The move by Ethiopia to increase female representation in Government is the latest indication of a global wave of awakening. An awakening to the reality that increased female participation for development is a must for any economy. 118 countries, at the 11th Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires last December, signed and endorsed a declaration to increase participation of women in trade.
The declaration provided for the removal of barriers in order to foster women’s economic empowerment.
When it comes to the growth of industry, it is apparent that women’s role in the value chain is invaluable. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that 70% of world trade is done through Global Value chains, making them critical in influencing trade, partnerships and growth opportunities. What we find is that women are highly engaged from the production to the after-sales stage.
Participation of women increases their agency as individuals in the economic development of any country. It also encourages the proliferation of other women into starting businesses or monetizing their talents. This would definitely be a whole lot easier to do if current hindrances to key success enablers – including advanced education, market knowledge, business linkages and access to finance, were diminished.
For instance, in the Agricultural sector, women make up about 43% of the labour force and are mostly involved in production. However, we are likely to find very few women in the post-production stages of the value chain.
According to the Gender and Value Chain report (2012) by GIZ, women who participate in value chains face the challenge of unequal access to resources. This manifests as exclusion from land rights and property, as well as limited access to finance and credit. These make it difficult for women to acquire the necessary assets for value chain involvement. Additionally, illiteracy and lower education levels result in lower skilled roles in value chains for women.
“This needs to change”
This needs to change. In line with the Big Four Agenda, providing business linkages for women-owned businesses in Kenya will not only contribute to creating employment opportunities and increasing GDP contribution, but will also allow them to achieve their economic potential in international trade. It will also empower Kenyan women to take more control of their positions in the value chain.
Women’s economic empowerment has demonstrated the ability to influence positive communal changes. These improvements include, increased income, improved self-reliance, better decision making and increased investment in children’s education, health and nutrition. The Woman Matter Report 2014 by McKinsey concurs. Women’s economic equality is good for business in any economy the world over.
We also need effective and sustainable policies that will improve and increase women’s access to property, finance, networks and modern technology. This is in order for them to easily progress in the value chain.
We laud the Kenyan Government’s efforts that seek to boost opportunities for women to grow economically. One such move is the passing of the Matrimonial Property Act 2013, which reinforced the equal rights enshrined in the constitution for both spouses when they own property together. Additionally, the Act provides that women can now buy and register land individually, inherit land from their parents and have an equal say in land that is bought and sold in their name.
In addition, the introduction of the National Credit Guarantee Scheme. It eases the current financial constraints experienced by SMEs, in order to encourage the growth and profitability of the businesses. This is another great step adopted by the Government to build women’s businesses.
However, the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of these progressive steps needs to be actualized for the effective growth of Kenyan women in the value chain.
The writer is a Board Director at the UN Global Compact and the Women In Manufacturing Steward for KAM. She can be reached at email@example.com