Gender equality in Africa is low. Women on the continent are held back from fulfilling their potential by many constraints, mostly cultural. Despite working 50 percent longer hours than men, the pay gap between men and women is very wide. This is detrimental to the continent which loses $95 billion yearly as a result.
“Gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa on average $95 billion a year, peaking at $105 billion in 2014– or six percent of the region’s GDP – jeopardising the continent’s efforts for inclusive human development and economic growth,” according to the Africa Human Development Report 2016.
Helen Clark Administrator United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) who wrote the foreword to the report noted that giving more concerted attention to gender equality will be an important and long overdue stimulus to faster and more inclusive human development and economic growth for the entire continent. “A policy and programming focus on harnessing the potential of women is an important economic and social driver for more inclusive and sustainable development,” She notes.
In Rwanda, women are believed to have rebuilt the country following the 1994 genocide which led to the death of millions. By law, the East African country must have at least 30 percent of the seats in government, including local government. Today, women hold more than 60 percent of seats. The growth of the Rwandan economy is testament to the influence women can have if allowed to exhibit their potential.
A policy and programming focus on harnessing the potential of women is an important economic and social driver for more inclusive and sustainable development, the report notes. Policies and programmes that unintentionally leave out or disenfranchise women will never be successful over the long term. Nor can inclusive growth be achieved if women’s empowerment is compartmentalized, or seen as a separate activity from what are traditionally perceived as the core functions of government.
While significant progress has been made across numerous fronts in most countries, gender equality for African women and girls is still far from satisfactory.
The report analyses the political, economic and social drivers that hamper African women’s advancement and proposes policies and concrete actions to close the gender gap. These include addressing the contradiction between legal provisions and practice in gender laws; breaking down harmful social norms and transforming discriminatory institutional settings; and securing women’s economic, social and political participation.
Deeply-rooted structural obstacles such as unequal distribution of resources, power and wealth, combined with social institutions and norms that sustain inequality are holding African women, and the rest of the continent, back. The report estimates that a 1 percent increase in gender inequality reduces a country’s human development index by 0.75 percent.