Rwanda's quest to bridge the Gender Gap

Like anyone would feel when you’re elevated from one status to another-obviously from a lower to higher position-you would feel flying high. The same applies when a country’s profile is upgraded due to its splendid performance.

Like anyone would feel when you’re elevated from one status to another—obviously from a lower to higher position—you would feel flying high. The same applies when a country’s profile is upgraded due to its splendid performance.

Just mid-last week, the World Economic Forum (WEF), in its latest Global Gender Gap Index, ranked Rwanda fourth globally, after Nordic countries i.e. Iceland, Norway and Finland, in closing gender-based disparity with a gap of 18%.

In Africa, Rwanda remains first.

The Global Gender Gap Index was initiated in 2006 by the WEF as a framework for capturing the magnitude of gender-based disparities and tracking their progress over time. The primary objective of this ranking is to galvanise countries into action to achieve universal gender parity.

According to this year’s report, the assessment was conducted in 144 countries around the globe.

It ascertains the progress towards gender equality against four thematic dimensions: ‘Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment’.

In particular, economic participation and opportunity explores a couple of areas relating to female labour force participation over male; wage equality between women and men for similar work; female estimated earned income over male value; and female legislators, senior officials and managers over male value; female professional and technical workers over male value.

Educational attainment covers female literacy rate over male value; female net primary enrolment rate over male value; female net secondary enrolment rate over male value; and female gross tertiary enrolment ratio over male value.

For health and survival covers sex ratio at birth (converted to female-over-male ratio) and female healthy life expectancy over male value. And political empowerment covers females with seats in parliament over male value and females at ministerial level over male value.

The rankings allow for effective comparisons across regions and income groups. Like I said earlier, these rankings are designed to create global awareness of the challenges posed by gender gaps and the opportunities created by reducing them.

So, what special thing has Rwanda done to be ranked fourth globally? To start with, gender equality does not come about on its own. It requires political will (perhaps the key catalyst), change of perceptions towards women, involvement of stakeholders such as women human rights defenders, and enforcement mechanisms such as legal, policy and institutional frameworks.

In law, for example, the 2015 revised Rwandan Constitution, in its fundamental principles, among others, says “building a State governed by the rule of law, a pluralistic democratic Government, equality of all Rwandans and between men and women which is affirmed by women occupying at least thirty percent (30%) of positions in decision-making organs”.

The principle of thirty per cent women doesn’t only apply in the three organs of the government – the legislative, executive and judiciary – but it also applies in a broad spectrum of activities, forming the fabric of society. Indeed, the principle of thirty percent women has been integrated in various existing pieces of legislation.

At institutional level, there’s Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion whose mandate is to ensure the elaboration, coordination and implementation of appropriate policies on gender equality and women empowerment.

Additionally, there’s National Women’s Council, a public agency, which aims to build women’s capacity and ensure their participation in national Development through advocacy and social mobilization, among others.

Also, the Gender Monitoring Office whose mandate is to monitor the respect and compliance of gender related commitments across public, private, non-governmental and religious institutions, as well as advocate for the respect of gender equality at all levels.

In practice, for instance, Rwanda has the highest share of women in parliament in the world. It is worth stressing that Rwanda’s gender equality achievement stems largely from political will. As a matter of fact, Rwanda is now a paragon of gender parity.

From a human rights perspective, the government remains committed to the rule of law, based on the respect for human rights, freedom and on the principle of equality of all citizens before the law as well as equality between men and women.

The Government’s secret to achieve gender parity lies in integration of a gender perspective and women’s human rights throughout policy formulation, programme development and activity implementation, including project monitoring and evaluation. To this end, the government is committed to upholding human rights in all areas.

Interestingly, the latest ranking in closing the gender disparity gap coincided with the 2018 World Bank Doing Business Report in which Rwanda featured in position 41 globally and 2nd in Africa, behind Mauritius. 

The report examines the regulations and conditions that enhance or limit business conduciveness.

The Global Gender Gap Index is worth welcoming as it provides a comprehensive overview of the current state of the global gender gap and of efforts and insights to close it.

The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Times.