Go tell it on the mountain: Rwanda is the best place for women

Ranking of countries across a wide range of sectors has become accepted practice and a useful measure of a country’s progress. International (and national) organisations and think tanks regularly come up with such rankings.

Ranking of countries across a wide range of sectors has become accepted practice and a useful measure of a country’s progress. International (and national) organisations and think tanks regularly come up with such rankings.

The reports are so important that they have increasingly come to inform policy in those sectors.

 

And so reports from UNDP, the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, Transparency International, Legatum Institute, among many others, are often eagerly awaited and when they are released are scrutinised for improvements or shortcomings.

 

In Rwanda we are getting used to being ranked among the very best. For instance, the most recent Ease of Doing Business report placed Rwanda second in Africa.

 

The WEF Global Gender Gap report put the country first in Africa and fifth globally out of 142 countries surveyed.

It is easy to take this for granted and say: This is the trend we have come to expect; nothing unusual there. And so it passes and we don’t say a thing about it.
Or a sense of modesty may stop us from pointing out these successes, for that is what they are.

On reflection, however, taking progress for granted or keeping mum about it is a mistake.

The rankings indicate progress, and progress doesn’t just occur or fall from heaven like manna. It is earned. It is the result of conscious decisions and choices, and hard work by government and citizens. These efforts must be recognised and told.

People often look to the reports, not simply as a pat on the back that says: well done, but more as indication and vindication of the work they are doing. Just as important, they see the findings as something that should spur them to even greater effort.

And like every progress report, they are a reflection of effort and attainment, and where one is in relation to where they ought or want to be.

In the case of Rwanda, the progress is evidence that we are making the right choices and decisions, building on the famous three – unity, accountability and thinking big. We should be proud of the achievements we have made so far and not be shy to tell it, without bragging, of course.

In any case good things are usually not hidden. They are displayed to be admired and appreciated, and also to provide inspiration. Even the Bible says so. People do not light a lamp and hide it under a basket. They put on a stand where it gives light to all (Mathew 5:15; Luke, 11:33; Mark 4:21).

Take the WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2016 released only last week. Rwanda is ranked first in Africa and fifth worldwide out of 142 countries covered by the report. It is way up there with the global leaders in gender equality – the Nordic countries – and even way ahead of some of the most economically advanced countries.

Rwanda’s record in gender matters is, of course, no longer news. Everyone knows we have the biggest percentage of women in parliament in the world. But there are other interesting facts that are less well-known which the report brings out.

For example, Rwanda is the world’s leader on equal pay. Perhaps not a big deal in itself. But consider this. The biggest economy in the world still lags in terms of equal pay for equal work between men and women.

Indeed the question of parity in wages is a big election issue in the ongoing presidential campaign in the United States.
Another fact according to the report: Rwanda has more women than men in the labour force

Important gains have been made in two of the four areas measured: economic participation and opportunity, and political participation. But it is also clear that more needs to be done in the other two: educational attainment and health and survival. That, after all, is the purpose of a good report – to point out areas for improvement.

Still, the record is very good. Following other reports about the country being one of the safest and most secure, it might not be long before we see women migrating here in large numbers.

All those running away from the groping hands of the likes of Trump might very well find a home here. Those in fear of finding themselves behind a wall or some other barrier do not have much to worry about here. Here we pull down walls; we do not erect them.

Some of our smart marketing people might mount a campaign along these lines: Want away from the grubby hands of disagreeable men? Come, there is protection here.

Saddened and burdened by discrimination, unwanted attention and mutilating practices? Come, you will find solace and opportunity here.

The experts will, of course, say that in a more attractive way. The point, though, is that Rwanda is, has been, and will always be a very good place for women, and that fact will not be put under a basket but placed where everyone can see it.

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