By Wallace Mawire
Namibia and Rwanda, two of 22 member countries of MenEngage Africa Alliance, are the only countries in sub-Saharan Africa that are fast moving towards attaining gender equality, and they rank 6th and 7th in world rankings, respectively, placing them among the world’s top 10 most gender-equal societies, according to the recently-released 2021 Global Gender Gap Report.
It is reported that Namibia has made a significant move up from being ranked 12th in the Global Gender Gap Index 2020 to the 6th spot in the latest report, while Rwanda has moved up from 9th place to 7th . According to the 2021 report, Namibia has closed 80.9% of the gender gap, and Rwanda 80.5%.
The Global Gender Gap Report was first introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 as a framework for capturing the difference between women and men as reflected in social, political, intellectual, cultural, or economic attainments.
The report aims to measure this gap in four key areas: health, education, economics and politics. The rankings are designed to create global awareness of the challenges posed by gender gaps and the opportunities created by reducing them.
The gap in economics, for example, is the difference between men and women when it comes to salaries, the number of leaders and participation in the workplace, while education encompasses access to basic and higher levels of education. Health looks at life expectancy and politics examines the difference between how men and women are represented within decision-making organisations.
“It is encouraging to see that two countries that have MenEngage Africa networks are making noticeable strides towards achieving gender equality and that they are ranking amongst countries that are known as being gender-sensitive. It shows that interventions working with men and boys to promote gender equality and feminist values are important in ensuring that gender justice does, indeed, take place at country level,” said Bafana Khumalo, co-chairperson of MenEngage Alliance, in reaction to the report.
However, Khumalo also pointed out that more work still needs to be done towards attaining gender equality. “We would like to see more African countries registering high scores in the equality scales demonstrating an advancement in the attainment of the SDGs and the African Agenda 2063.”
“More countries need to pay attention to the gender gap, not only because such inequality is inherently unfair, but also because numerous studies suggest greater gender equality leads to better economic performance. In fact, the gaps between men and women across health, education, politics and economics need to be narrowed. Overcoming the biases that are keeping us from closing the gender gap represents an overwhelming economic as well as moral imperative, more especially as our societies and economies engage in strategies to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, which we are all aware has impacted women and girls most negatively, even as women have been at the forefront of the response as essential workers and care-givers in families,” said Mpiwa Mangwiro, MenEngage Africa Advocacy Specialist.
The report bench-marks 156 countries and comes out a little over one year after COVID-19 was officially declared as a pandemic. “Preliminary evidence suggests that the health emergency and the related economic downturn have impacted women more severely than men, partially re-opening gaps that had already been closed”, the report states, and it estimates that “at the current rate of progress it will now take 135.6 years to close the gender gap worldwide”.
This is too long a period to ensure that the gender gap is finally closed. Urgent action is needed at country level to fast-track transformation to ensure that truly ‘no one is left behind’ in our communities.
The report’s findings at a glance:
- The gender gap in political empowerment remains the largest of the four gaps tracked, with only 22% closed to date, having further widened since the 2020 edition of the report by 2.4 percentage points. At the current rate of progress, the World Economic Forum estimates that it will take 145.5 years to attain gender parity in politics.
- The gender gap in economic participation and opportunity remains the second-largest of the four key gaps tracked. According to this year’s results, 58% of this gap has been closed so far. The gap has seen marginal improvement since the 2020 edition of the report and as a result it is estimated that it will take another 267.6 years to close.
- Gender gaps in educational attainment and health and survival are nearly closed. In educational attainment, 95% of this gender gap has been closed globally, with 37 countries already at parity. However, the ‘last mile’ of progress is proceeding slowly. The report estimates that it will take another 14.2 years to completely close this gap. In health and survival, 96% of the gender gap has been closed, registering a marginal decline since last year (not due to COVID-19), and the time to close this gap remains undefined.
The performance of Namibia and Rwanda is testimony that this can be done with the commitment from a committed leadership. We commend Namibia and Rwanda for the milestones they have made. We also hope that together with other African countries they can continue to move forward until full parity is attained. As MenEngage Africa Alliance, we remain committed to contribute to all efforts that seek to ensure that countries in our region improve on policies and practices that advance the course for gender equality.