The African Development Bank (AfDB) has unveiled its first ever Gender-Equality Index for Africa that compares equality of sexes in 52 out of the continent’s 54 countries, with Rwanda standing out largely owing to the country’s 64 per cent female representation in parliament, the highest globally.
The index, titled ‘State of Gender Equality in Africa’ was launched on Monday, as one of the opening activities of the week-long AfDB annual meetings, under the theme, ‘Gender Equality: Where are we?’
The AfDB 50th annual meetings kicked off Monday in the Ivorian capital Abidjan where the headquarters of the bank are based. The meetings will also see a new AfDB President elected to replace Rwanda’s Dr Donald Kaberuka.
Speaking at the unveiling ceremony, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, AfDB’s Special Envoy on Gender said the state of gender index is expected to provide African governments with benchmarks to evaluate the effectiveness of their policies to advance gender equality.
The index examined the position of women as producers, in human development, as active citizens and leaders and also provides maps for each area.
In a brief comment about the index, Kaberuka said the Bank has decided to be at the forefront of championing gender equality, the reason why the position of Special Envoy on Gender was created.
“At the time of creating the position, the AfDB was great at so many things but falling short on others; by creating the position of special envoy on gender, it was a signal that the subject meant a great deal to the Bank’s business and I hope my predecessor will continue with this trend,” he said.
The index lauds Rwanda that, at 64 per cent female representation in the Lower House, has the best women representation globally, a feat that the AfDB encourages other African countries to emulate.
AfDB has released the index at a time when women’s empowerment is on the top of the African agenda with the African Union having declared 2015 the year of Women’s Empowerment and Progress towards Agenda 2063, to optimise resources to the benefit of all Africans.
A panel consisting of high women achievers and gentlemen who have been lauded for dedicating efforts to promoting gender equality was also held. The panel discussed the question, ‘Are women and men on a level playing field?
Panelist Dr Frannie Leautier, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Mkoba Private Equity Fund, Tanzania said men and boys have a great role to play in ensuring inclusivity for women and girls.
“Without good gender policies in place women can still make it but they would have to grow muscles to navigate in the unlevel playing field and I hope stories of successful women can help inspire other women,” said Leautier.
Also on the high level panel was Ashish Thakkar, founder of Mara Group and Mara Foundation who said that there’s a need to celebrate more successful women who have made it in spite of the current gender imbalance in many African countries.
Thakkar said at Mara, the organisation has a gender inclusive approach in choosing which start-up entrepreneurs to work with although he said women applications are still few.
“Out of the over 500 young entrepreneurs we are currently working with, only about 30 per cent of them are women, which is still low, we still have to do a lot to encourage young women that they can make it,” he said.
Dr Saran Daraba Kaba, Executive Secretary of Mano River Union based in Sierra Leon said helping women achieve success should start with enabling them to attain basic level education to set their foundation for bigger achievements.
Members of the high level panel agreed that African governments must work towards achieving inclusive growth that leaves no one behind, including women.
However, the AfDB special envoy on gender, Moleketi also challenged women and girls to stand up and claim their rights and space.
“Women must make an effort to claim the space and fill it because what men can do, they can do,” she said.