African Women Spur Fight for Gender Equality.jpg

Young Sierra Leonians. Source: EqualityNow.ORG - Photo: 2024

African Women Spur Fight for Gender Equality

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK | 18 March 2024 (IDN)—At the recent “Africa Disrupt“ conference, which included pan-African feminists, economic justice activists, and community leaders, one thing was certain: the time for gender equality for African working women had arrived.

Halfway around the world, a new report by the World Bank fueled the fire. Currently, women enjoy only two-thirds of the legal rights as men and the gender gap is wider than laws on the books might suggest due to insufficient legal implementation.

“Women have the power to turbocharge the sputtering global economy,” said Indermit Gill, the Bank’s chief economist. “Yet, all over the world, discriminatory laws and practices prevent women from working or starting businesses on an equal footing with men.”

Globally, women’s legal rights have improved since 1970, but progress in many critical areas appears to have been overestimated.

Gill, an Indian economist who has worked on economic growth, poverty, institutions, conflict, and climate change. Tea Trumbic, the World Bank’s senior advisor for gender equality, released their report, Women, Business and the Law, 10th edition, this month.

For the first time, the bank investigated the impact of childcare and safety policies on women’s participation in the labor market. When these two factors were taken into account, women on average receive just 64% of the legal protections that men do, down from the previous estimate of 77%.

Among the success stories was Togo with one of the lowest rates of maternal mortality and less tolerance of violence against women between 15 and 49 than in peer countries. On the down side, Togolese women participate in the labor market to a much lower extent than men, and most female employment is informal and vulnerable.

Togolese women also appear to be disadvantaged in terms of access to and ownership of land, productive assets, and finance. Although girls outnumber boys in primary school, the gender gap in enrollment favors boys in each subsequent educational level, and the chances of girls to complete secondary school are much lower than those of boys.

Moreover, the rates of child marriage and teenage pregnancy, though lower than in most neighboring countries, continue to be very high.

South Africa, by comparison, has the highest income inequality in the world, with large numbers unemployed or with very low incomes. Gender-based violence is a profound and widespread problem, impacting almost every aspect of life. It is systemic and deeply entrenched in institutions, cultures, and traditions in South Africa.

Meanwhile, the U.S., despite being the wealthiest country in the world by GDP according to the International Monetary Fund, still has a sizable gender pay and equity gap, and is one of just a few wealthy countries, including Japan and China, that does not mandate pay equality.

The world loses US$160 trillion in human capital wealth due to gender wage inequality every year. Inequality is not just an issue of fairness. It is also undesirable because it hampers poverty reduction strategies and leads to suboptimal allocation of resources.

A copy of the World Bankreport can be obtained by downloading it from [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: Young Sierra Leonians. Source: EqualityNow.ORG

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate

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