Women’s economic empowerment is a key driver of sustainable development
Although important strides have been made worldwide on issues regarding gender equality in the workplace, there still remains room for improvement in the realms of equal access to jobs and corresponding salaries. Many consider the unemployment of women, particularly in Africa, to be a untapped reserve which could otherwise lead to further economic growth for the continent as a whole. (Bandara 2015)
A significant proportion of women living in Africa lack formal employment, either because they have been relegated to household duties or because they are active in the informal sector only, which is less productive by nature. A challenge arises from the fact that unpaid domestic work, occupying much of the Ugandan woman’s time, goes without compensation. According to Isis-WICCE, “if breast milk were given a monetary value, the value of a one year supply of the breast milk of Ugandan women would be 243.9 billion Ugandan shillings.” (futurechallenges.org) Since such tasks are not assigned a monetary value, however, much of a woman’s time and work cannot contribute to the economy and thus represents a loss of potential value.
The male population has historically tended to have better access to numerous higher-paying, desirable jobs, due in part to cultural norms and biases. This has gradually created a gap in employment in many countries, for which the workforce is composed of many more men than women. However, what seems to have a greater effect on the productivity of African countries is the education gap that also lies between the male and female populations. (Bandara 2015) The fact that the education of boys is often prioritized within families means that many girls do not remain in school long enough to graduate if funds are limited. As a result, the labour force consists of many more educated men than women, who in turn have access to better-paying, higher-up jobs.
The gender gaps in employment and education combined have a negative effect on the output of workers in African countries; as such, it has been identified that “a 1 percent increase in the gender gap in effective labour leads to a reduction in output per worker of 0.43-0.49 percent in Africa overall”. (Bandara 2015) Therefore, it is essential not only for the good of women but for the good of the African population in its entirety to invest in women as the economy industralizes and the demand for skilled labour rises.
The Women of Uganda Network is a non-governmental organization that acts to empower women through the use of ICTs. Through our many ventures, including courses geared toward the use of social media and advocacy for gender equality, we invest our resources in the women of Uganda as we believe this has the potential to achieve immense social change and yield substantial economic returns.
WOUGNET promotes education and skills among women in order to reduce the gender gap in employment and education, and works toward implementing policies that will reduce gender discrimination. Through this affirmative action, the organization is indireclty promoting the growth of Uganda as a country. As stated by the World Development Report 2012, gender equality will enhance productivity, improve development outcomes for the next generation and make institutions more reprensentative. (futurechallenges.org)
Furthermore, the organization believes that educating men on issues of gender sensitivity is equally as important as carrying out the above projects targeting women. For instance, it is vital that men change their perception of household work and come to view it as the collective duty of men and women rather than solely a woman’s responsibility. (Bandara 2015) As such, it is only through the collaboration of the entire Ugandan community, regardless of sex and gender, that sustainable development will be achieved.
Article Written by,
Kariane St-Denis, McGill University, Canada
Internship at WOUGNET, Kampala, Uganda
Bandara, Amarakoon. “The Economic Cost of Gender Gaps in Effective Labor:
Africa’s Missing Growth Reserve.” Feminist Economics. 21.2 (2015) : 162-186. Web. 21 May 2015.
Mubatsi. “Ugandan Women On the Move.” FutureChallenges.
<https://futurechallenges.org/local/uganda-women-on-the-move/> 7 March 2013. Web. 21 May 2015.