When African Women are Financially Included, an Entire Continent Wins

The Global Gender Summit, hosted by the African Development Bank (AfDB), and which is currently taking place from Nov. 25 to 27 in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. Credit: Plasir Muzogeye/IPS

By Emmanuel Hitimana
KIGALI, Nov 26 2019 (IPS)

When Rwandan-born and Senegalese-raised entrepreneur and businesswoman Kristine Ngiriye was 18 she had a brilliant idea that she wanted to translate into a business. But when she went to her local bank for a loan they told her to rather get married, because “ a woman must be married instead of venturing into business”, Ngiriye tells IPS.

Even though this happened more than two decades ago, women in Africa are clearly oftentimes discriminated against when it comes to accessing investment and capital.
The issue was one of the main talking points at the Global Gender Summit, hosted by the African Development Bank (AfDB), and which is taking place from Nov. 25 to 27 in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali.
Attended by some 300 business women, policy makers and political leaders,  including Ethiopia’s President Sahle-Work Zewde — the only female president on the continent — attendees learnt that while African women contribute towards not only bettering their lives, but those of their families, some 70 percent where excluded financially. And in instances where women saved and offered capital for a loan, many where oftentimes rejected or if they were given credit, where considered “high risk”.
AfDB president Dr. Akinwumi Adesina reminded participants present at discussion panel titled, “Unpacking constraints to gender equality”, that policymakers and even bankers had to be accountable to women.
“Let’s be smart and let’s be wise: women are the best investments any society can make. When they earn, they spend 90 percent of their income on their households, including [on] their husbands,” Adesina said.

Kristine Ngiriye was 18 she had a brilliant idea that she wanted to translate into a business. But she was told by bankers to get married instead. Now the CEO of a consulting boutique that offers specialised services to governments and businesses and founder of Entreprenarium, an accelerator for African women in business she has made huge impact in business across the continent. Courtesy: Entreprenarium

Ngiriye is a case in point. Her mother had stepped in to be her guarantee and eventually her business journey led her to founding Entreprenarium in 2014.

“My business is here today, after a woman, my mother, committed to be my guarantee. With all the support I got along the journey I decided to help other women entrepreneurs to build their enterprises and help them grow,” Ngiriye told IPS.
Ngiriye’s lists of accolades are long and her impact far-reaching.
On the Entreprenarium’s Facebook page they describe themselves as “the first pan-African philanthropic accelerator that helps entrepreneurs start and sustain innovative businesses to drive Africa’s prosperity”.
Since the accelerator was founded, some 2,000 entrepreneurs have been trained across Africa — Entreprenarium has offices in Libreville, Kigali, Dakar, Abidjan and Brussels — with $2.1 million invested towards technical assistance and the funding of 52 projects.
But Ngiriye still believes that while businesswomen have come a long way since when she first started out, men’s perceptions about a woman’s ability to achieve their dreams have not changed at all.
“What [is currently] happening to these women is exactly what we lived through, which is lack of access to finance and technical assistance. I can say that after these past 27 years nothing has changed. Maybe they are a little bit lucky than I was to have a continent full of possibilities,” she said.
 In a bid to change the status quo in the women and financing, AfDB launched the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) in 2016 in Zambia, with the aim to mobilise $3 billion of new lending by banks and financial institutions for women in Africa. G7 leaders also approved a package totalling $251 million in support of AFAWA during the summit this August.
  • Since 2018, AfDB has partnered with Entreprenarium to train 1,000 female entrepreneurs on business development and financial management across the continent.
Kennedy Uzoka, the Group Managing Director for United Bank of Africa (UBA Group) echoed Adesina’s remarks, telling IPS that women should not be held back because they do not own property.
“Access to finance is a problem for everybody, but it is worse for women. Commercial banking in most jurisdictions want collateral and so right from the beginning, women are disadvantaged because they have no assets,” Uzoka said.
  • The continent has a $42 billion financing gap between men and women.
  • It is projected that closing the gender gap in Africa will boost the global economy by $28 trillion by 2025.
Josephine Anan-Ankomah, the Group Executive of Commercial Bank, which is part of the Ecobank Group, believes that technology can help bridge the financial divide between men and women.
  • The bank has a digital payment system called EcobankPay which also provides women who use this service with loans, even if their cash flow is inconsistent.
“We need to innovate and lend the woman against the cash flow that they are bringing and we must prepare to structure their facility such that it doesn’t have a fixed tenant base on what they earn,” she told IPS.
Rwanda’s First Lady Jeannette Kagame has championed for the country to be gender mindful. She told participants that women being disadvantaged must be a thing of the past, adding that policy makers must be deliberate in placing women and girls, at the heart of transformative strategies and decisions.
“It calls for each of us to play our role: Women and girls – we must organise and be each other’s keepers. Youth – you must be proactive in taking your life in your own hands and calling out inequality wherever it is perceived. You have what it takes to thrive, in this fast-changing world,” she said.
  • Rwanda already has the greatest ratio of gender representation in parliament in the world — with 61 % of its parliamentarians being women.
Kagame further called on partners and stakeholders  to be innovative and relentless in their commitments to invest in women and girls and to level the playing field for all.
During the summit, participants joined the rest of the world to honour the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. The 16 days kicks off on Nov. 25 each year, which marks International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and runs until December 10th.
Ethiopia’s President Zewde said that there would be no progress on the continent if girls were left behind.
“It’s time to move from rhetoric to action, from words to deeds. We have to have the humility to go back down the ladder to make a difference,” she said.
** Writing with Nalisha Adams in Johannesburg

Social Protection Necessary to Quickly End Poverty, Hunger

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury
KUALA LUMPUR and SYDNEY, Nov 26 2019 – Historically, most social security systems have developed in the formal sector of rich economies. However, most of the poor and hungry in the world live in rural areas, surviving in the informal economy.

Meanwhile, the world economy continues to struggle to recover following the 2008 financial crisis. Prospects remained bleak as many governments pursued fiscal austerity in the face of perceived financial market pressures.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Most developing countries continue to experience high underemployment, even if official unemployment rates remain low. With low commodity prices and escalating trade tensions, things are likely to get worse in the medium term.

Eliminating hunger and poverty
Even if long-term growth really lifts all boats, which there is no evidence for, it cannot eliminate hunger and poverty by 2030, especially as inequality mutes the impact of growth on poverty reduction. The struggle to escape poverty is slowed as growth is not inclusive.

Many non-poor households remain vulnerable to poverty as they face various shocks which cause them to fall into poverty. Such shocks typically have long-lasting negative impacts on the poor. However, with the requisite political commitment and fiscal resources, poverty and hunger can be reduced quickly with well-designed social protection.

The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) commits countries to “implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable”.

The Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) 2015 State of Food and Agriculture showed that social protection can not only quickly reduce hunger, extreme poverty and deprivation, but also economic and social risk as well as vulnerability. Having social protection in place also enables governments to better respond to crises.

Reducing vulnerability
Social protection should involve policies and programmes designed to reduce and prevent poverty and vulnerability. World Bank estimates suggest that social protection prevented 150 million people worldwide from falling into poverty in 2010, albeit unevenly.

Anis Chowdhury

Social protection can also enable investments by beneficiaries to enhance their own productive capacities, earned incomes, consumption, health, education, and wellbeing. Contrary to widespread popular prejudices, it does not reduce adult work effort and incomes, enabling children to work less, and to attend school instead.

Lack of social protection leaves people vulnerable to poverty, inequality and social exclusion, constituting a major obstacle to economic and social development. Higher incomes also boost demand in local economies, with desirable multiplier effects.

Social protection can ensure more and better food consumption, reducing food insecurity and seasonal hunger besides increasing dietary diversity. Improving food access and diets reduces the economic burden of undernutrition, improving living standards, productivity and incomes.

It also helps poor households better manage risk, reducing reliance on, and vulnerability to usury, clientelism and other exploitative arrangements. Gender-sensitivity in the design and delivery of social protection not only improves food security, but also empowers women.

Limited social protection
Social protection is a universal human right. But the International Labour Office’s (ILO) World Social Protection Report 2017-19 found only 45 per cent of the global population had at least one social benefit, while the remaining four billion people are totally unprotected.

Coverage gaps reflect underinvestment in social protection, particularly in African, Asian and Arab countries. The World Bank’s The State of Social Safety Nets 2014 reported that 345 million are covered, while 870 million of the extreme poor in the world are not covered at all.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest shortfalls are in low income countries, where 47 per cent of the population is extremely poor, less than a tenth of the population, or about one in five of the extremely poor, has some support.

In lower middle-income countries, 173 million (28 per cent) extreme poor are covered, but 479 million are not. In upper middle-income countries, 74 million (45 per cent) of the extreme poor get some support, while 93 million do not.

According to the World Bank’s World Development Report 2019, only 18 per cent of the poorest quintile in low-income countries gets social assistance, while two per cent have social insurance, with these rates rising to 77 and 28 per cent respectively in upper-middle-income countries.

Fiscal austerity has undermined social protection in recent times. Together with persistent unemployment, lower wages and fiscal austerity measures have contributed to increasing poverty, now affecting 86 million people in the European Union alone.

Efforts to induce private investments in recent decades have seen sharp declines in marginal tax rates as countries engage in harmful tax competition. This has also adversely affected governments’ abilities to maintain and extend social protection.

The Rome-based UN food agencies estimated how much it would cost to sustainably end hunger and poverty by 2030. The ILO’s costing estimates for 57 lower income countries imply that even the poorest countries can afford to extend some social protection to all their citizens.

While some countries have the fiscal space to quickly develop and extend social protection floors, others will have to gradually extend coverage and benefits. Most low income countries will need external budgetary support, at least initially.

Countries normally achieve universal coverage through a combination of contributory social insurance and tax-based social assistance. Countries can use the ILO Social Protection Floors Calculator to estimate the costs of child and orphan allowances, maternity benefits, disability and old-age pensions as well as public works programmes for those without jobs.

Enough social protection can quickly end hunger and poverty, but is not sustainable without higher earnings for the poor able to work. An early big push for pro-poor investments will generate such additional incomes earlier, reducing longer term financing costs.

Over three quarters of the world’s poor live in rural areas, where almost half the world’s population resides. Raising rural incomes sustainably is necessary to eliminate poverty and hunger.

Rising incomes should, in turn, increase investments, expediting exit from the vicious cycle of poverty, and eventually reducing the need for social protection.

Clearly, ending hunger and poverty sustainably is eminently viable, feasible and affordable. With sufficient political will and solidarity, we can end hunger and poverty quickly and permanently.

First ladies panel seeks urgent policies to translate Africa’s demographic dividend into viable potential

“What a man can do, a woman can do just as well,” Jeannette Kagame, First Lady of Rwanda

“History will judge us if we don’t work together to take action now,” Chief Executive Officer of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu

KIGALI, Rwanda, Nov 26 2019 (IPS-Partners)

“Investments in gender equality are critical to realizing demographic dividend, but we need to ensure that women have the tools to overcome the barriers they face,” First Lady of Rwanda, Jeannette Kagame told participants at a panel at the Global Gender Summit in Kigali on Monday.

The panel, made up of First Ladies Kagame, Margaret Kenyatta, ministers and development experts, observed that too many women and girls still face barriers to basic rights, particularly access to labour market opportunities.

Rwanda’s First Lady recalled the role women played following the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, where a number of families were wiped out, with women in many cases being the ones catering for families.

“What a man can do, a woman can do just as well,” she added.

She described the Summit as an important platform to highlight issues of women equality.

Rwanda has implemented gender several inclusive programs, which has enhanced economic equality in a country where women political participation has grown to 61% percent.

First Lady Kenyatta called for the removal of institutional barriers to accelerate women’s economic empowerment, “It has become urgent for Africa to translate its demographic dividend into viable potential.”

“This is the spirit of Africa’s vision to accelerate its path to sustainable socio-economic development. Our collective commitment to ‘leave no one behind’ is a new chapter in our struggle towards achieving gender equality.”

The panel heard that impediments to gender equality include lack of access to credit, low representation in decision making positions, lack of control over productive land and lack of financial control to make spending decisions on education and health.

Minister of Solidarity, Social Development, Equality and Family Jamila El Moussali of Morocco,
shared experiences from Morocco where policies have been introduced to increase women’s political and economic participation.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, called on stakeholders to come together to leverage each other’s strengths “translate women dreams into reality. History will judge us if we don’t work together to take action now.”

The African Development Bank and the government of Rwanda are hosting the Global Gender Summit from 25 to 27 November in Kigali. The Summit is being organised by the Multilateral Development Banks’ (MDBs) Working Group on gender for the first time in Africa.

Contact: Emeka Anuforo, Communication and External Relations Department, African Development Bank, email: a.anuforo@afdb.org

I am Generation Equality: Child Marriage Survivor & Activist

Fatmira Dajlani leads the “Roma Gateway for Integration” organization in Fushe Kruje, Albania . Credit: UN Women/Parllaku

By Fatima Dajlani
FUSHE KRUJE, Albania, Nov 26 2019 – — I am Generation Equality because…
I didn’t want other girls to go through the same struggles I experienced. I got married when I was 14 years old. I had no idea what marriage was.

Three things you can do to stop child marriage:

Promote girls’ education and inform young girls and their community about the consequences of child marriage.

Facilitate exchange experiences among girls from non-Roma communities and those from Roma communities

Join #GenerationEquality campaign by sharing stories like these with your friends and social media networks.

There was no wedding, no such thing as the white dress. It was just a room where I had to prove my virginity. I remember the first day of my marriage with a lot of pain. It happened 24 years ago, but I remember this to be the ugliest thing in my life. I was just a child, I thought that if I didn’t obey, I would humiliate my family and hurt their pride.

I started working in the Roma community because I wanted to change their mentality, about child marriage. I didn’t want other girls to go through the same struggles I experienced. [My own experience] has driven me to work with young girls, to motivate them to be independent.

I talk about this every day in the Roma community. I explain to girls what marriage is, what it entails, and what they will sign up for if they get married at an early age. I tell the girls that they should not get married if they don’t want to, even if their parents insist.

I am ready to protect each one of them if they don’t want to get married. There have been many cases in which girls have refused, and their parents have finally given up.

Education is the key

It is very urgent to work with and raise awareness among girls and their mothers to fight child marriage. If the mother doesn’t want to give her daughter for marriage, she will not be married off early.

But it is almost impossible to fight the mentality about child marriage among parents. They justify it as being part of our culture and traditions, but that is not true.

We should educate Roma girls, give them the chance to be independent. In the Roma community in Fushe Kruje, (a town 30 km from the capital of Albania) girls aren’t allowed to go to school after the sixth grade, because they are considered matured at this stage. There are around 300 Roma families in this community and only two girls have made it to high school and university.

Recently, a 12-year-old girl got married and broke up only two weeks after.

Joining forces to end child marriage

Today, Roma girls are more informed about child marriage and they have understood that they can say no to marriage and oppose their parents. But the parents are worried that if their daughters are not married before 18, no one will marry them.

While among boys, it is different.

They don’t get married before 18 anymore. It is important to work with them as well. We talk to boys about many social issues that the community faces, such as domestic abuse, the use of alcohol and gambling.

Fighting child marriage should be a joint effort. The more activists and institutions join the cause, the greater the change. We all have a lot of work ahead of us.

*This was originally published on Medium.com/@UN_Women

Cities need to pull their weight in using education to help migrants and refugees

PARIS, Nov 26 2019 (IPS-Partners)

A new policy paper by the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report at UNESCO, released ahead of the UNHCR Global Refugee Forum next month, shows the increasingly important role of cities using education of people on the move as a lever for their inclusion. It calls for international and non-governmental organisations to recognise cities as partners and for governments to clarify and support cities’ role in education.

People on the move tend to concentrate in urban areas, whether arriving from rural areas or across borders. Many living in cities are foreign born – from 46% in Toronto to 62% in Brussels, 83% in Dubai and 39% in Sydney. Those forcibly displaced also often end up in cities, with around 60% of the world’s refugees living in urban areas.

Manos Antoninis, Director of the GEM Report, said “Currently, many migrants in poorer countries end up in slums with limited access to a free education. In richer countries they are often segregated into schools in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Strong urban planning, inclusive learning environments and fighting discrimination are just some of the essential functions that cities can serve in addressing segregation. It’s a waste not to tap into this potential.”

The paper shows many cases of segregation happening in richer countries. In France, immigrants in 2007 were more likely to be in classes where 15% of students were immigrants. In Germany’s Hessen state, about 41% of children who did not speak German at home went to day-care centres where at least half the other children did not speak German either. In Turkey, housing market analysis indicated that natives moved out of neighbourhoods where Syrian refugees had settled.

Yet, the new paper, ‘Defending the right to the city for all’, shows that many cities, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, have no mandate and little financial support to tackle the issues. A review of Amman, Beirut, Tangier and Tunis, all with significant migrant or refugee population flows, showed they did not have any authority for delivering education services. A further review of 23 cities faced with migrant and displaced communities found that only 5 had a dedicated budget to support their efforts.

Cities that do have clear roles can make a huge difference in improving education access. Some are entirely or partly responsible for early childhood or primary education as in France, Italy and Germany and have the power to open access to people on the move. A few years ago, Turin in Italy decided not to apply a law requiring a residence permit to access education, spearheading a change in national policy. The city of Zurich in Switzerland provides an average of CHF 40,000 per year to schools with more than 40% of students with an immigrant background to help with language and reading skills.

Many cities help improve language skills, whether through online services as in Germany, or in language courses as in Italy with attached babysitting services so that migrant women can attend. Sao Paolo offers 600 places in municipal schools to learn Portuguese as a second language.

Links between schools and migrants are also prioritised. In Frankfurt, Germany, immigrant mothers and fathers attend their children’s classes in kindergarten and primary school twice a week; Linkoping in Sweden trains tutors with knowledge of Somali or Arabic to act as ‘link people’ for parents.

Cities also help fight discrimination with awareness campaigns, or by fostering exchanges between inhabitants. Valongo in Portugal created a Human Library project, called ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’, whereby people can be ‘borrowed’ as though they are a book to answer questions on a variety of topics. Oslo in Norway set up a community festival to encourage intercultural exchange, and Seoul in Korea had an annual Migrant World Film Festival for more than a decade.

The paper has recommendations for four main actors:

1. City governments must plan education in an inclusive and sustainable way, consulting with migrants and refugees in the planning phase, and ensuring that they can benefit from existing policy tools that promote inclusion in education.

2. National governments need to clarify cities’ role and promote networks between cities so they can learn from each other’s experiences and share scarce resources.

3. International organisations need to recognise cities as partners. They can also help develop cities’ technical and managerial skills…for instance by funding investments in professional education

4. Non-governmental organisations need to help ensure that the voices of migrants are heard when education services are designed and delivered in cities, and lobby for stronger coordination between local authorities and other national departments.

Businesses Have Key Role in Safeguarding Human Rights

By Peter Paul van de Wijs
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, Nov 26 2019 – Unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights are the authoritative global reference point articulating the responsibilities of companies to respect and protect human rights.

The UN Forum on Business and Human Rights meets this week in Geneva, where the theme is ‘governments as catalysts for business respect for human rights’. The Forum is an important opportunity to assess the progress nation states have made towards meeting their duty under the Guiding Principles, through the implementation of National Action Plans (NAPs) on Business and Human Rights.

The need for strengthened transparency

So, how are governments doing so far through their NAPs? An analysis by GRI – the international organization that helps governments and organizations understand and communicate their impacts – finds there is plenty of room for improvement.

We have reviewed the 23 NAPs produced by countries so far, which has identified that much more needs to be done by governments to help businesses understand, mitigate and improve their human rights impacts.

Strengthening transparency and reporting requirements is required, if governments are to stimulate the changes needed in business behavior. Our analysis found wide divergence in how countries set out expectations and provide support for businesses to effectively disclose and manage human rights risks.

Recommendations for change

GRI has singled out ten key recommendations, providing governments with practical advice on how their NAPs can use corporate reporting to improve their effectiveness.

While primarily aimed at governments drafting or updating their NAPs, these recommendations are also relevant to other stakeholders, including businesses, civil society, and research and national human rights institutions.

We identify that the NAPs need to:

    1. Require public reporting on human rights impacts based on internationally recognized standards;
    2. Clarify that companies should both disclose their human rights impacts and how they are managing them;
    3. Include concrete targets and timelines to increase human rights reporting;
    4. Use sustainability reporting data as part of a transparent monitoring process;
    5. Be inclusive of the reporting by all businesses, including SMEs and state-owned enterprises;
    6. Consider incentives for companies to increase and improve their reporting;
    7. Provide support to companies through awareness raising and capacity building;
    8. Include guidance that clearly explains reporting requirements;
    9. Foster collaborations and partnerships between the state, companies and civil society;
    10. And finally, clearly specify who is responsible for taking action.

Peter Paul van de Wijs

These recommendations are about ensuring governments and businesses are accountable for human rights impacts. That can only be possible when there is comprehensive understanding of what the current impacts are – information that can then inform changes that protect individuals against human rights abuses.

Improved accountability through reporting

When it comes to human rights, the old phrase ‘what you don’t know won’t hurt you’ could not be further from the truth. The reality is that understanding how businesses can contribute towards fulfilling the aims of the UN Guiding Principles is impossible without clarity on how individual companies are performing, from a sustainability standpoint.

And that’s why our number one recommendation to governments is to improve reporting through requiring the use of international disclosure frameworks based on a multi-stakeholder and independent standard-setting process.

Experience shows the duty of governments to protect human rights cannot be fully realized through voluntary guidelines or self-regulation by companies alone.

Globally relevant disclosure standards

The GRI Standards, the world’s most widely adopted sustainability reporting framework, provide a cornerstone for any company seeking to be transparent about their impacts – and human rights are an important thread throughout.

Human rights impacts are addressed through GRI’s universal Standards – which every organizations that reports through GRI must use – as well as topic-specific Standards on child labor, and forced or compulsory labor. Yet we’re not standing still.

GRI is currently carrying out a review to see how we can further improve the positioning of human rights, which may include the development of new Standards or disclosures. We do this through an inclusive and multi-stakeholder approach, taking on board views from all parties.

This will include input from policy makers, NGOs, UN and human rights organizations – and, of course, businesses themselves.

We need smart solutions

No single initiative by governments and businesses will be able provide the comprehensive monitoring, mitigation and protection of human rights that is required. What we need is a ‘smart mix’ of policy measures – voluntary and mandatory, national and international.

It’s only through concerted effort and collaboration that we will be able to ensure the improved human rights reporting that will ultimately underpin the success of the UN Guiding Principles. GRI, through our mission to drive up corporate transparency and accountability standards around the world, is determined to be a part of the solution.