Globally, women are paid less than men and earn on average only 60 to 75 percent of men’s wages. The work place should allow women to earn equal remuneration, including benefits, for work of equal value, free from gender-based discrimination. We should also put in place gender-sensitive recruitment and retention practices, writes Patrick Kormawa.
Every man’s life is part of a woman; a mother, sisters, wife, daughters, or mentors. Despite this close social cohesion between men and women, when it comes to opportunities, disparities exist mostly in favor of men. Women face inequalities as they struggle to access basic provisions that should come easy like decent pay, quality health services, education, full knowledge and decision over their reproductive life.
These are issues that are still mostly discussed at national and international fora. Looking at the high level efforts by governments, international organizations and development partners to promote economic empowerment of women, real and lasting changes in this regard, particularly those in rural areas – who are in majority, is yet to come.
To better understand what women, if given leadership roles, would propose do to better the lives of all women? I had a dialogue with my female colleagues following the International Women’s Day. I asked my colleagues, at different levels of career path, from diverse backgrounds what they wished for women in the future. It was striking that the sum of wishes from my colleagues, came down to essentially basic realities, but yet far from realization for many women. Women want growth in their career. They want affordable access to good health services for themselves and their children. They want to be recognized for their hard work and contribution at the workplace, homes or to the socio-economic development of their countries. They want education and support to continue education should they interrupt because of child birth; and their right upheld over matters on reproductive health
Summing from the perspectives of my female colleagues, economic empowerment is key to unlocking the potentials of women. Economically independent woman stands better chances of getting what she wants in life compared to millions of women that are not. According to UNWOMEN many women and girls spend too many hours on household responsibilities, typically more than double the time spent by men and boys. This inhibits women from spending their time on productive tasks that enable them to earn an income. This fact plays a part in economic development of countries as reduction in the gap between women’s and men’s labour force participation results in faster economic growth; meaning the more women are employed in paying jobs, the faster the growth of the economy.
Related to this, we find that at the work place women also face issues of unequal pay compared to their men colleagues. Globally, women are paid less than men and earn on average only 60 to 75 percent of men’s wages. The work place should allow women to earn equal remuneration, including benefits, for work of equal value, free from gender-based discrimination. We should also put in place gender-sensitive recruitment and retention practices. The near future work place should increasingly tend to cater for women’s needs of extended maternity leave and child care mechanisms for increased moral, productiveness and retention of women in the workplace.
There is also disparity in access to resources which inhibits women from economic growth such as equal access to financial and loan services. The lack of voice suffered by women, especially in rural communities, is both cause and consequence of the gender differences observed in rural labour markets. Institutional changes can help achieve decent work opportunities and economic and social empowerment through labor markets. It is important for women to access a business climate that supports them in starting and doing business, a financial sector that provides access to financial services tailored to their needs, according to UNDP. There ought to be precise efforts to encourage more women to the realm of investment and entrepreneurship.
There should also be investments in the education and aspirations of women. ‘We want to construct a different world of work for women. As they grow up, girls must be exposed to a board range of careers, and encouraged to make choices that lead beyond the traditional service and care options to jobs in industry, art, public service, modern agriculture and science’ stated UNWOMEN Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka in her address for International Women’s Day.
In African countries, a woman does not have enough opportunities to climb to top leadership roles. This could very much be as a result of lack of highly educated women to fill these positions to addition to years and years of being belittled has costed women the confidence and belief in their capacities to compete for positions of power. Global figures show that only 10 women are serving as Head of State and 9 are serving as Head of Government. Rwanda has the highest number of women parliamentarians worldwide. The average percentages of women parliamentarians in the sub-Saharan region is only 23.1 per cent. Therefore governments must put in place gender quota mechanisms for increased female representation.
This is an issue that requires a twofold solution: investment for better and specific instruments to encourage and support women to positions of power and investing in women education at the higher level to help them compete and win in positions of power. Policy makers must also make efforts to create enabling environment for women everywhere to get education, and access to resources and opportunities. There should also be support to girl children to stay in school in availing safe and clean space including access to information and services on reproductive health and to information technology.
The wishes of my colleagues, though realistic in their nature, were overdue for 21st century – but why? It is simple, most efforts to promote the issues of women have understandably focused on women, with less attention paid to men to have a better understanding of the issues. The man, in many rural and some urban homes, remains the decision maker, over the family’s economic and social issues including health. In order to succeed in empowering women, we need to invest in the education of men to understand the advantages of empowering women to the family, the economy, and to each country’s development. Men can and should play an important role in the women empowerment, as we live in a men superior society where men have access to the power from making decisions from the personal level to the national level. Thus, men should be the allies starting from the homestead, schools, workplace, and economic independence.
Women’s economic empowerment requires bold and sustained action to advance women’s opportunities for full participation in all sectors. Let’s change the mindset both at the policy and ground root levels, educate and empower women economically socially and politically for the good of the world.
Ed.’s Note: Patrick Kormawa (PhD) is the FAO Subregional Coordinator for Eastern Africa and Representative to the AUC and UNECA. The article is provided to The Reporter by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Subregional Office for Eastern Africa (FAO-SFE). The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter.