President Paul Kagame has made a wakeup call to the world to consider both genders equally instead of making women victims of all sorts of segregation which comes with huge cost to the economy.
Kagame made the remarks at the opening of the European Development Days (EDD 2018) in Belgium.
The president presented facts and figures, indicating that women constitute half of the world’s population, now estimated to be over 7.3 billion people.
For President Kagame, with this alone, “Guaranteeing their (women) equal rights is therefore common sense.”
“Unfortunately, we are a long way from treating women with equality and respect. As a result, outcomes for women and girls continue to lag behind,” Kagame said.
It is not a matter of Europe or Africa alone, but the president said that incidents that have been registered indicate that this issue “cuts across regions, and affects us all.”
This issue of ignoring women comes in a form of selfishness and the president gave three shocking examples.
Kagame said, “In the workplace, or as public leaders, men expect to be judged on the basis of their character and ability alone. Otherwise, they are free to be themselves. That is how it should be.”
On the other hand however, “this freedom is often denied to women,” according to the president.
To make matters worse, the working place requires a woman to be extremely cautious, even more than men.
“She must also look a certain way and even be careful about her tone of voice. Failure to conform comes with a cost in terms of salary and career advancement, a penalty that men do not have to worry about,” Kagame said.
“Second, women perform countless extra hours of unpaid labour every day. Organising social gatherings. Taking care of sick relatives. Maintaining the household. Raising children.”
It is against this background, that women are said to always have two full time jobs.
“And this is not far from the truth. These duties affect women’s careers and serve as an implicit justification for promoting men faster,” he said.
The third case is the culture of tolerating sexual harassment, a heavy tax on women’s rights, and, sadly, Kagame said, the women have to keep quiet about their bad experiences.
All these do not go without a cost, and just one example, Kagame said, “I was told by one of the leaders in the World Bank, countries are losing $160 trillion in wealth because of the lifetime earnings gap between women and men.”
Kagame gives a set of advice
Despite the numerous shortfalls however, the world can reverse the trends and create a happy environment for both men and women.
“He for She”, or “She Is We”: These should not be mere hashtags, but expressions of our determination to make change really happen,” he said.
“Compensating women for where they have been disadvantaged is not enough. We have to truly level the playing field and make public pledges that raise standards and expectations, going forward.”
“It is up to leaders at every level to ensure that there is accountability for changing harmful societal norms. The task cannot just be left to individuals to sort out among themselves.”
Kagame said that Rwanda achieved a lot in regard to gender equality where mothers get paid maternity leave, and equal pay is not an issue in debate.
“Our approach all along has been to focus on the benefits that gender equality brings to society. As a result, no one feels they have lost something and the gains are sustainable,” Kagame said.