A new programme that seeks to support the private sector to achieve sustainable development by reducing gender gaps and promoting both equality in workplace and women’s economic empowerment is in the offing.
The new programme is being designed by Rwanda Gender Monitoring Office, in partnership with the Private Sector Federation and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Under the Gender Equality Seal Certification programme, companies that actively promote equality at work as per Gender Equality Management System (GEMS) guidelines will receive certification, according to Stephen Rodrigues, the UNDP country director.
“Rwanda is the second country in Africa after Uganda to embrace the initiative. It was also successfully implemented in Latin America and the Caribbean countries.
“The programme looks at establishing and achieving standards that promote gender equality and empowerment of women in private enterprises, helping them (firms) to improve human resource management systems and financial performance,” he said while closing a three-day workshop on gender equality on Friday.
The programme encourages firms to embrace better recruitment processes that give equal opportunity to all applicants, promote a working environment free of harassment and supports professional development, among others.
According to the “Africa Human Development Report 2016: Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Africa” published by UNDP, gender inequality cost sub-Saharan Africa $95 billion a year since 2010 and could be as high as $105 billion, or eroding 6 per cent of the region’s GDP (as per 2014 figures).
The report states that 61 per cent of African women still face economic exclusion in the workplace as “they are underpaid and undervalued”.
It also indicated that most women are employed in the informal sector.
According to the report, female managers make up only between 7 and 30 per cent in the private sector.
Speaking at the workshop, Rose Rwabuhihi, the chief gender monitor at Rwanda Gender Monitoring Office, said the roadmap and timeframe for establishing the programme could soon be unveiled to help reduce gender gaps in private sector. She noted that public institutions were faring a bit well on gender equality in the workplace. “We have to define a business model for the programme, mobilise resources as well as institutionalise it through legal mechanisms, while building technical capabilities of private enterprises,” she said.
Rwabuhihi added that the programme was timely, saying that the private sector is the “engine of the economy” and should embrace gender equality because it is a human right.
She added that the initiative also comes at a time when we are implementing a five-year strategic plan, which includes private sector.
Fatou Lo, The UN Women country representative, said the programme will open more doors for women in the workplace, especially “fresh graduates and those at grassroots”. “This is, not only economically empowering women, but will also help increase profits of local firms,” she added.
PSF speaks out
Speaking at the event, the PSF chairman, Benjamin Gasamagera, said the private sector is fully committed to integrating the new programme, adding that it would soon be introduced in a charter. “We are going to include the gender seal programme in the service delivery charter by looking at how it can technically work in private enterprises. However, we need a roadmap before we can start the programme because it makes business sense,” he said.
He added that the Private Sector Federation considers labour relations and employment a commitment to promoting effective, fair, and professional relationships between employers and workers.
He said the federation is devising ways to improve work-related issues, labour market and social protection policies.
“Therefore, it is important to ensure workplace gender equality so that all workers can access and enjoy the same rewards, resources and opportunities regardless of gender,” he said.
Gasamagera noted the federation has a gender mainstreaming strategy that the trainees will use to address the gender gaps in the private sector.
The gender equality seal in the workplace, he added, will achieve equal outcomes for women and men as it promotes equal opportunity and comparable value for both sexes. He said this will make private sector stronger as it moves to support efforts toward realisation of Sustainable Development Goals. “However, this will require removal of barriers to the full and equal participation of women in the workplace, access to all job opportunities, including leadership roles, across sectors regardless of gender,” he said.