Gender Inequality has many intersections. Most societal structures, from the government to families, are patriarchal. At the core of any society are the economy and jobs. Roles and work assigned to men perpetuate the belief that men can only do specific jobs. This is not sustainable.
The pandemic worsened employment levels across all genders, disproportionately so for women. This article looks at how Kenya and Ghana address gender disparities and challenge workplace stereotypes.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), gender inequality and employment worsened during the pandemic. It also reported it would continue in the near future. The ILO’s latest policy brief, Building Forward Fairer: Women’s rights to work and at work at the core of the COVID-19 recovery, indicated that men’s employment levels would recover to 2019 levels. It also found that despite projected increases in employment for women, it won’t be back to pre-pandemic levels.
The brief stated that 43.2% of the world’s working-age women would be employed in 2021, compared to 68.6% of working-age men. Women have been affected the most by job and income losses because of their over-representation in the most affected sectors like hospitality, food services, and the manufacturing industry. Globally the Americas experienced its most significant reduction in women’s employment because of the pandemic, by 9.4%.
The second-highest drop in the number of employed women was in the Arab States, where women’s employment declined by 4.1 per cent and men’s by 1.8 per cent. In Africa, men’s employment declined across all regions, with a 0.1% drop between 2019 and 2020, with women’s employment decreasing by 1.9%. Women fared better at job re-entry and employment when countries took measures to prevent job losses during the pandemic.
YUVA is one of Africa’s most prominent NGOs. Concerning employment development, YUVA focuses on developing workplace and technical skills to empower those in need.
Kenya and business reform
In Kenya, quotas were established to guarantee women gain from public employment programmes. The essence of this programme was to place gender equality at the forefront of pandemic recovery.
In 2022 the World Bank report on Women, Business and the Law recommended law reform is needed where it affects women’s work after having children, challenges women face starting and running a business, gender differences in property and inheritance, and laws affecting the size of a woman’s pension.
Kenya has also diversified its economy by expanding into the construction and technology sectors. Men overwhelmingly fill these sectors. Most Kenyan women currently work in the informal sector. AkiraChix and Buildher are Two Kenyan nonprofits founded by women preparing Kenyan women for higher-paying jobs in non-conventional fields. AkiraChix provides young women with technology skills. Its codeHive programme trains women to be tech leaders. Buildher helps disadvantaged young women with accredited construction skills like carpentry and plumbing. It also helps change male attitudes and promotes gender equality in the construction industry.
Ghana and breaking “traditions”
A recent leadership conference led by the Ghana Employers Association (GEA) spearheaded the call for Ghanaian women to embrace using technology and innovation. The theme, “promoting women’s leadership in a digital era,” was the platform for women to share their experiences and understand the relevance and benefits of gender equity in promoting women’s empowerment. The GEA emphasised that technologies enabled women to work from home and provided the flexibility women needed. The association also expressed that Ghanaian women have huge development gaps in most institutions. Despite the proportion of men in the population continuing to lag behind that of women, women are underrepresented in management, leadership and boardrooms.
Combating climate change has also been an unlikely yet pivotal aspect in breaking traditional gender roles.
Sarah Gyamfuah is a young single mother and a team leader on a bridge construction project. She oversees the scores of workers and contributes to the sustainability of her community. She also gains valuable skills and experience. The project falls under the Boosting Green Employment and Enterprise Opportunities in Ghana or the GrEEn project with technical support from the UN Capital Development Fund.
The GrEEn Project creates greater economic and employment opportunities for youth, women and returning migrants. It promotes sustainable, green businesses and helps facilitate the development of small businesses headed by Women. Despite significant strides in closing the gender gap and inequalities remain. Many women are likely to be employed in the low paying informal sector and earn about 30% of what men do.
The inequalities between men and women in Ghana can be partly attributed to cultural practices and norms that continue to limit the role of women in the workplace and relegate women to specific jobs. The trend is gradually shifting, and more women are performing tasks previously thought to be only for men.
The GrEEn project challenges the notion that certain jobs should only be reserved for men. “Women are perfectly capable of performing tasks meant for men. Thanks to the GrEEn project, I was given a chance, and I believe more women should be given this chance as well,” said Ms Gyamfuah.
YUVA Intern Ling Sheperd is a writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She is passionate about social justice and equity.