There has been boundless sensitisation and effort to strengthen gender equality across the country. One would think that aspects such as stereotypes, misconceptions, and tradition, or anything else that has held women back over the years, are now on a low, however, this is not the case. And this can be seen in areas, for example, like the workforce, where very many women are still unemployed.
A recent report by UN Women shows that the unemployment rate among women in urban areas in Rwanda is higher compared to their male counterparts. It shows that 26.6 per cent of women in urban areas are unemployed, where as for men, only 12.5 percent are unemployed.
This is despite the efforts which have been put in place to fight such gender disparity. So why are numbers still indicating that women are still lagging behind in this particular area of the workforce?
Jean-Paul Kabera, the Deputy Chief Gender Monitor in charge of Gender Mainstreaming at the Gender Monitoring Office, this trend his linked to the country’s historical background.
Historically women didn’t have a chance to attain education because of certain stereotypes and this is the reason why some are unemployed today. The culture of male preference was too entrenched in society and this affected women negatively.
Kabera also points out another factor related to the kind of education that most girls attain compared to boys.
He notes that for example, in regards to technical skills, girls who join vocational schools are still few compared to boys, yet it is such skills that ensure one’s chance of getting employed within the current job market.
He says that jobs that are available mostly require technical skills yet women who enrol in such are still few.
Statistics show the number of females enrolled in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) today stand at 41 per cent compared to the males at 58 per cent. This picture will have an implication on the proportion of women in some productive sectors.
The other reason he points out is the mindset, where women are still limiting themselves to some jobs thinking that the tough ones are for men and not appropriate for women, jobs like chauffeuring, engineering, and plumbing, among others.
He says, however, that if such hindrances are dealt with, more progress will certainly be registered.
“I am hopeful that many women here in the urban areas will be employed, but we also have to look on the other side at how they can be job creators,” he points out.
This is why he suggests that empowering women economically will give them access to finance and help them embrace a savings and investment culture.
Increasing the number of girls in TVET is another way to fight unemployment among women. “The world is really growing fast with technology so we need to sensitise women to join such courses and also join the ICT world,” he says.
The gender officer also calls upon women to embrace opportunities presented to them by the government.
“Women also have to explore opportunities given to them by the government, but some are not even aware and those who are don’t want to go there, others fear risks. But women need to be confident enough to attain this,” he says.
Women in rural areas also need to be empowered because urban areas are mostly occupied with people who moved from rural areas.Empowering them would mean that they would stay and work in their home towns which would lead to development.
This can be done by building industries in rural areas and improving infrastructure and this will certainly help empower rural people.
Olive Uwamariya, a women activist, says that urban employment tends to require higher educational attainment yet there are still gender disparities, especially as one climbs up the education ladder.
She says, “Women employment opportunities are still constrained by the fact that they bear the burden when it comes to domestic and reproductive roles.
“In addition to employment, women are still expected take care of the homes, cook, and look after the children and so on. There is also often social pressure to get married and reproduce at a younger age; we have heard people say ‘diplomey’umukobwa ni umugabo,’ loosely translated as ‘a girl’s degree is marriage’.”
She says that to address this issue, there is need to invest in developing women’s skills to be able to compete on the labour market.
Secondly, we need to instil in our young girls the need to excel and become successful in their career of choice, Uwamariya suggests.
“There is also a need to recognise, reduce (through investment in accessible and affordable childcare facilities for example) and redistribute unpaid care work in the family which will help free women and enable them to be fully employed,” she adds.
Uwamariya calls upon women to believe in themselves, and their ability to use their skills to innovate and contribute to the development of their country.
Women share their views
Norah Mutesi is an unemployed university graduate; she testifies that looking for a job nowadays is akin to searching for a needle in haystack. It’s been two years now,and she still has no hope.
Mutesi now believes that it is time for her to take a different angle in terms of earning a living.
“I know saying that I should start up a business when I have no experience whatsoever could be a hard task for me to take on, but I think it’s better than sitting around waiting for a job which I have no guarantee of getting,” she says.
She calls upon other graduates to join the business field instead of waiting around and wasting time.
Sarah Mbabazi, an office administrator, shares a similar opinion with the officials, saying that if women want to be competitive on the job market, they must go for technical vocational training.
She says that office jobs are being flooded and that for one to get a vacancy, it can take years.
“Women need to go for those courses because they are now the untapped fields. This should be done right from the grassroots level where girls are guided on the specific courses they can take, like construction and plumbing among others,” she says.
For Aisha Kyomugisha, a business woman, women need to up their game and break any barriers that are stopping them from being a part of the job market.
Kyomugisha says that it’s obvious that jobs are scarce;and not just for women.However, she says, this shouldn’t be the end.
“There are so many opportunities, we just need to be vigilant and dig deep. This is how we will find the answers we are looking for.”
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE TO HAVE MORE EMPLOYED WOMEN IN URBAN AREAS?
Mutabazi Gakuba, university student
The effort made so far to empower women in general is commendable and even though there are still gaps, I believe tremendous progress has been made. I think it’s time for women to stand up and break the remaining barriers, for instance, venture into areas that they haven’t done before, like construction.
Belinda Umurerwa, event organiser
I think unemployed women are at a higher percentage compared to men because many are less educated and therefore need to acquire some skills. Women tend to think they are fragile and can’t do certain jobs; they need to be educated by other women who have achieved positive goals in male-dominated fields.
Rogers Ndemezo, sales manager
Women need financial literacy skills; they need to learn how to operate a business instead of waiting around for office jobs. This is what men are doing, they are going for anything as long as they earn an income and I think women should follow suit.
Annet Imbabazi, entrepreneur
More sensitisation needs to be done, especially at the village level, informing women about the available opportunities because some are not aware of them. They need to also be guided on how to use them effectively.