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Women Empowering Africa

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Women in Egypt Via Wikimedia Commons

CAIRO – 7 January 2018:The Business for Africa and the World summit, Africa 2018, focuses during its first day on the theme “Women Empowering Africa.” The summit will discuss ways to further empower African women and to enhance their engagement as agents for change in the continent through active participation in shaping economic and social policies. It seeks to mobilize established and emerging women leaders from across Africa to propel their success as well as provide a platform for them to showcase and celebrate their achievements.

Investing in women’s economic empowerment sets a direct path toward gender equality and respect for women’s rights, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. Women make enormous contributions to economies, whether in businesses, on farms, as entrepreneurs or employees, or by doing unpaid care work at home. But they often face discrimination and persistent gender inequalities, with some women experiencing multiple discrimination and exclusion because of intersectional identities including ethnicity or social class. Gender discrimination means women often end up in insecure and low-wage jobs. It restricts women’s access to economic assets such as land, loans and productive assets. And, because women perform the bulk of household work, they often have little time left to pursue economic opportunities. Hence, women’s participation in shaping economic and social policies is very limited.

Having empowered women in any country means great reduction in dependence rates, reduction in violence against women, increased house- hold income leading to an improved standard of living. Women’s economic participation and empowerment enables them to have control over their lives and exert influence in society. It leads to independent decision making regarding career, education, health in general and reproductive health in particular, investments and rights. Therefore, it is inevitable that empowering women economically will directly enhance sound public policies leading to any country’s development and equal distribution of resources.

The approach to empower women economically was first recognized at the Beijing conference, the fourth global conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace in 1995. Ac- cording to the Beijing platform of action, the areas that need improvement if the position of women is to be improved include: reducing poverty among women, stopping violence, providing access to education and healthcare and reducing economic and political inequality. Twenty years later, the Sustain- able Development Goals (SDGs) were launched, in line with Goal 5 called for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by 2030. The global development agenda suggests that emphasis should be placed on the preconditions necessary for women to become economically empowered and that gender-aware economic policies should be promoted to advance both economic and social development.

Both the Beijing platform of action and the SDGs should no longer be viewed as a set of aspirations, but must be used as a tool to push for the adoption of gender-sensitive policies and to emphasize the accountability of all actors. They should also in- form partnerships for women’s economic empowerment and translate to increased dialogue among development actors to improve support for women at the global level.

Despite global improvement in the health and education levels of women and girls, no such progress has been seen in economic opportunity as women continue to consistently trail men in formal labor force participation, access to credit, entrepreneurship rates, income levels, and inheritance and ownership rights. Women can no longer be discounted as the weaker sex, particularly given their impressive success as micro-entrepreneurs around the world and as thoughtful leaders and community-builders. Under-investing in women limits development, slows down poverty reduction and economic growth.

Status of gender equality in Africa

Gender equality in the African continent witnessed some progress; but African women are held back from fulfilling their potential by many constraints, whether as leaders in public life, in board- rooms, or in owning and growing their businesses. The constraints are not only limited to widespread poverty, but also include social constrains, lack of access to education, poor health and highly segmented labor markets. Despite the fact that women of Africa make a sizeable contribution to the continent’s economy by growing most of Africa’s food, they remain at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Some areas of the law, such as family laws governing marriage, divorce, inheritance and land rights, limit women’s economic rights, hindering their economic and social decision-making and restricting their ability to enter into contracts to own, administer, or inherit assets and property.

By limiting women’s options and alternatives, such laws hinder their ability to contribute as economic and social actors to Africa’s development. Furthermore, gender inequalities are exacerbated by weak institutional structure, particularly among those mandated to promote gender equality such as ministries for women, and by lack of reliable gender statistics.

In 2015, the African Development Bank (AFDB) launched the “Africa Gender Equality Index”, a comprehensive tool that provides ongoing evidence on gender equality for 52 of Africa’s 54 countries. The index is designed to promote development and inform actions in three important dimensions of gender equality that can bring out change: economic empowerment, human development, and laws and institutions.

The Gender Equality Index concludes that across

Africa, women and men often experience different opportunities conditions and privileges; they earn different wages, do not have the same access to education and are not always equal before the law. It also shows that gender inequality in Africa is exacerbated by the fact that primary development policies in many African countries, known as poverty reduction strategies, still do not take into account differences in income and power between men and women, hampering efforts to finance programs that reduce inequality. This in turns holds back the productive potential of more than one billion Africans and negatively affects the continent’s economy.

It also highlights that the most inhibiting factor is that women in Africa continue to be denied an education, often their only ticket out of poverty. Disparities between girls and boys start in primary school and the differences widen up through the entire educational system. Since the early 1990s, Africa registered the highest relative increase among region in total primary school enrollment due to policies specifically targeting girls – but the continent is still far behind. African education-gender-responsive policies included special programs to sensitize parents through media, reducing school fees for girls in public primary schools in rural areas and increasing the proportion of female teachers to equalize the gender balance among teachers as Africa has the lowest global proportion of female teachers. Also, many African countries embarked on programs to build latrines, assist pregnant students and distribute free textbooks. On the high school and collage levels, the gender gap becomes even wider especially in science, mathematics, computer sciences and technical programs. On the bright side, the index shows that Africa has registered improvements in adult literacy rates. However, in some countries the female illiteracy rates are still much higher than the regional average of about 50%.

Widespread poverty also hampers the expansion of education in Africa; poorer families often face the stark choice of deciding whom to send to school and often it is the girl who stays home. Costs of tuition, the requirement to wear uniforms, long distances between home and school, in- adequate water and sanitation, all are factors that further re- strict girls’ access to education. Moreover, poverty in Africa continues to wear a woman’s face as women make up the majority of the poor, as much as 70% in some countries.

The gender gap in employment remains high in terms of pay, labor segregation and access to support from institutions such as banks. Women dominate informal sector employment and they work 50% longer than men but they rarely own land.When they do, their holdings tend to be smaller and less fertile than those of men. Removing the hurdles women face in their economic activities, which are mainly concentrated in the informal sector, will help unlock potential for economic growth in the continent. For example, the Gender Equality index shows that if women farmers had the same access to inputs and capacity building as males, overall yields could be raised by between 10 and 20%.

Poor infrastructure, including clean water, sanitation, electricity and transport, in the majority of African countries also limits women’s economic participation and impacts how women allocate their time. Thus, efforts to provide affordable infrastructure for water, food and energy in Africa will help women engage in more productive market activities and promote growth.

One area where Africa is showing progress in relation to world averages is in women’s political participation. Seventeen African countries established quotas for women’s political participation at the national and sub-national levels. As a result, in women hold close to one-third of the seats in parliaments in 11 African countries, more than in Europe. African women also have made significant strides in the continental political body, the African Union (AU), in 2003 five women and five men were elected as AU commissioners. The following year, the AU’s Pan-African Parliament was headed by a woman and ever since; women make up 25% of AU members.

Actions by Africa countries to achieve gender parity

Despite the presence of national government bodies that deal with gender issues in almost all African countries, since Beijing, these units, departments or ministries showed weakness and inability to be responsive to the challenges presented by the struggle for gender justice in the continent, according to discussions at the African Social Forum in Lusaka, Zambia in 2004. They have poor resources, few staff and no power or authority within governments to advance equality and justice for women.

However, a number of African countries took action to redress the bias in macroeconomic policies that favor men and boys at the expense of women and girls through adopting an approach known as gender budgeting. This approach drives countries to allocate a percentage of its national budget to implement gender-trans- formative programs; guided by a thorough analysis of governments’ spending choices and their impact on women and men, boys and girls to identify dis- parities. In turn, it helps mobilize more financing to narrow the gaps.

Some African countries also adopted a women- quota system to increase attention to reform in areas like family law, and affirmative action policies that address economic inclusion, land rights and increasing women presence in decision making positions including in businesses.

Women Economic Empowerment themes discussed at Africa 2018

Pro-women policies can drive change

To enable women to escape poverty, African development policies should place more emphasis on women contributions to the economy through labor force participation or entrepreneurship. Policies should also facilitate the process of obtaining basic opportunities for women and actively thwarting attempts to deny those opportunities.

Promoting African women’s ability to influence how decisions are made, how public policies are shaped and how resources are allocated can have a significant impact on boosting their productivity rapidly.

The first step is to build knowledge for evidence- based policy making that is based on real-time diagnosis and analysis of the current landscape. Next is reforming and enforcing laws. While all African countries recognize the principle of nondiscrimination in their constitutions, the traditional practices are not in sync especially in areas like marital property, inheritance, land ownership and labor where women are not treated as full citizens. By custom, often only male heads of households are able to enter into contract, travel and access markets. Many men also exercise sole control over household finances even when the women contribute equally to the household’s earnings. As a result, women’s participation in society and the economy continues to be mediated by male members of their families.

Introducing reforms to available laws, including family laws, to increase the minimum marital age for women, remove the husband’s ability to deny the wife permission to work outside the home, requiring the consent of both spouses to manage marital property and guaranteeing women access to reproductive health services including family planning commodities; can lead to increased levels of women’s labor participation and levels of vocational skills that increase women ability to move from self- employment into more sustainable entrepreneur- ship.

Adopting a pro-women agenda of action

Translating gender-sensitive policies and laws re- quires a progressive pro-women economic agenda of actionable strategies, plans, justice mechanisms, programs and interventions to strengthen African women’s economic empowerment in all sectors. Such an agenda can also facilitate the elaboration of a clear road map that supports increased country level dialogue on gender equality, contributes to closing the gender pay gap and maximizing women’s economic security.

Actionable steps to promote gender equality include adopting gender-responsive free trade agreements and agriculture policies that ensure women’s access to local and regional markets, support women’s access to agroprocessing and post-harvest management, investing in regional centers for excellence and business incubation hubs to foster training and learning processes focusing on women’s financial literacy training for women and entrepreneurs, increasing countries’ focus on providing financial services for women, including loans, savings, guarantee schemes, insurance and grants, and building partnerships with the private, social and voluntary sectors. Countries should also seek to address constraints on women’s access to quality employment in the formal sector and invest in promoting women’s access to new and labor-saving agricultural technologies to boost production, including innovative technologies aimed at supporting climate-smart agricultural approaches.

Removing hurdles faced by African women can create future business leaders and drive growth

To end poverty and accelerate development in the continent, women in Africa must be able to develop their full potential as business leaders. According the AfDB Gender Index, African women are both economically active and highly entrepreneurial. They form the backbone of Africa’s agricultural labor force, and they own and operate the majority of businesses in the informal sector. However, they are predominantly in low-value-added occupations that generate little economic return and they face an array of barriers that prevent them from moving into more productive pursuits. The challenge in Africa is not one of encouraging women to be more economically active, but rather to remove the barriers to women becoming more efficient business leaders.
Outside agriculture, African women’s labor force participation rates are high throughout Africa, except in North Africa. However, African labor markets are heavily gender segregated, with women working primarily in low- paying occupations. African women are far more likely to be self-employed in the informal sector than to earn a regular wage through formal employment where they earn on average two-thirds the salary of their male colleagues.

– EGYPT TODAY

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Africa speaks

Nigeria’s migration paradox

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Nigeria’s middle-class is increasingly opting to emigrate, with mixed fortunes for the country. Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos is the nation’s busiest airport.Credit: Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN)/Ventures Africa.

Although Nigeria’s economy is causing its professionals to literally think on their feet, their efforts are propping it

Ahmed had every reason to feel euphoric about Lagos, Nigeria’s bustling commercial centre, in 2014. He had landed his dream job heading the legal department at a multinational, a position that carried a plum salary with perks—and conferred a foothold in Nigeria’s professional elite. He promptly married his longtime girlfriend and nestled into, by most standards, a comfortable middle-class life.

Yet 5 years later, he chose to quit his job and country to start over in Alberta, Canada, nudged by a sense of foreboding. “No matter how much you earn, it won’t guarantee some things for you. In fact, the more you earn, the more you will become fearful,” said Ahmed (not his real name). After weighing his economic and security prospects (armed men burgled his home thrice last year despite living 3 houses from a police station and repeatedly reporting suspicious neighbourhood activity), he relocated with his young family in April. “Leaving Nigeria is the best decision I’ve ever made,” he said.

 Ahmed’s story reflects a growing pessimism about the future within Africa’s largest workforce. One in three Nigerians has considered emigrating, estimates research network, Afrobarometer, citing lingering socio-economic frustration. They are increasingly flocking to Australia and Canada, attracted by skilled worker programmes, living standards and relatively migrant-friendly cultures. Canada’s Express Entry report in 2018 recorded a 900% surge in Nigerian migrants over 3 years. Nigerians currently account for more refugee protection claims in Canada than any nationality; and incidences of overstaying visas, from North America to Europe, are on the upswing.

It’s noteworthy that around 247 million people live outside their country of birth — 90% of whom are voluntary economic migrants. At least half of them moved from developing to developed countries, and a sizeable portion are educated to university level. Skills-based emigration is neither new, nor has it ever been chiefly a Nigerian — or African — preserve.

Also Read: How This Tanzanian Is Building An eLearning Platform For Students To Learn, Discuss and Network

 The talent flight could further erode a country already grappling with a human capital problem it shouldn’t have in the first place. As Africa’s most populous country and largest economy, Nigeria constitutes one-fifth of sub-Saharan Africa’s workers. The UN predicts it will become the world’s third most populous nation—surpassing the United States—by 2050. Its 85 million-strong labour force is distinctive for its youthfulness (74% is under 44 years) in an aging world, with towering rates of urbanisation and entrepreneurship.

Amid strong demographics, Nigeria captures approximately half of its human capital potential, lagging 6 and 16 percentage points behind the sub-Saharan African and global averages respectively. A mixture of shortfalls in education, employment and skill entails that the nation is not optimising its population dividend.

The government, now in its 2nd term, has had scant success in substantively rebooting a hamstrung economy compounded by seismic gaps in infrastructure and public services.Unemployment has risen through 15 straight quarters, percapita income is at a 4-year low and still falling; while inflation is in double-digits. Consequently, Nigeria now harbours most of the world’s extreme poor people, according to the World Poverty Clock.

But the country has always retained a flair for contradictions. If brain drain highlights Nigeria’s deficiencies, it also hints at its possibilities. PwC reckonsNigeria makes up a third of all migrant remittance flows to Sub-Saharan Africa, with last year’s figures up to 11 times greater than the country’s foreign direct investment proceeds in the same period. Inbound remittances for 2019 are projected to reach $25bn. And that’s from official channels alone. The African Development Bank thinks unofficial remittances.

are about 50% of the official total. That would peg total migrant remittance inflows at around $40bn — roughly 10% of Nigeria’s GDP and over 3 times its oil-generated revenue.

“[Nigeria’s] biggest export is not oil, our biggest export is Nigerians,” writes Dr. Andrew Nevin, Chief Economist at PwC Nigeria. “People with skills are saying their skills cannot be monetised here…but we cannot deny that the only thing holding up the economy is the incredible Nigerian diaspora.”

If the government does not enact reforms to stem the outflow, or tap into its diaspora capacity, Nigeria could ultimately concedea chunk of its most promising generation yetand possibly their children— to this wave.

Author

Chidi Eke is a corporate communications professional and freelance writer based in Lagos, Nigeria.

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Africa speaks

When was the last time you checked your EGO?

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Ahmadou DIALLO – Storyteller and Coach

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited by the Airbus Leadership University team, Nelida Al Husseini and  Paul Conway, to participate in their yearly event: “Partners’ days” in the Toulouse campus. It’s a two days yearly event where they invite all the partners (coaches, connectors, facilitators) to thank them for their support. They are helping add values to our journey as Airbus employees via coaching, trainings, workshops and team events.

It was a thrilling experience for me to be part of these two days and I could feel the positive energy in the room for those two days. What was even more exciting for me was the possibility to meet coaches that provided me with some trainings that were life changing for me.

One of those coaches was  Olivier LASSERRE, who provided me with a training on how people can make the difference in project management. It was almost 10 years ago since I attended that training and as of today, I have a vivid memory of those 5 days we spent together.

Olivier introduced me to three books that will go to change my life:

  1. Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy by Relationships (Nonviolent Communication Guides) by Marshall B. Rosenberg
  2. Who Moved My Cheese?: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spencer Johnson
  3. How Full Is Your Bucket? from  Tom Rath

I cannot tell you how often I was frustrated by people and how using nonviolent communication helped me, both in the professional and personal aspects of my life.
I embraced and welcomed change in my life after reading the book “Who moved my cheese?”. This is the first time I realised that ly comfort zone is my dead zone.

While reading the third book, “How Full Is your Bucket?”, I learned a lot about myself and how it was important to fill my bucket with positive energy. Talking about energy, one of the main sources of depletion of our energy is our EGO:

  • E as Energie
  • G as Go
  • O as Out

I found that, by checking my EGO from time to time, I was able to protect my bucket from depleting. I found myself having more willpower because I let things go more quickly and I don’t lose my energy and my time trying to bend the universe beyond my sphere of influence.

So I would like to thank you Olivier LASSERRE for the impact that you had and you are still having in my life.
“The best athletes in the day, the Gretzkys, the Michael Jordans, they all had a coach. Still to this day, the best have coaches. Because the coach can see what you can’t see.” Tony Robbins

During those partners’ days, I was surprised to see Olivier again as part of the partners. He did not recognise me. I went to him to remind him about our encounter and how he has impacted my life. He has his own coaching firm: Vert Girafe. If you happen to look for a person that can help you see the unseen, go to Olivier and say  to him that “Mad sends his regards!”. And thank you to Nelida and Paul from the Airbus Leadership university for giving me the opportunity to be part of the partners’ days.

Also Read: How this African Diaspora is keeping the tradition of African storytelling alive

When was the last time you did an EGO check? 

How full is your bucket?

Who is your life coach, and why?

By: Ahmadou DIALLO


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Africa speaks

Resilience

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Thato Belang

It is only when we get kicked down that we see what we are made of. It is easy to be positive when everything is going well, but the heart of all great endeavours is the ability to stagger back to our feet and keep moving forward, however grim it gets”. ~ Bear Grylls

This is one of the most difficult and yet necessary skills to learn and master. Resilience is defined as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”. It is through moments of adversity that our resilience is tested and gets developed. Without adversity, there is not room for resilience. The great news is that we all have the innate ability to rise up from challenges;the question is how deep within are you digging to reach this strength to overcome the difficult times?

My resilience was put to the test during the long illness and ultimate passing of both my parents. This period lasted for exactly two years. It was the most difficult time for my family and I. There were moments where I felt that I was going to break but my siblings and I stuck together and fed each other with strength in those weak moments. During this time I had to tap to the higher power, in addition to the support from my siblings, relatives and friends. I had to see the light and silver lining amidst the dark cloud that was hanging on our lives.

I had to have the courage to carry on with life when the two people who had always been there for me, carried me, fed me, sacrificed for me, loved me, cared for me and would deny themselves so that I can have – could no longer physically do that for me and my siblings. I had to trust that I can be able to do all these things myself, without them. I had to cut all dependence from them and tap into my inner strength. I had to stand firmly on my feet and keep moving forward.

In hindsight, going through this hardship was necessary for me to do that which I was born to do. I had to endure the pain, to learn how to let go of the people that I mostly treasured and to also trust the process. The irony is that as I’m writing this, I’m going through another phase of adversity in my life; a different kind of adversity. I’m reminded of this past experience and only hope that this is yet another opportunity for elevation.

Resilient people are often admired by others. People would ask questions such as, how does she/he do it? How do they manage to keep on bouncing back? Well, I’m here to tell you that it can’t happen without going through the difficult, uncomfortable process and being stretched. It is their ability to endure the process that makes people resilient. They don’t let adversity define them nor define their destiny and they have scars to show their experiences.

They don’t allow the difficulties to paralyse them. Instead, they use it as an opportunity to re-evaluate themselves and seek growth opportunities.

How can you use your scars in a positive light? How can you turn those storms into rainbows? I believe that the storms happen for a reason. Don’t let those experiences go to waste. Don’t just survive adversity and go through it in vain but transform and triumph through it. Granted, the process is not easy and it is not fun at all. But the key to this transformation is persevering.

Also Read Meet Sivi Malukisa, The Congolese Entrepreneur Whose Food Startup Is Promoting DRC Cuisine

Having tenacity during the difficult time will bring meaning to the experience and in the process you will have a sense of accomplishment. You need to commit to making an effort and to take small steps, as long as you are moving forward.

Thato’s nuggets on building resilience:

  • Actively remind yourself of the strength you have and continuouslyharness this inner strength
  • See the effects of adversities as temporary rather than permanent
  • Build the spirit of gratitude; every day, find things to be grateful for
  • Always have positive thoughts and images of the future; let this push you to do more
  • Completely get rid of the victim mentality!

“It is through adversity that our resilience is tested, that we get renewed, that we grow and that we get prepared for the next phase in our lives. Adversity is necessary and cannot be avoided”. ~Thato Dineo Belang

 

Thato Belang

Speaker| Coach| Writer

Johannesburg, South Africa

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