AFRICA-DEVELOPMENT: Governments Need to Reach Out to Rural Women

By Aimable TwahirwaKIGALI, Jul 29 (IPS) - Governments, especially in Africa, need to have strong accountability measures in place in order to effectively reach women in rural areas...

By Aimable Twahirwa

KIGALI, Jul 29 (IPS) – Governments, especially in Africa, need to have strong accountability measures in place in order to effectively reach women in rural areas through gender responsive budgeting.

This was one of the recommendations in the Global Call for Action plan drawn up at the end of an international high-level meeting on gender responsive budgeting held in Kigali from 26 to 28 Jul. The meeting was held in conjunction with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (U.N. Women) and the European Union.

Delegates also agreed that there was a need to strengthen the skills, competencies and abilities of local government leaders. In addition, the enhancement of national statistical systems was needed to provide accurate data about various aspects of gender. The document, which is yet to be released, also said that the livelihood of marginalised women in rural areas needed to be improved by increasing their access to land ownership and property rights.

Rwanda has been called a role model for other African countries in promoting gender equity at all decision-making levels, as here women outnumber men in parliament. The country's constitution also guarantees a minimum of 30 percent female representation at all levels of leadership.

Rwanda is involved in a three-year pilot programme, Gender Equitable Local Development (GELD), dedicated to improving women's access to resources and services at local level through gender responsive planning and budgeting. GELD is organised by U.N. Women and the United Nations Capital Development Fund.

‘Rwanda records female-dominated occupations at various levels of decision-making, but women also need to engage in other economic careers such as the construction and transport industries,’ said Suzanne Ruboneka, a women's rights activist based in Kigali.

Women comprise 54 percent of Rwanda’s population of nine million. Although there are no statistics available on the number of businesses owned by women, government acknowledges that the majority of employees in both the formal and informal sectors are women.

The regional programme director for U.N. Women, Diana Ofwona, said it is important to further promote gender equality through women’s ownership of development initiatives, such as microfinance schemes. She said it was a way to increase efficient coordination in gender responsive budgeting.

Fatuma Mukakarara, president of a Muslim women’s cooperative in Nyagatare, in northeastern Rwanda, said women’s involvement in financial services ensures that there is greater transparency.

‘We are part of the management team in these financial services cooperatives (and) this contributes to ensure that there is greater transparency and accountability,’ she told IPS.

She said that through her experience in managing a microfinance business she knows that rural women can play a principal role in managing financial resources.

‘But sometimes women experience difficulty while applying for a loan from (a) microfinance (institution). This can be because of a lack of self-esteem for many,’ Mukakarara said.

Ofwona said that what was mostly needed was adequate planning to integrate equity in managing and sharing resources.

‘This includes removing some barriers which sometimes restrict women from equitably accessing local facilities (such as transport and microfinance schemes) … particularly in rural areas,’ Ofwona says.

Economic analysts say the collection of statistical data on gender issues is still a major challenge for some countries.

‘Once there is available data about gender, this would enable countries to determine what progress has been made towards achieving their targets (with gender responsive budgeting),’ said Bernard Kayinamura, an economic expert based in Kigali.

Kayinamura said that, for example, the disaggregated data on secondary school pupils studying science subjects could not explain why the number of girls studying the subjects was not increasing.

‘Thus there are sometimes missing figures which should be used (by decision-makers) in reviewing policies, procedures, practices and targets,’ he told IPS.

Since 2009 Rwanda’s government and civil society organisations have embarked on a national campaign dedicated to training rural women in the administration and management of microfinance schemes. However, there are no available figures about the number of women who have undergone training.

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