A 2018 labour force survey by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) revealed a massive gap between men and women in the industry, with women owning just 33 per cent micro enterprises and 29 per cent of small enterprises. The figure fell drastically to 15 per cent for medium enterprises and shrinks even further in bigger businesses.
A similar trend is observed in senior executive and managerial roles in the private sector with obvious disparities in gender representation, often resulting in underutilisation and deprivation of women.
Equally, women represent a small portion of people who receive big loans from commercial banks, further crippling their potential to become the movers and shakers in the world of work.
This does not only hurt businesses but the economy at large since it means that a large segment of the population is not afforded an opportunity to actively participate in economic activity.
By denying women – who account for over half of the population – equal opportunity, we undermine the country’s aspirations to build a knowledge, human capital based economy.
But, most importantly, it’s a violation of human rights and the constitution, which promotes gender equality and equity.
In that regard, there is need for joint efforts from different actors, including government, private sector, and other partners to turn things around. That’s why the ‘Gender Quality Seal’, a 4-year initiative backed by UNDP-Rwanda, Private Sector Federation and Gender Monitoring Office (GMO) that seeks to help bridge the gender gap in the industry is an invaluable contribution.
The initiative should be broad enough to include all aspects of a safe workplace for women, inclusive access to financing, women’s active presence in the board rooms and other decision-making organs, among others.
We call on all private businesses and institutions to embrace this initiative – and other similar efforts – and to serve as agents of change.