The Face of Poverty is Female
Existing poverty data is gender neutral which makes it difficult to have a clear picture of the true gender dimensions of poverty. Prudence however dictates that women are disproportionately poor. Poverty is more than just the lack of income and resources; it is the lack of access to jobs, education and other services. It is also the lack of visibility and a voice in policies enacted to address challenges that predominantly affect a certain population – and in this case, women. Poverty cannot be fully addressed without looking into the role women and the rights afforded to them.
Culture and Gender Mainstreaming Policies
Some communities such as Aka pygmy of Central Africa are culturally progressive when it comes to gender norms, they share household and child rearing duties. The Aka are known as one of most egalitarian societies in the world, men are known to breastfeed their children while women go hunting and vice versa. Men and women do not hesitate to step into roles that are predominantly known to be of the opposite gender. Unfortunately, this cultural gender egalitarian way of life is an anomaly in today’s world hence the need for deliberate policies to find balance. Gender equality is one of the current 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The SGDs among many other things highlight the need for equal access to education, health, promotion of shared domestic responsibility and equal rights to economic resources. Nordic countries have championed gender equality for years by deliberately incorporating gender mainstreaming policies such as Sweden’s enviable 480 days parental leave (with pay) to be enjoyed by both parents. Just to put it into perspective, United States according to the Family and Medical Leave Act, gives its workers 74days of unpaid leave for mothers. These countries have also made considerable headway in bridging the gender gap in pay and leadership positions at work.
Rwanda setting the pace for Africa.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report 2017, Rwanda is quickly closing its gender gap and was surprisingly ranked 4th in 2017 among 144 countries, surpassing countries such as United States, Germany, Denmark and a host of other global north countries. It’s economy has also seen a dramatic economic improvement with its GDP steadily rising though the years. The ranking looks at 5 variables, the economic participation, education attainment, health and survival and political empowerment. It looks at measures taken by governments to bridge the gender gap rather than their current development standards. India has been a forerunner of the role of women, with one of the first woman Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. it is therefore a surprise to see it ranked at 108 (a position which has fallen 21 places) because of its low female workforce participation and low wages. It is reported that more women than men work in unpaid positions or in jobs that are transitioning to men. Policy changes such as a revised legislature on maternity leave, access to childcare services and subsidized loans for women led businesses to boost its women workforce. The most challenging will perhaps be addressing the cultural barriers such as its patriarchal norms that require women to seek permission to work outside the home.
Rwanda’s achievement comes largely from its political will and government commitment. For instance, it established the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, whose mandate is to ensure the implementation of appropriate policies on gender equality and women empowerment. It also has a Gender Monitoring office whose mandate is to monitor compliance and advocate for gender equality. It is important that gender mainstreaming strategies be done in consultation with local civil society groups familiar with both political elements and most importantly, culturally embedded discriminatory practices. Such practices include genital mutilation (FGM) child marriages and gender-based violence/honor violence.
Women Entrepreneurship in Africa
Sub -Sahara Africa has one of the highest rates of women entrepreneurs in the world. Last year The MasterCard Index of Women entrepreneurs (MIWE) reported Uganda as one of the highest percentage of women business owners in the world. Some of the women making international waves include Ms.Tilahun Alemu from Ethiopia who created a shoe brand that sells stores around the world, Ms. Sibongile Sambo from South Africa rans an exclusive airline charter company and Tabitha Karanja who owns a large brewery in Kenya.
The number of Women driven start-ups businesses are also growing such include Lilian Makoi Rabi from Tanzania who started mobile micro – health insurance for low income and informal sector workers. Natalie Bitature developed environmentally friendly solar powered vending carts which eliminates the use of charcoal and Kerosene stoves.
There has never been a better time to invest in Africa than now!
We at Globetrotter Seven help identify these and other entrepreneurs for those interested in forging business partnerships. If you are looking to invest in one of the many women driven start-ups in Africa or looking to pair with a business that is aligned to yours in Africa, we can help.
There has never been a better time to invest in Africa than now and here are 3 reasons why;
- 6 of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa. Africa is the second most populated continent with a very high young population estimated at 40% and a fast-emerging middle class. This creates a conducive setting for consumer goods companies looking for new markets
- African Continental Free Trade Area. To a large extent, Europe is battling insular political sentiments that threaten its economic union, while China and U.S are trying to outdo each other’s import tariffs. Africa is working on a free trade agreement that will cover the whole continent. The trade block will account for a gross domestic product of more than $3 trillion. Now imagine having access to this bloc which will allow free movement of goods and services!
- Digital transformation. Africa has been a leader in pioneering cross-sectoral economic opportunities. Mobile payment networks have not only changed the way people do business but also accessed rural populations (market segments) that had been previously disconnected from banking and economic spheres. The market is receptive and ready for mobile initiatives which makes Africa perfect for all those venture capitalists and innovators