Closing the Gender Gap Is Key to Africa's Future

Cape Times (South Africa), May 29, 2015 | Go to article overview

Closing the Gender Gap Is Key to Africa's Future


AFRICA must close its gender gaps in order to succeed. The empowerment of women and girls is a crucial element in Africa's quest for inclusive, sustainable growth and development.

The total potential annual economic losses due to gender gaps in labour force participation have been estimated to exceed $255 billion (R3.08 trillion) for the sub-Saharan region, and to cost an equivalent of 9 percent of Africa's overall gross domestic product (GDP) growth.

Many African countries made great progress through the Millennium Development Goals in the enrollment of girls and boys for primary school education and increased enrollment at secondary level.

It is important to build on this good start and close the considerable gaps that still remain, including poor quality of education, teacher shortages and high dropout rates - especially among girls.

Those dropout rates reflect the prevalence of forced and early marriages and teenage pregnancies; the confines of unpaid care work; and obstacles such as lack of feminine hygiene infrastructure for adolescent girls at schools.

Achieving gender equality is a key to releasing vital growth potential for the continent, and to moving towards more inclusive and sustainable societies through the associated growth in improved health, education and life opportunities.

Benefits

UN Women's new flagship report Progress of the World's Women shows that the benefits of Africa's economic growth have been uneven. Those benefits have not yet reached a large portion of the population, and in most countries growth has not created enough decent jobs, nor reduced poverty to required levels.

Without full and equal rights to land, economic opportunity, finance, and services to help relieve the care burden, women's contributions to food security, development, and national - and personal - growth are inhibited.

Women are unpaid and unrecognised carers of the sick, and the young - doing up to four times as much care and domestic work as men in Ethiopia, Madagascar and Mauritius. Our drive to increase inclusion of men and boys in changes that thoughtfully readjust the balance is a vital aspect of the transformations we seek.

In addition, we must invest in the creation of infrastructure and industries that reduce the burden of care, such as early learning and care centres, and water and energy infrastructure at household level.

Scaling up social services to achieve women's rights through the increase of trained and paid social workers, health workers and extension officers would also create much-needed decent jobs for women.

When we consider that almost 2 billion babies will be born in Africa between 2015 and 2050 it is clear that investments in expanded and improved health care, education, and social services are essential, as well as deeper changes in equality. …

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