Equal opportunities for  women benefits all

01May 2019
Editor
The Guardian
Equal opportunities for  women benefits all

One big cost of inequality is that African economies do not reach their full potential. In many countries, for example, women account for most unpaid work, and are overrepresented in the low productivity informal sector and among the poor.

Raising the female employment rate could contribute significantly to Africa  achieving its goal in SDGs  of becoming a middle-income countries.

Economic opportunities for women matter not just because they can bring money home. They also matter because opportunities empower women more broadly in society and this can have a positive impact on others. If women have a bigger say in how household money is spent this can ensure more of it is spent on children.Improvements in the education and health of women have been linked to better outcomes for their children in many countries  . In   giving power to women at the local government level led to increases in public services, such as water and sanitation.Just as the costs of inequality are huge, so is the challenge in overcoming it. The gaps in opportunity between men and women are the product of pervasive and stubborn social norms that privilege men’s and boys’ access to opportunities and resources over women’s and girls’.What is therefore required is a sustained, comprehensive drive to end inequality. This will require addressing multiple and reinforcing barriers to equality among families, job and product markets, as well as among formal and informal institutions.A first step would be to improve the access for girls to education to reduce the in-built disadvantages that they have from birth onwards. This is recognized by many across sub-Saharan countries and there has been a lot of progress, with initiatives such as Educate Girls in many countries tackling the root causes of gender inequality in education.  Many countries have  achieved gender parity in primary education and more must be done to narrow the gaps in secondary education.A second step would be to address market and institutional failures that lock women into low return, highly vulnerable forms of employment and of self-employment.Much can be achieved by encouraging the creation of a large number of jobs that are seen as suitable and safe for women.No country can reach its full economic potential and achieve widespread prosperity if half its population cannot participate fully in the economy. As we marked Women’s Day, it is important to remember that equality for women is to the benefit of all.