Improving gender equality and empowering women are pathways to making sustainable human development and to achieving other MDGs (especially accelerating maternal and child health care, improving education and reducing poverty and hunger)
The cost to society of not investing in gender equality and female empowerment can be heavy. Over 2005–2015, wide gender gaps in education at primary and secondary levels were estimated to reduce economic growth by 0.4 percentage points annually, increase birth rates by about one child per woman, increase child deaths by 32 per year (per 1,000 live births) and raise by 2.5 percentage points the prevalence of underweight children (Abu-Ghaida and Klasen, 2004).
Progress on this goal is encouraging. Many African countries are making notable performance – especially on gender parity in primary school education and number of seats held by women in parliament – but promoting women in paid employment outside agriculture is still a challenge
Cultural practices (including inequitable inheritance practices, early marriage and household power dynamics), few economic opportunities for women and too little political will still impede progress.
Indicator 3.1: Ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education: The primary school ratio is still generally improving in Africa ◦ However males are still favored in Equatorial Guinea with about 20% change between 1991 to 2009 ◦ Continental performance is below the average of the group of least developed countries and Southern Asia ◦ Namibia, Lesotho and Mauritius are making efforts to change in favor of males
Advances are less clear for the secondary school ratio Egypt and Rwanda are very close to achieving gender parity in secondary school. Six countries achieved parity in school life expectancy – Cape Verde, Lesotho, Malawi, Rwanda, Mauritius and São Tomé and Príncipe However, drop-out rates are higher for girls in most African countries
The ratio for tertiary education shows uninspiring gains ◦ However, there is a higher rise in women’s participation in tertiary education in many African countries, especially in high-income countries where female students out number male students (eg Algeria, Cape Verde and Tunisia had a gender parity index of more than 1.0) ◦ On a general note, Africa will not achieve gender parity in tertiary education by 2015.
This indicator measures how much an economy diversifies livelihoods from agriculture and informal activities. It is premised on the emerging reality that wage employment is a key element of improving household well- being
African women’s employment in the non- agricultural wage employment is low relative to other regions of the world (18.8% in North Africa and 32.6% in the rest of Africa compared with 43% in Latin America and the Caribbean 41.7% in Eastern Asia).
There is steady progress by most countries in Africa largely driven by the adoption of legal frameworks that guarantee seats for women in the national parliament Eight countries have reached the target of 30 per cent women in the national parliament – Rwanda, South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, Tanzania, Burun di, Uganda and Senegal
15 countries still have fewer than 10 per cent of women in the national legislature.Countries that regressed are Niger, Chad, Guinea Bissau, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Cameroon and Comoros
Economic and social policies that respond better to the needs of men and women – including affirmative action strategies, the reform of customary laws that discriminate against women and girls, and more human and financial resources to enforce and implement such laws – are crucial for meeting this goal.
Furthermore, policy changes should address factors that discourage women from attending and completing a full course of education – confronting factors that promote early marriage, the seclusion of girls and the education of boys rather than girls – and should promote women’s participation in productive economic activity and politics.
Promoting women’s employment outside agriculture will require generating productive and decent jobs, improving labour market functioning, creating job opportunities for women (including enabling women to access higher skilled jobs), subsidizing social services to enable more women to have more time to participate in remunerative economic activities, and addressing cultural practices that discriminate against girls’ education or that create imbalances in household power dynamics.
In the political realm, efforts are needed to break the socio-cultural impediments that hinder women’s political participation through training and advocacy on how women can enhance their leadership role and contribute fully to public debate and policy decisions.