The Government of Rwanda has put gender equality at the center of its social economic transformation agenda. In Rwanda, promoting gender equality is a key strategy for inclusive and sustainable development as well as transformational governance.
Though a lot has been achieved in the last 25 years in regards to promotion of gender equality, the private sector still lags behind yet the sector is considered as the engine for Rwanda’s economic transformation.
While the private sector currently employs 94% of the labor force in Rwanda as per official statistics, the number of women is still low, especially in technical fields which normally pay more wages.
For instance, in mining women participation stands at 5.8 %, transport at 3% and at 14.6 % in construction. Also, Women occupy only 32% of decision-making positions in the private sector and only 33% of business enterprises are owned by women, most of whom own micro and small business enterprises.
In order to contribute to bridging identified gender gaps, the Gender Monitoring Office (GMO) in partnership with the private Sector Federation, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women introduced a project dubbed Gender Equality Seal Certification Programme that aims at promoting gender accountability in the private sector in Rwanda.
The Gender Equality Seal (GES) initiative offers participating companies a solid platform to reduce inequalities in the workplace through promoting good labor practices, thus leading to more productivity and profitability.
The project is built on three main objectives namely enhancing capacities of private sector companies and participating public institutions to promote gender equality at the workplace, enhancing national capacities for gender analysis and mainstreaming in the private sector, and conducting research for generating data to advocate for promotion of gender accountability in the private sector.
Registered key project achievements
The Gender Equality Seal Project has so far registered tangible achievements including pitching the project at the highest level of decision-making in Government, Private Sector and the United Nations and a buy-in of the gender equality seal certification initiative by the private sector companies and public institutions.
More than 40 private companies and public institutions have so far expressed their interest to join and implement the Gender Equality Seal Certification Initiative in order to promote gender equality within companies and specifically promote gender sensitive work environment for employees.
Ten (10) private companies and two (2) public institutions already undergone a gender diagnosis exercise to assess gender gaps throughout their business processes and decisions and the companies developed detailed action plans to address the identified gender gaps.
The developed action plans will guide company steps to address the gender pay gaps, increase women in decision-making, enhance work-life balance, enhance women’s and men’s access to non-traditional jobs, eradicate sexual harassment and promote the use of inclusive and non-sexist communication.
Gender equality committees within 10 private sector companies and two public institutions composed of 101 members were established and equipped with skills on gender analysis and mainstreaming.
In the same framework, over 500 members of the private sector and Private Sector Federation committees at central and decentralized level were also trained in gender analysis and mainstreaming.
This is a huge mass of gender experts empowered for driving gender equality seal process and other initiatives aimed at promoting a gender responsive work place environment within their companies and institutions.
The project also supported the development of a five-year gender mainstreaming strategy as a guide for addressing gender gaps in the private sector in the short and medium term. The strategy is expected to help the private sector to strengthen capacity building on practical business and innovation for men and women, provide guidance for mainstreaming gender into PSF research and advocacy, strengthen access to men and women to national, regional and international markets, promote gender equality and inclusive labor relations in the work place and enhance gender responsive governance in the private sector.
Inspiring young females as future entrepreneurs
As a way of addressing the gender gaps in the private sector where the number of female entrepreneurs is still low, the GES project organized study tours, whereby female young girls in the secondary schools get the opportunity to visit different businesses and meet business owners.
Currently, more than 70 student girls from Gashora Girls Academy, FAWE, and Mary Hill Girls schools benefited from the study tours. Organized interaction sessions between business owners and students have greatly inspired female students to be future entrepreneurs.
Two peer learning sessions were also organized and provided the opportunity for information sharing between companies and public institutions on company experiences in implementing the gender equality seal certification initiative and also share the benefits of promoting gender equality at the workplace.
The organization of peer learning sessions also helped to expand gender equality seal initiative across the country since participant institutions were from various districts including Nyabihu, Nyaruguru and parts of the country. Through the organized peer learning workshops, different private companies committed to join the Gender Equality Seal Certification initiative.
The project also supported to engage women cross border traders with the objective of identifying the challenges they face in their businesses. The identified challenges that need to be advocated for include lack of space for selling their products, women operating individually and in a scattered manner which limits capacity to grow their businesses as well as small amount of capital to grow their business.
There is no doubt that with continued collaboration between government, development partners and other stakeholders the gender equality gaps in the private sector will be addressed to allow men and women equality contribute to the social economic development and benefit from the available opportunities.