Most African countries have made significant progress in advancing gender equality, African leaders said Sunday during commemorations to mark International Women’s Day.
“Women are equitably represented in government. Last year, we achieved 50/50 parity in the Cabinet for the first time, and 47% of MPs are women,” South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa told a crowd Sunday in Free State province.
He said South Africa has made significant advances in improving the lives of women in the social, political and economic spheres.
“We have implemented policies and programs to give practical expression to the rights of women and girls to education, to reproductive healthcare, to basic services and to social support,” Ramaphosa said.
He added that his government will continue to strive to ensure sufficient gender representation in key sectors such as the judiciary and the armed forces.
Ramaphosa said they are actively engaging with the private sector to ensure women are better represented in positions of management.
“We have a raft of gender-responsive laws around reproductive health, sexual orientation, access to justice, customary law and protection against domestic and sexual violence.”
He noted that despite a few challenges, “the nature of vulnerability that women face in South Africa today is markedly different to the vulnerability women faced in 1994,” when the apartheid system was formally abolished.
Ramaphosa said it is a sad reality that today not a single country in the world can claim to have achieved complete gender equality.
He said to provide women with the necessary support to enable them to become financially independent is critical because they face bias and violence, which must stop.
In his speech, President Yoweri Museveni said Uganda has made many strides in reducing gender disparity such as the introduction of equal opportunities for both genders to join all sectors of the economy including the armed forces.
He said his government has introduced several programs aimed at economically empowering women so they can be less reliant on male partners for survival.
The president also launched a multi-year Spotlight End Violence Initiative, a global enterprise led by the European Union and the United Nations focusing on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls.
Uganda is one of eight countries in Africa and the only country in East Africa to benefit from the initiative.
In Somalia, Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre said his country prioritizes women’s empowerment.
“On the occasion of Women’s Day, we celebrate the resilience of Somali women who, despite bearing the brunt of our nation’s challenges, have picked themselves up, provided much needed leadership and are the source of livelihood to many homes,” he said during an event in the capital Mogadishu to commemorate International Women’s Day.
Somalia’s Minister of Women and Human Rights Development, Deqa Yasin, agreed.
“Despite the many challenges that we face, my government has made considerable progress in the promotion of women’s rights by bringing 50% women to the district council,” she said, adding this policy has set an example for Somalia and shown them that more progress is possible.
However, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 says although there has been progress, more countries on the continent need to do more in increasing political representation for women.
According to the report, which was released ahead of International Women’s Day, just a few countries have at least 48% women serving as ministers.
These include Rwanda, which ranked among the top 10 performing countries in the world in terms of gender equality, said the report, while others include South Africa and Ethiopia.
Last year, President Ramaphosa appointed women to half of his cabinet posts, making it the first in the country’s history, while Ethiopia has a female President, Sahle-Work Zewde.