Gender gap costs sub-Saharan Africa $95 billion a year: UNDP

Discriminatory norms for women in Sudan and their restricted civil liberties are considered to be among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa, says a new human development report.

Discriminatory norms for women in Sudan and their restricted civil liberties are considered to be among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa, restricting economic growth, says a new report by the United Nations Development Programme.

Gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa on average $US95 billion a year, peaking at US$105 billion in 2014– or six per cent of the region’s GDP – jeopardising the continent’s efforts for inclusive human development and economic growth, according to the Africa Human Development Report 2016: Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Africa, published today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Deeply-rooted structural obstacles such as unequal distribution of resources, power and wealth, combined with social institutions and norms that sustain inequality are holding African women, and the rest of the continent, back.

Norms such as water collecting significantly limit the time women could spend on education and work

The report states that while 61 per cent of African women are working they still face economic exclusion as their jobs are underpaid and undervalued, and are mostly in the informal sector. African women hold 66 per cent of the all jobs in the non-agricultural informal sector and only make 70 cents for each dollar made by men. Social norms are a clear obstacle to African women’s progress, and activities such as water collection limit the time women can spend in education and paid work, and access to economic and financial assets.

Discrimination in Sudan

Generally speaking, the rate of discrimination against women in Sudan is designated as very high, through a discriminatory family code and restricted civil liberties. Sudan scores lowest in the gender development index and highest in the gender inequality index in East Africa. The latter is measured in reproductive health, empowerment (parliamentary seats and education), and economic activities.

Sudan stands in the top ten countries with the highest prevalence of female genital mutilation, among relatively slightly more older than younger women, according to UN statistics from 2002 to 2013.

More than 30 per cent of Members of Parliament, and in the Sudanese Senate, are women; a positive score. But only three per cent of firms in Sudan are led by female top managers, the lowest rate of all African countries.

The report adds the role of women played in conflict resolution and peace processes, which has been insignificant in the Sudans’ Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 and the Abuja Darfur peace deal in 2006.

The researchers of the collaborative effort between the UNDP and different agencies in Africa put in perspective that also women shape the concept of what is normal in a community. ‘Women therefore contribute to reinforcing the same social norms that discriminate against them'; social norms that include domestic violence and the role of mothers in organising the mutilation of their daughters’ genitals.

Investment bank

The report proposed strategic pathways to greater gender equality and women’s empowerment, including two major initiatives: the establishment of an African Women’s Investment Bank and the implementation of a Gender Seal certification, a collective effort involving national governments, private sector companies and civil society to achieve standards that empower women in workplaces.

Read the full African Human Development Report 2016 here