Biases subverting progress in women empowerment

Tuesday July 18 2023
gender gap

Delegates speaking at the Women Deliver conference held in Kigali, Rwanda on July 17, 2023. PHOTO | RWANDA PRESIDENCY


Gender gaps and inequality persist as significant challenges in societies worldwide, despite the progress made towards equality in recent decades.

While strides have been taken to address these issues, the need to continue focusing on closing gender gaps and eliminating gender-based disparities remains crucial, according to Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

“Much more remains to be done to tackle biased attitudes about gender, which are deeply embedded in our political, social and economic systems. All of us share the responsibility to play an active role in changing these negative mindsets,” President Kagame said on Monday at the opening ceremony of the global Women Deliver conference held in Kigali, attended by over 6,000 delegates.

Read: Africa’s women enjoying fraction of legal rights

According to a new report on women empowerment by UN Women and UNDP released on Tuesday, no country has achieved full gender parity and fewer than one percent of women and girls live in a country with high women empowerment and a small gender gap.

The Women's Empowerment Index (WEI) and the Global Gender Parity Index (GGPI), an analysis of 114 countries, found that women’s power and freedom to make choices and seize opportunities remain largely restricted.


“With the Sustainable Development Goals, the global community has made a strong commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment. However, we can see clearly with these new indices that across countries, women’s full potential remains unrealised, and large gender gaps continue to be commonplace, thereby obstructing and slowing progress in the realisation of all the Goals,” said Sima Bahous, UN Women Executive Director in a statement.

“Sustained efforts are, therefore, needed to deliver on the promise of gender equality, secure the human rights of women and girls and ensure that their fundamental freedoms are fully realised,” Bahous added.

The report also highlights more than 90 percent of the world's female population —3.1 billion women and girls — live in countries characterised by a large women’s empowerment deficit and gender gaps.

“This eye-opening analysis shows that higher human development is not by itself a sufficient condition, as more than half the countries with low and middle performance in the women’s empowerment index and global parity index fall in the very high and high human development groups,” said UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner.

“Too many women and girls are living in countries that only allow them to reach a fraction of their potential and these fresh new insights are ultimately designed to help to effect real change – for real people.”

Read: Why scaling up actions for women empowerment is inevitable

Dr Maliha Khan, President and CEO of Women Deliver, expressed the need for countries to work together against the global rollback of rights.

“Each delegate and speaker have converged here with a collective purpose: to identify and act upon evidence-based solutions. This week centres on creating empowering spaces for the feminist movement, holding leaders accountable, and creating a groundswell of voices for gender equality and is critical to urge political leaders to act,” she said.

On her part, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, chair of the Women Deliver Board and former Deputy President of South Africa, called for open democracies that foster an enabling environment for women’s political participation, policy, law shaping and protection of women.