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Let us invest in girls for brighter future

BY TATIANA ELLIS
EVERY year on March 8 the world congregates to celebrate International Women’s Day. This year’s women’s day theme, “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”, impressed on the significance of gender unity, gender peace, and gender balance for sustainable global socio-economic development. Now that the flattering annual women’s celebratios are five months behind us, women are again confronted by their harsh realities. To give context to these realities, below are eight enlightening statistical findings on women and girls.

According to statisticstimes.com, there are 3,095 billion females in the world, making up 49,58% of the global population.

In its index of 156 countries, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021 established that women globally earn around 37% less than men in similar roles.

The International Labour Organisation established that the global labour force participation rate for women is just under 47% against 72% for men – a difference of 25 percentage points.

Based on the 2021 Global Gender Gap’s current trajectory, women are 267 years away from gender parity in the area of economic participation and opportunity, including equal pay.

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), women invest a higher proportion of their earnings in their families and communities than men.  This is why women’s economic participation speeds up development, helps overcome poverty, reduces inequalities, and improves children’s nutrition, health, and school attendance.

UN Women established that one in three women worldwide experiences physical or emotional violence, and less than 10% seek assistance from law enforcement.

Unesco estimates that 130 million girls between the age of six and 17 are out of school, and 15 million girls of primary-school age will never enter a classroom – half of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

Lastly, globally, women hold just 24% of senior leadership positions, according to the Institute of Women’s Leadership.

The above findings give a condensed analysis of the global environment that confronts women, and the journey that lies ahead – 267 years to gender parity, at the current trajectory.  At this rate, there is no better time to invest in women and girls than now.

Education, skills development, and the promotion of an equal opportunities environment for all are the bedrock of gender equality and sustainable development in the world. To give a Zimbabwean context to these interventions, Higher Life Foundation, which was co-founded by Zimbabwean-born philanthropist Tsitsi and Strive Masiyiwa has given education assistance to over 300 000 Zimbabweans to date, girls included. This human capital investment has an inter-generational and sustainable socio-economic impact.

With the role that women play in alleviating poverty, it is everyone’s challenge to uplift the girl child for a brighter future. Women are at the core of the developmental ecosystems of society. The promotion of women’s employment participation, leadership, and entrepreneurship will add billions of dollars to the global economy. This is why billionaire philanthropist Melinda French Gates said, “Centering our global economic recovery around women is essential to achieving gender equality”.

A popular adage by the Ghanaian academic James Emman Aggrey said: “If you educate a man, you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a whole nation.”  This is why we must all ensure that the 130 million girls, who are out of school are immediately given a chance at education, without discriminating against boys, who are also out of school. Yes, it begins with you and me.

In his article to commemorate the 2018 International Women’s Day, the former World Bank president Jim Yong Kim said: “A World Bank study found that every year of secondary school education is correlated with an 18% increase in a girl’s future earning power. And research shows that educating girls has a multiplier effect”. Informed by the above, and inspired by the prospects of a gender-balanced society and its socio-economic gains, it is my plea to corporate leaders, national leaders, and global leaders to break the glass ceiling by educating the girl child, and giving equal employment and salary opportunities to women.

Beyond the incidental women’s day celebrations every March, let us amplify our sustainable investments in women and girls every day for a brighter future for all.

  • Ellis is the chief operating officer at West Properties, businesswoman and a girl child advocate

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