Gender gap costs sub-Saharan Africa $US95 billion a year

News Hour:

Gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa on average $US95 billion a year, peaking at US$105 billion in 2014– or six percent of the region’s GDP – jeopardizing the continent’s efforts for inclusive human development and economic growth, according to the Africa Human Development Report 2016: Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Africa, published today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“If gender gaps can be closed in labour markets, education, health, and other areas, then poverty and hunger eradication can be accelerated”, said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark at the launch today, attended by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) VI.

Achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment is the right thing to do, and is a development imperative”, Helen Clark said.

The UNDP report analyses the political, economic and social drivers that hamper African women’s advancement and proposes policies and concrete actions to close the gender gap. These include addressing the contradiction between legal provisions and practice in gender laws; breaking down harmful social norms and transforming discriminatory institutional settings; and securing women’s economic, social and political participation.

Deeply-rooted structural obstacles such as unequal distribution of resources, power and wealth, combined with social institutions and norms that sustain inequality are holding African women, and the rest of the continent, back. The report estimates that a 1 percent increase in gender inequality reduces a country’s human development index by 0.75 percent.

The Human Development Index (HDI) is a summary measure of average achievement in key dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and have a decent standard of living

While the continent is rapidly closing the gender gap in primary education enrolment, African women achieve only 87 percent of the human development outcomes of men, driven mainly by lower levels of female secondary attainment, lower female labor force participation and high maternal mortality.

The report states that while 61 percent of African women are working they still face economic exclusion as their jobs are underpaid and undervalued, and are mostly in the informal sector.

African women hold 66 percent of the all jobs in the non-agricultural informal sector and only make 70 cents for each dollar made by men. Only between 7 and 30 percent of all private firms have a female manager.

In a key finding, the report estimates that total annual economic losses due to gender inequality in the labour market have averaged US$95 billion per year since 2010 in sub-Saharan Africa and could be as high as US$105 billion, or 6 percent of the region’s GDP in 2014.

Social norms are a clear obstacle to African women’s progress, limiting the time women can spend in education and paid work, and access to economic and financial assets. For instance, African women still carry out 71 percent of water collecting translating to 40 billion hours a year, and are less likely to have bank accounts and to access credit.

African women’s health is also severely affected by harmful practices such as under-age marriage and sexual and physical violence, and high maternal mortality – the most at-risk women being those of childbearing age. According to the report, a 1 percentage point rise in adolescent birth rate increases the overall adult female mortality rate by about 1.1 percentage points.

“With existing gender disparities, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa’s Agenda 2063 would remain an aspiration, and not a reality”, said UNDP Africa Director Abdoulaye Mar Dieye. “Closing the gender gap would not only set Africa on a double-digit economic growth track, but would also significantly contribute to meeting its development goals.”

Mridha Shihab Mahmud is a writer, content editor and photojournalist. He works as a staff reporter at News Hour. He is also involved in humanitarian works through a trust called Safety Assistance For Emergencies (SAFE). Mridha also works as film director. His passion is photography. He is the chief respondent person in Mymensingh Film & Photography Society. Besides professional attachment, he loves graphics designing, painting, digital art and social networking.
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