How Rwanda is winning the fight for gender equality

Rwanda is Africa's best-performer in efforts to close the gender gap and seventh out of 142 countries on the global index, a new report shows.
Mukabaranga says the report proves efforts of empowerment are paying off. (File)
Mukabaranga says the report proves efforts of empowerment are paying off. (File)

Rwanda is Africa’s best-performer in efforts to close the gender gap and seventh out of 142 countries on the global index, a new report shows.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Gender Gap report 2014, released Monday, looked at how nations distribute political participation, economic resources and opportunities, access to healthcare and education, between women and men.

 

Rwanda is the only country from the sub-Saharan region to be ranked in the top 10.

 

The areas where Rwanda topped were political empowerment performance and economic participation and opportunity.

 

While the report acknowledged that, globally, the gender gap is narrowing, there were areas that were lagging behind.

The gap for political empowerment remains wider, at 21 per cent. But Rwanda excelled in the sector.

There have been other surveys that have ranked Rwanda among the top countries that have placed women at the forefront of national development.

But how did Rwanda work its way to the top?

According to Solange Mukasonga, the mayor of Nyarugenge, one of the reasons that inspired Rwanda’s performance was the country’s leadership that advocated for legal frameworks that would give women more opportunity.   

“The record progress made by Rwanda can be attributed to many factors, including  the political will to empower women,” Mukasonga said. “As a matter of fact, women have generally contributed tremendously to national development through their economic involvement.”

Among the legal instruments in place is the 2003 constitution, that provides for 30 percent automatic representation of women in decision making organs.

The quota has since surpassed with in various organs, notably the Parliament which constitutes double the provision, with 64 percent of the seats occupied by women.

The executive, comprising cabinet ministers and ministers of state, the women constitute 36 per cent.

The Nyarugenge Mayor, Mukasonga, further pointed out that there is more for women that what the legal provisions provide.

“Besides what is stipulated in the laws, it should be noted that every public entity must have a gender budget that details plans of women empowerment precisely in the economic sector. Today, we have women who are senior engineers and pilots,”  Mukasonga said.

Dr Alvera Mukabaramba, the Minister of State for Local government, referred to the report as evidence that the efforts to empower women are paying off.

“The Global Gender gap report is a proof that Rwanda abides by its laws.However, we do not stop there. We believe we have the ability to do more especially if we put much focus on rural women empowerment,” Mukabaramba said.

“Rwanda’s performance is not just numbers, it is backed with determination and will to deliver when they occupy these posts,” Mukabaramba, who is one of the long serving women politicians in Rwanda and once vied for Presidency, added.

Senator Jeanne D’arc Mukakalisa shared similar views with the state minister but added that being number seven is not enough and that Rwandan women can take advantage of the opportunities, consequently pushing the rankings higher.

“What we have achieved as women is worth celebrating, but we still have to do more. We have already proved that we can achieve what we set our minds to and eventually we can top the rankings.”

Under the pillar of economic participation and opportunities, Rwanda was ranked the 25th globally. The section looks at labor force, wage equality for similar work for both men and women,  estimated earned income, legislators, senior officials and managers, professional and technical workers, labour force participation, enrollment in primary education, sex ratio at birth and Women in parliament.

The gender gap for economic participation and opportunity now stands at 60% worldwide, having closed by 4% from 56% in 2006 when the Forum first started measuring it. Based on this trajectory, with all else remaining equal, it will take 81 years for the world to close this gap completely.

Rwanda Initiative for Sustainable Development (RISD) is one of the grassroots organizations that have been involved with empowering women through advocating for them to economically benefit from land rights and ownership.

According to Annie Kairaba, the RISD director, some achievements recorded in the report can be related to the productivity and participation of women at the grassroots.

“Today Rwanda is the only African country that has given women equal rights as men on land inheritance, all these factors contribute to economic growth which is mirrored in the report,” Kairaba said, adding that “Rwanda tops the land policy framework of Africa with outstanding mechanisms  like the national land policy.”

In Africa, after Rwanda, came Burundi at 17th globally, followed by South Africa and Nigeria. In East Africa Kenya emerged 37th, Tanzania 47th and Uganda 88th.

Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum was quoted saying that; “achieving gender equality is obviously necessary for economic reasons. Only those economies who have full access to all their talent will remain competitive and will prosper. But even more important, gender equality is a matter of justice. As a humanity, we also have the obligation to ensure a balanced set of values.”

Nine years of data from the Global Gender Gap Report – first published in 2006 – reveal the pattern of change around the world relative to countries’ own past performance and in relation to each other.

Saadia Zahidi, Head of the Gender Parity Programme at the World Economic Forum and lead author of the report said that a lot of the progress on gender equality over the last 10 years has come from more women entering politics and the workforce.

In the case of politics, globally, there are now 26% more female parliamentarians and 50% more female ministers than nine years ago.

“These are far-reaching changes – for economies and national cultures, however it is clear that much work still remains to be done, and that the pace of change must in some areas be accelerated,” Zahidi said. 

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