited, the Development Bank of Rwanda, Ecobank, Safari Center, I&M Bank, SORWATHE, Marriott hotel and the Bank of Kigali. The second cohort included six companies that had already approved their gender equality action plan but are yet to implement it, and those are DP World, Gardaworld, SANLAM, Sina Gerard, Inkomoko and BRITAM. Besides the private companies, four public institutions; the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the cooperative agency (RCA), the Utilities body (RURA) and the Research and Development Agency (NIRDA) were also recognised. The Minister of Trade and Industry, Beatha Habyarimana commended the awarded companies and called the rest to consider gender equality as a business rationale. “From these nominees, we have seen that gender equality is not only a policy, but a must if you want to deliver more in business as well, so more private companies should embrace the culture not as a favor, but because it is among womens rights,” she noted. The gender promotion in the private sector agenda started three years ago after it was realized that there was still a significant gender gap in the private businesses and enterprises, according to Rose Rwabuhihi, the head of Gender Monitoring Office (GMO). “There was still a gap in the private sector, despite the governments’ efforts, so we approached the private businesses and pushed for the integration of women at the workplace, and more favorable policies,” she expressed. Rwabuhihi recalls they had realized gender equality should not apply to one profession or in the public sector alone, and hence conducted an audit in the private sector and provided recommendations. Jean Malic Kalima, the Chief Executive of Wolfram Mining and Processing Limited, was one of the award recipients over his company’s ambitious targets to enroll more women in the mining sector. He recalls that his company got inspiration from the state’s efforts to promote gender equality. “We work in rural areas where women are perceived to be cooks and housewives, but we saw our government’s agenda and started sensitizing them, hence enrolling more women in our workforce,” he said. The private companies are recognised during the International Women’s month, in an event that was organised by the Private Sector Federation, the GMO with the support of UNDP and UN Women.