Despite taking part in majority of farming activities, women in the region and the Horn of Africa are still marginalised in the agriculture sector, with very few engaged in agribusiness, in addition to limited participation in the agricultural value chain.
Izeduwa Derex Briggs, the UN Women Director for East and Southern Africa made the statement last week while speaking at the gender equality peer learning event in Kigali.
Ms Izeduwa referred to the UN Women study on East Africa, saying women are absent in agribusiness, yet they constitute 79 per cent of labour in agriculture but only 24 per cent are doing agribusiness.
“Economic empowerment is still a challenge in Africa,” Ms Izeduwa said, citing factors such as the lack of corporate tools, technology, extension support and access to markets as the main hindrances to women’s role in agriculture productivity.
The gender economic gap concerns were raised in the wake of a new Global Gender Gap report released recently by the World Economic Forum.
According to the report, Rwanda ranked fourth on the global index out of 144 countries surveyed, putting it among the top four countries that closed 50 per cent of their gender gap in political empowerment.
Despite the remarkable progress on gender parity in political empowerment in the past two decades, the country was said to be moving at a relatively slower pace in economic empowerment.
The World economic Forum’s report ranked Rwanda in seventh position globally in economic participation and opportunity, but the United Nations Development Programme( UNDP) gender index on Africa launched earlier this year, showed the percentage of female enterprise managers is still low at 14 per cent, while the proportion of women in board rooms was estimated at 12 per cent.
Commenting on financial inclusion which is linked to women’s economic empowerment, Esperance Nyirasafari, Minister of Gender and Family Promotion said poverty is still a challenge for both men and women.
Ms Nyirasafari credited the National Employment Programme (NEP), for helping women and the youth with collateral of upto 75 per cent, so as to facilitate access to credit to finance their business.
Other challenges that are hindering women’s economic inclusion in many African countries according to UNDP are income inequality, weak regulation on labour market, limited social protection due to differences in education and lack of work-life balance policies and facilities such as childcare services.