Africa and Gender Parity

A recent study by the USAID  cites slow pace in changes to societal attitudes and cultural beliefs around gender roles, norms and female empowerment to systemic gender barriers fueled by deeply held and persistent stereotypes.

When women do participate in the labour market, they are less likely than their male counterparts to find a job. Globally, the unemployment rate for women stands at 6.2% in 2017, representing a gap of 0.7% from the male unemployment rate of 5.5%.

There is a  huge discrepancy between gender parity and size of the economy. Although Rwanda has relatively low economy with an estimated total gross domestic product of $9.8 billion (Sh980 billion), it has advanced gender parity ratio of 0.80, outdoing Nigeria and South Africa, the biggest economies in the continent. Likewise, Namibia, an advanced but small economy in the continent with total GDP of $15 billion (Sh1.5 trillion) has impressive gender equity stats. This is however not to mean that the lower the economy, the better gender equity.

Mali, which has a total GDP of $17 billion or (Sh1.7 trillion), almost similar margins with Namibia has the second lowest gender equity score in the continent after Chad. On the other hand, Nigeria with total GDP of $500 billion has much lesser gender parity score of 0.64. South Africa, another economic powerhouse in the region has however a better gender equity score.

Conclusion: While there may be no direct correlation between economic status and gender parity in Africa giving women better pay and better representation is always good for the economy and for the health and education outcomes  in households.

Kenya is ranked position 76 globally ,with 70 per cent gender parity score. The wide gender gap in Kenya is attributed to strong traditional and cultural beliefs that favoured mostly men. Kenya’s gender parity score has surpassed global averages in education and health. The country is characterised by almost similar primary school enrolment and completion rates between boys and girls averaging at 72 per cent. There is however a huge disparity at Higher Education level in favor of men. This tends to water down career progression for the girl child in all sectors of the social economy. Primary education, teachers (% female) in Kenya was reported at 50.24 in 205 by World Bank. Number of female nurses is also almost similar to that of  men.

However the gender parity score gets blurry at political and corporate stage. At the National Assembly, which has 349 MPs, 76 are women. Of these 47 are elected women representatives, 23 elected constituency MPs and 6 are nominated MP’s. The push by female MPs for the implementation of the two-thirds gender rule has failed twice in parliament. Similar trend is replicated in the corporate sector, with only six female heading public listed firms at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE). This represents less than 10 percent of 62 listed companies.

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