Women’s Equality Day: Is Gender Equality Ever Going To Happen In Africa?

Women's Equality Day
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Women holding a placard at an women rights protest
Women holding a placard at a women rights protest (Photo credit: Jessica Podraza)

One sunny summer afternoon, eleven decades ago, a middle-class woman sat on her grey worn-out couch. With a cup of tea in one hand and the paper in the other, her eyes calmly scammed the headlines; A normal daily routine.

Suddenly a rush of blood got to her head, adrenaline-filled her veins as she read the bold typed letters “19th amendment…”. She couldn’t believe it. Tears filled her eyes, not tears of sadness but joy. The 19th amendment to the constitution has finally been approved this afternoon. “The U.S suffragette movement did it, the right to vote, the cornerstone of democracy now belongs to all citizens,” she thought to herself.

We believe every woman out there feels this moment even if it happened way before her time. This was a huge accomplishment. Ever since, women have walked even further. Unfortunately, 2021 statistics prove that the gender gap is still a worldwide problem that needs immediate action.

Although gender equality exists especially in countries such as Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, and Norway. The majority of countries are still struggling with these changes, especially the Russian federation. But is Africa on this list? Statistics show that overall, progress toward gender equality has stopped over the past four years. Africa scores 0.58 on the global scale, indicating high gender inequality across GPS indicators.

Commemorating the power of womanhood worldwide

Photograph shows suffrage and labor activist Flora Dodge "Fola" La Follette (1882-1970), social reformer and missionary Rose Livingston and a young striker during a garment strike in New York City in 1913
The photograph shows suffrage and labor activist Flora Dodge “Fola” La Follette (1882-1970), social reformer and missionary Rose Livingston and a young striker during a garment strike in New York City in 1913 (Photo credit: Library of Congress)

On the 26th of August every year, people gather to celebrate this moment. We marvel at how far women progressed although full equality does not happen worldwide. Therefore, this commemoration intends to acknowledge the achievements of women’s rights activists and the unique daily struggles that women face such as rights over equal pay, security, and ownership of their bodies.

Organizations such as Equality Now and Womankind Worldwide continue to push against violence and discrimination toward women across the globe. In some societies, women are not compensated for their work and have no financial security, which generates leads to poverty, dependency, gender-based violence, as well as a heightened risk of HIV transmission.

Gender equality in Africa

Women in rural areas caring supplies
Women in rural areas caring supplies (Photo credit: Panos Pictures)

According to McKinsey’s Power of Parity Report: Advancing Women’s Equality in Africa, Africa’s gender equality stands at 0.58 (1 would be full equality). Globally 60% of the work is done by women yet they earn only 10% income and own 1% of the property. In Africa, the statistics are even worst. The continent has a $42 billion financing gap between men and women with 70% of women excluded financially. Why is there such a discrepancy?

The disadvantages faced by African women and girls stems from poor education. Most women and girls in Africa are not in school and 4 million may never have the chance to be in school. Even though they face these problems at a very young age, 25% of African political representatives are women, a higher number than the global average.

Advancing women’s equality could bring massive improvements to the country’s economy, it could add 10% to GDP, or $316 billion by 2025. As the world rapidly walks through equality of genders some African countries are not left behind. In fact, some are leading the change. Rwanda and Namibia are two of such countries competing with Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden.

Why is Rwanda within five global leaders for gender equality?

The Global Gender Gap Report shows that Rwanda is at the top ranking for gender equality. Although this doesn’t mean that women have a better life than their counterparts living in France (17), the UK (20), or the US (45). It means that Rwanda closed the gap between women and men in a range of categories.

In economy and politics, Rwanda is head and shoulders above many other more developed countries. Economywise, 86% of the workforce in Rwanda are women and the wage gap is narrower with women earning 88 cents for a dollar earned by a man. In contrast, if you examine the U.S, figures stand at 56% of the workforce and 74 cents a dollar. Why does the U.S stand below the Rwanda numbers?

Rwanda’s high female workforce is in part out of necessity, due to the countries devastating genocide that occurred two decades ago. Around 800,000 Rwandans were slaughtered in a very short period. Therefore, women had to fill these roles as they made 60% and 70% of the surviving population. Also, women in Rwanda benefit from three months of paid maternity leave, allowing them to stay in the labor market once they’ve started a family. These pro-women laws are also reflected in female political participation. Every year for over a decade women make 30% of parliamentarians.

Namibia’s gender equality stats

The country ranks within the top 10 AGI scores with 0.797, which translates to 79,67% of gender equality. Namibia scores well across the three measurement dimensions—political, social, and economic. In December 2018, Namibia received the African Gender Award from the ‘Gender is My Agenda Campaign’ (GIMAC) steering committee.

Like their compatriots in Rwanda, this country has a higher rate of women in parliament (46%), which places them in third place in the AGI report’s empowerment and representation dimension. Moreover, on the economics dimension, the country has a score of 0.792, placing fifth on the global ranking. In the social dimension, it has even a more impressive score as it ranks first, with an AGI score of 1.294. What do they do differently?

Firstly, Namibia pays special attention to women’s equality as it is an integral part of its Constitution. Secondly, they have arranged special measures to ensure gender equality. For example, allowing more girls in primary and secondary education. Furthermore, it ensures that women have access to health, education, and employment services. Even though there are still some overlooked areas, like gender violence, Namibia is walking in the right direction.

Still, a long road to walk

People with diverse placards in a women's rights protest in Africa
People with diverse placards in a women’s rights protest in Africa (Photo credit: Today News Africa)

Surprisingly, the reports and statistics don’t cover all areas. In Rwanda, for example, Human Rights Watch is concerned with the shockingly high amount of violence against women. As high as 93% of victims of physical and psychological abuse are women.

Countries across Africa are scaling up access to finance to women-led companies and fostering gender equality investment environments. In addition, they are ensuring that women and girl’s voices are heard, and African women’s leadership is acknowledged and fostered.

Join the Celebration?

We can join this pressing celebration by sharing success stories on social media under the hashtag #WomensEqualityDay. Also, we can thank the women in our lives, register to vote, and support women lead companies. Every action counts and it begins with you.

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