By Patricia Scotland
This month the Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers Meeting will assemble in Nairobi, Kenya.
It has taken place regularly since 1985, to take stock of the current status of gender equality in our member countries, and to share perspectives and experience of how progress on this important Commonwealth priority can be achieved more swiftly.
Recommendations and decisions made by ministers responsible for women’s affairs and gender will go forward to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting being convened in Rwanda next year.
The past century has witnessed the greatest advances for gender equality in human history.
From New Zealand becoming the first self-governing country in 1893 to allow women to vote in parliamentary elections to Sri Lanka electing the world’s first female Prime Minister in 1960, the gender gap has never narrowed so quickly, but there is still much ground to be gained.
In order to assess and accelerate progress, considerable efforts are now made by multilateral organizations to measure progress against indicators linked to gender equality and women’s empowerment.
So we know, for instance, that in the Commonwealth a girl is as likely to attend primary school as a boy, and in some countries more so. In the parliaments of 13 Commonwealth countries, 30 percent or more of members are women. Women everywhere can now expect to outlive men.
Yet against this progress, underlying systemic inequality remains persistent and widespread.
In politics, only one in five parliamentarians is a woman. In education, of every ten girls, only seven attend secondary school.
In the workplace, the law in 32 countries does not mandate equal remuneration for work of equal value.
In social life, 19 countries do not have legislation prohibiting early marriage.
That is accordingly to research undertaken by the Commonwealth Secretariat in preparation for the Women’s Affairs Ministers Meeting in Kenya.
This research offers a snapshot of progress towards gender equality within and across the Commonwealth in four priority areas: women in leadership, women’s economic empowerment, ending violence against women and girls, and gender and climate change.
Women in leadership
Commonwealth countries collectively have declared that their ambition is to ensure 30 percent of the political sphere is made up of women. This is a step on the way to achieving gender parity.
Rwanda is one of only three countries in the world to have achieved gender parity, with over 55 percent of seats occupied by women in both of its houses parliament.
In 13 Commonwealth member countries, 30 percent or more of members of parliament are women.
The countries of our Caribbean and Americas region have an average of almost 25 percent female parliamentarians, which is relatively high compared to other Commonwealth regions.
Ten Commonwealth countries have achieved the target of 30 percent or more women ministers, and Canada leads with over 50 percent.
Women’s economic empowerment
Although gender gaps in enrolment and achievement in education have narrowed, this has not yet translated satisfactorily into women’s equal participation in the formal labor force, or the elimination of the gender pay gap once women are in the workforce.
The Pan-Commonwealth average for female labor force participation is 56.30 percent, which means that only just over 1 in 2 of women works in the formal sector. Rwanda, at 86 percent, has the highest percentage of women’s participation in the labor force…Read more>>