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MDG Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

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Status and Trend
Rwanda has made great strides in promoting gender equality driven by a strong commitment by the Government. Rwanda was equal second in the world on the 2009 Social Watch Gender Equity Index, with only Sweden having a higher score.24 Gender equality is enshrined in the constitution and Rwanda was the first country in the world to have more than 50 per cent female members of parliament. There is a Minister for Gender and Family Promotion, a gender monitoring office, a commitment to gender based budgeting, and in recent years there has been a strong emphasis on fighting gender based violence. Women have the same rights to inherit land as men. Girl as are as likely to attend primary school as boys and the gender gap in secondary education is narrow and closing. There remains a gender gap in public sector higher education, especially in science and engineering, but women are taking advantage of the opportunities to study in the private higher education institutions. However, the majority of women, especially poor women in rural areas have yet to benefit. Nearly 59 per cent of women are employed as dependent family workers (see figure 6 above), and only 28 per cent of those working in non-farm employment, own account and employee, are women. The Indicator of 50 per cent of those in paid non-agricultural employment being women by 2015 is unlikely to be met.

Rwanda has identified nine critical areas on which to work in promoting gender equality: empowerment; poverty reduction; access to social services; the legal status of women; media representation; gender-based violence; vulnerable women; promotion and protection of girls; and equality in power and responsibility.

Although significant achievements have been registered in the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women, challenges still exist and there is a gap between the progress in gender equality for educated women employed in professional and managerial jobs in Kigali and for poor women engaged in agricultural work living in rural areas.

The Government sees supporting women to set up small businesses as a priority and has recently introduced the Women’s Guarantee Fund which provides a 50 percent guarantee for a bank/microfinance loan that a woman takes out to start up an enterprise. There are a number of projects run by the Government and civil society organisations to support women in starting up household enterprises (Abbott et al 2010). Empowering women and supporting them so they have their own income will support the achievement of the other MDGs.

Net parity in primary school enrolment had been achieved by 2001 and there are now (based on 2008 data) slightly more girls attending primary school than boys, 51 per cent of pupils are girls (NISR 2009, P64). The repetition and completion rates (based on 2007 data) are very similar for boys and girls, with the repetition rate at just under 18 per cent for both boys and girls but with girls slightly less likely to drop out of school than boys - 13% compared to 15% (NISR 2009 P 64). Whilst girls are more likely to complete primary education than boys, they are less likely to attend secondary school. In 2008, 52 per cent of secondary-school pupils were boys, compared to 48 per cent of girls (NISR 2009, P67) and girls are less likely than boys to continue into upper secondary school. Although it is difficult to get reliable statistical data for gender and higher education, the number of boys gaining places in public sector higher education institutions exceeds that for girls especially in science and engineering subjects, where the latest estimates are that only 30 per cent of science and engineering students are female ( Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning 2008). Gender parity has been achieved in private higher education institutions, but students attending these are not entitled to loans from the Student Funding Agency of Rwanda and have to pay up-front fees. Many study for their degrees while working full time. Concern has been expressed about the quality of these institutions, with the Minister of Education recently announcing that private higher education institutions would be required to employ a minimum proportion of full-time academic staff.

The proportion of young women who are literate, (a proxy for effective primary schooling) is virtually identical to that for young men, at just over three quarters of 15-24 year olds (NISR 2007b, P17). Given that girls are now as likely as boys to attend primary school, literacy rates for young men and women are likely to increase at the same rate as more children attend school. However, if we consider the literacy rate amongst all adults, the rate for women is significantly lower than that for men, reflecting historical inequalities in access to education. Just over 22 per cent of women aged 15-49 years have never been to school (13% in urban areas and 24% in rural areas) compared with 15 per cent of men (9% in urban areas and 17% in rural areas) (Ministry of Health et al 2009, Ps 18-19), thus disadvantaging women, who are less equipped to engage in non-agricultural employment or start a family enterprise.

The economic activity rate is high for women but nearly 60 percent of them work as dependent family members and are likely to have little control over the product of their labour. Women are much less likely than men to be employed in non-farm employment, with 12 per cent of women employed in remunerated non-agricultural work (wage and independent) compared with 28 per cent of men (Strode et al 2007, P10). There are no long-term trend data available for the share of women employed in non-agricultural employment, but the available evidence suggests that while men have been moving out of agricultural work women have been moving into paid agricultural employment. Three quarters of the additional paid non-farm jobs created between 2001 and 2006 were taken by men and men were responsible for 60 per cent of small business start-ups (Strode et al, P10).

Poverty is feminised in Rwanda; that is, women are more likely than men to be dependent workers or earning an income that is below the national poverty line. Women earn significantly less than men: the male to female ratio of median earnings for those in waged employment in 2006 was 0.67 (World Bank, last accessed 06.04.2010). Female-headed households are more likely to be in poverty than male-headed ones. In 2006, 60 per cent of female-headed households were in poverty compared to the national average of 57 per cent (NISR 2007a, P47).

Women make up the majority of the workforce and do the majority of the work. In urban areas the workforce is roughly 50 per cent male and 50 per cent female, but in rural areas about 60 per cent of the adult working population is female (Strode et al 2007, P2). Women also work significantly harder than men, being responsible for the bulk of domestic work. On average women work 20 hours a week more than men, mainly because of their responsibility for domestic work in addition to their other work roles (Strode et al 2007, P58). Women in rural areas often have to walk long distances to collect water and wood as well as being responsible for the care of infants and children, cooking, washing and other domestic tasks. Progress in achieving the other MDGs would have a positive impact on women, reducing their burden of poverty and labour.

Key Implementation Bottleneck
• Girls continue to drop out of school, especially once they reach their teens, because of a lack of separate toilet facilities and the cost of sanitary pads. They also dropout of school because they are required to help their mothers with domestic work, childcare and collecting wood and water
• Lack of female teachers especially in upper secondary schools and higher education institutions to act as role models for girls. This is even more problematic in science and engineering.
• Women have difficulty in accessing bank loans, especially if living in rural areas, and often lack the confidence to start their own business.
• Lack of trust is often a barrier to joining a credit union and there is also a fear of the unknown.
• Cultural attitudes to women in general and gender-based violence.

Priorities for Support to Accelerate Progress to Achieve MDG 3
• The Women Guarantee Fund and specific programmes to support women starting HEs.
• Steps should also be taken to ensure that women benefit equally with men from the specific programmes targeted at the extremely poor. Baseline studies should be carried out and the monitoring and implementation of the programmes should explicitly monitor gender.
• Programmes to train teachers and lectures so that the curriculum in schools, vocational and technical and higher education is engendered, and to raise awareness of the importance of gender equality amongst teachers, parents, children and students.
• Improved toilet facilities in schools and help for girls from poor homes with the cost of sanitary pads.
• Support for programmes to tackle gender-based violence and negative cultural attitudes to women.
• Gender impact analysis, gender budgeting etc.

Examples of Policies and Projects that have contributed to Accelerated Progress
Major achievements in promoting gender equality have been driven by strong political will and commitment, the appointment of a Minister for Gender and Family Promotion, a strong grass-roots women’s movement that played a key role in ensuring that gender equity was included in the 2003 Constitution and the establishment of a Gender Monitoring Office. A key factor in the increased proportion of girls enrolling in primary education was making it free (IPAR 2009)