Statista’s ‘Gender Gap Index in Sub-Saharan Africa as of 2021, by country’ report, showed that the Sub-Saharan Africa had closed 67.2 percent of its gender gap which depicted that female were on average 32 per cent less likely to have the same opportunities as males in the region.
It should be noted that the Global Gender Gap Index measures gender-based gaps utilising fourmetrics namely Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment. The highest possible score of index is one, which signifies total equality between women and men.
Performances between various countries in the region differed. Namibia and Rwanda presented the best results, each with an index of 0.81. The achievement positioned both countries among the ten best performing in the world alongside South Africa with an index of 0.78, Burundi with an index of 0.77, Mozambique with an index of 0.76, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Zambia, and Madagascar with index of 0.73 each and finally, Uganda with an index of 0.72.
Namibia closed its overall gender gap by nearly 2.5 per cent. Health and survival is at 98 per cent, and the country has achieved full parity in educational attainment. The economic gap narrowed to 79.4 per cent, and it has one of the smallest political empowerment gaps in the world, at 46.3 per cent.The economic gender gap in Rwanda is 72.6 per cent, while the political gap is 56.3 per cent. There is now parity in health and survival, and 95.7 per cent in educational attainment. The two countries are now neck in neck at fully attaining parity in all four categories. Both Zimbabwe and Mozambique have closed more than 72 per cent of their overall gender gaps; however, they arrived at this outcome from opposite paths.
On the other hand, the Democratic Republic of Congo had the lowest performance, achieving an index of 0.58. Amongst the countries on the 10 lowest performing Sub-Saharan countries are Sierra Leone with an index of 0.66, Benin and Burkina Faso with an index of 0.65 each, The Gambia and Cote D’Ivoire with an index of 0.64 each, Niger and Nigeria with an index of 0.63 each, as well as Chad and Mali with an index of 0.59 each.
Sub-Saharan Africa recorded the third-largest gender gap among the eight regions with an average remaining gap of 32.8 per cent, just behind the East Asia and the Pacific region and ahead of South Asia. After making progress on closing its gender gap for years now, the region’s gender gap has started to widen again. Sub-Saharan Africa is characterized by a higher variance in gender gap outcomes than practically any other regions in the world.
Gender Inequality in Economic Participation and Opportunity
According to the research from the World Economic Forum (WEF), the gender gap in Economic Participation and Opportunity is expected to take 267.6 years to close. This is driven by a large difference in the gender gap because even as the proportion of skilled women professionals continues to increase and wage equality improves at a slow pace, there is a persistent lack of women in leadership positions with women representing just 27 per cent of all managerial positions worldwide and overall income disparities remain an on-going challenge.
The pandemic also took a toll on the participation of women in major positions. The report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) stated that 5 per cent of all employed women lost their jobs, compared to 3.9 per cent of employed men.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, both men and women are active in the labour force and in entrepreneurship but there are limits to the particular types of jobs or activities they can both engage in. Half of the self-employed are women, as opposed to only a quarter who own a business or are wage workers.
Even though it seems like there are no advancements being made in driving gender equality and women empowerment, there is still a silver lining. Many organisations in the private and public sectors are proactively working to bring more women to the boardroom table, and create workplaces and environments that are diverse, equitable and inclusive.
Gender Inequality in Educational Attainment
In terms of schooling, Sub-Saharan African girls are the most disadvantaged in terms of access to schooling. The educational expansion is highly uneven, with certain countries and particular sections of the population benefiting earlier and more than others.
Gender was a major fault line, as boys benefitted disproportionally more from the emerging educational opportunities. In many developing Sub-Saharan countries, women have caught up and sometimes even outperformed men in terms of school attainment. According to UNESCO (2020), twelve out of the seventeen countries in the world where girls have not yet caught up with boys in primary (lower secondary) school enrolment are located in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Gender equality in education has been linked to a great variety of favourable outcomes for women, their households, and for society as a whole. Such positive outcomes include women’s economic and political participation later in life (World Bank 2017), lower fertility and reduced incidence of early marriage, reduced child mortality, improved family well-being and even, economic growth. It is thus crucial to understand the origins and drivers of African women’s educational attainment relative to men’s.
Gender Inequality in Health and Survival
Access to maternal and reproductive health services is unequally distributed among women in Sub-Saharan African countries, as is typically the case when coverage of a type of service falls far short of universal access. Scarcity by its very nature produces inequality between those who have access and those who do not have access, which is often manifested as systematic and persistent gaps between individuals belonging to different socio-economic groups.
Large gaps exist in the coverage and access to quality maternal health services between the poorest and richesthouseholds, and between rural and urban areas. Only 56 per cent of birthsare attended by skilled health personnel in rural areas, compared with 87 percent in urban areas.
The recently agreed development agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) includes new and ambitious targets for maternal and reproductive health including ending preventable maternal mortality by reducing the global Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030.
Achieving universal coverage of essential maternal and reproductive health interventions should be the ultimate goal for all countries in the SDG era. However, this is challenging given the low coverage rates in most Sub-Saharan African countries and the inequality gaps. As a result, large and avoidable inequalities remain in coverage of health interventions for mothers, children and adolescents both across and within countries. Inequity, unjust and avoidable inequalities, persists in maternal and reproductive health indicators and outcomes, posing a serious threat to the achievement of the agreed SDG targets.
Progress towards ensuring there is gender parity in most Sub-Saharan countries has stalled economic growth. Although some Sub-Saharan African countries have made great progress driving toward gender parity in some areas, gender inequality remains high across the continent.