Drive to bridge gender gaps in private sector gains momentum

Drive to bridge gender gaps in private sector gains momentum

In partnership with the Gender Monitoring Office (GMO) and two UN agencies, Rwanda’s Private Sector Federation (PSF) has embarked on an initiative to eradicate rampant gender gaps which remain rampant in different industries.

Driven by a four-year Gender Mainstreaming Strategy, the programme dubbed Gender Equality Seal the campaign intends to help private companies lay out a gender-responsive work environment.

The Chief Gender Monitor at GMO Rose Rwabuhihi highlighted accountability of the private sector as the focal point of discussion.

The private sector employs 94 percent of working Rwandans, making it the backbone of the economy. The sector is expected to be key in propelling the country towards middle-income status by 2035 and create 1.5 million decent jobs.

This, Rwabuhihi observed, is going to be driven much more by the private sector than any other institution.

Yet, she continued, “we have noticed that there are a lot of gaps in terms of economy, sharing of different opportunities that we have in the country.”

“Through negotiations, we want the leadership of the private sector to understand the issues at stake. How is gender equality distributed?” She posed, “How is inclusion ensured in the private sector? How are men and women getting the capital to work? How are they participating in different activities?”

According to PSF Chairperson Robert Bafakulera, gender inequalities are clearly identified in the private sector, with females appearing mostly in low-level positions.

“We are trying to encourage the business people to consider women and men equally at different levels of work including the management. There are a lot of incentives and companies including banks and hotels are clearly buying the idea,” he said.

Since initiation, the programme has impressed some of the private sector’s major players including MTN Rwanda, Kigali Serena Hotel and several banks.

The Private Sector Federation itself developed a four-year Gender Mainstreaming Strategy, (2020-2024) a framework for advancing gender equality and accountability in the sector. Based on identified gaps and challenges, the strategy will be focusing on the four following pillars.

These include; mainstreaming gender into research and advocacy; strengthening access and effective participation of men and women to national, regional and international markets for their products; promoting gender equality and inclusive labour relations in the workplace and enhancing gender responsive Governance in the private sector.

Recently, the Private Sector conducted a capacity building training on gender responsive governance for its members at provincial level. PSF representatives at provincial levels committed to promote gender equality in our sector.

So far, 18 companies have enrolled in the Gender Equality Seal programme, but also public institutions including the Ministry of Trade, Rwanda Standards Board, Rwanda Development Board and the Central bank joined.

In all these institutions, gender equality committees have been established to champion the initiative.

Next year, the first cohort of participants will be certified with a ‘gender equality seal’.

As a technical and financial partner, UNDP Rwanda finds extreme importance in driving a lasting impact.

The UN agency trains corporate staff where institutions are given tools to identify gender gaps in the organization, to analyse various aspects from the language used in the office to nursery facilities in order to generate data for evidence-based advocacy.

Focus is put on eliminating gender-based pay gaps, increasing women’s roles in decision making and enhancing balance between work and life.

In addition, the participants are encouraged to combat sexual harassment at workplace, promote use of non-sexist communication and expand access to non-traditional jobs for both genders.

“What we’re talking about is to change business practices, to change how things operate in the workplace, to change the way of communication about the issues, to create greater equality of opportunities for men and women in the workplace,” says Stephen Rodriques, UNDP Rwanda Resident Representative.

Gender balance is a human rights issue sometimes involving discrimination and stigma, Rodriques observes.

“UNDP is involved in this to promote the human rights of people and to ensure that their rights are respected, and they have equal opportunities.”

According to him, the government and PSF are willing and ready to address the issue. With laws and regulations in place, he sees the private sector as an engine of economic growth.

“This is a matter of trying to create a new kind of economy in which we all recognize that women have equal abilities, but are not being given equal opportunities.”

Surprisingly, he said, many employers are not conscious of the gender inequalities in their companies. “It’s the awareness and the commitment that hasn’t been there.”

So far, nearly 100 young female students have gone through entrepreneurship workshops under the Seal programme to expose them to innovation, sharpen skills.