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NAIROBI, Kenya — Saharan Africa loses around $95 billion a year due to gender inequality, jeopardizing the continent's efforts for economic growth, according to a U.N. report launched Sunday.
Deeply-rooted structural obstacles such as unequal distribution of resources and political power, combined with social institutions that sustain inequality are holding back African women, and the continent, said the Africa Human Development Report 2016 by U.N. Development Program.
If gender gaps are closed in labor markets, education and health, it will accelerate the eradication of poverty and hunger, said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark. The report was launched during the two-day Tokyo International Conference of African Development in Kenya.
Kenya's civil society is pushing parliament to ensure that a third of elected posts are occupied by women in accordance with the 2010 constitution. Parliament rejected a government-sponsored bill seeking to turn the constitutional requirement into law.
Rwanda is the most gender equal country in Africa and sixth out of 145 countries, according to the 2015 Global Gender Gap Index, by the World Economic Program.
While 61 percent of African women are working they still face economic exclusion as their jobs are underpaid and undervalued, and are mostly in the informal sector, states the UNDP report.
"Social norms are a clear obstacle to African women's progress, limiting the time women can spend in education and paid work, and access to economic and financial assets. For instance, African women still carry out 71 percent of water collecting translating to 40 billion hours a year, and are less likely to have bank accounts and to access credit," the report said.
African women's health is also severely affected by harmful practices such as under-age marriage and sexual and physical violence, and high maternal mortality, it said.