Education gaps widening labour force’s gender inequality – Capital Radio Malawi
23 May, 2024

Education gaps widening labour force’s gender inequality

The recent global gender report released at the World Economic Forum indicates that progress has stalled in some countries especially in Sub-Saharan on dealing with existing gender gaps.

It says the overall gender gap in Sub-Saharan Africa is 32.7%, as only 67.2% of the gap has been closed so far –with progress seemingly stalled, even slightly reversed, such that it will take 121.7 years to close the gender gap.

Of the 35 economies in this region including Malawi, only Namibia Mozambique and Rwanda have closed at least 80% of their gaps –according to the report.

The critical sector, for this region, according to the report is Educational Attainment, as Sub-Saharan Africa lags behind the other regions, with only 84.5% of this gap closed to date.

Even at basic levels of education, gender gaps persist in Malawi according to this report which observes gaps in 18 of the 35 Sub-Saharan African countries.

For instance, the 2022 Education statistics report –signed by Malawi Education minister Agness Nyalonje is depicting existing gender gaps on both primary and secondary completion rates.

Among others, the report shows primary Education completion rate at 55 percent in 2022 while the gap worsens further to 17.9percent for Secondary.

Reads the report in part: Primary Completion Rate is an established measure of the outcomes of an education system. It has been specified as one of the two major education indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is calculated by dividing the total number of new entrants in the last grade of primary school by the population of official age in the last grade.

“Completion rate is an established measure of the outcomes of an education system. It is calculated by dividing the total number of new entrants in the last grade of secondary school by the population of official age in the last grade. A high ratio indicates a high degree of current secondary education outputs.”

For instance, despite having a high number of girls at 300,000 enrolling for standard 1 on average, the majority dropout for various reasons such that only 40,000 complete secondary education.

Meanwhile, the report has confirmed gender imbalances as measured by Gender Parity Index –GPI which is favouring male students especially at secondary school level.

“GPI is an important indicator of balanced programs to boost enrolment and participation in education across gender. The GPI is the ratio of female to male students for all levels. A GPI equal to 1 indicates parity between females and males.

“The results show that only in form 1 was gender parity achieved. The rest of the forms and eventually the total GPI shows there were more boys relative to girls enrolled in the secondary schools,” reads the report in part.

Chief Gender and Development Officer at Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare –Fred Simwaka is attributing cultural issues to the current situation.

“Normally culture is very strong and we believe in putting men in front so these things of culture are very difficult for you to rise within a short period of time. Even our colleague in Europe who started gender issues long time ago, up to now they are still struggling.

You can imagine even America which is one of the democratic countries and very much advanced in gender this time around is when they have first ever female Vice President in their history,” he said.

One of the sectors which are seemingly male dominated is law where female practitioners are way below males in numbers –according to a recent Malawi Law Society’s list of registered members available at its website.

Maggie Kathewera Banda, Executive Director of Women’s Legal and Resource Centre –WOLREC confirmed the situation in an interview.

However, Kathewera says although there is such gender imbalances in the profession, there are male lawyers who are more devoted in helping her organisation dealing with gender cases.

“Yes if you look at statistics there are more male lawyers than female lawyers but that does not mean that some male lawyers cannot be able to handle cases and of course the ideal situation would be to have equal representation.

“There are several projects that we are doing where we are promoting girls right under what we call legal rights education where we mobilise community members so that they will understand what the laws are saying,” She said.

Nevertheless, gender minister Patricia Kaliati believes promoting girl child education is critical in reducing existing gaps to improve inclusiveness that would increase women contribution towards Malawi 2063 agenda.

According to 2022 Education statistics reports, 15.8percent of girls’ dropouts at secondary level are due to pregnancy related issues.

This contribute to the gender gaps in labour market where women’s representation in senior positions remain very low –according to world economic forum’s global gender report.

The report further states that the median level of women in senior roles is 33%, and while there are four economies where there are almost as many women as men in senior positions, there are another three economies in Malawi, Gambia and Mali where women are only 15.6% to 17.5% of the senior officials, which means that over 80% of the gender gap has yet to be closed.

Currently, implementation of the Malawi 2063, a national development agenda targeting economic growth has started this year.

Among others, the blue print highlights the need for inclusiveness on economic activity to ensure women and girls participation in productive sector.

This story was produced with support from the Women in News Gender Balance reporting Initiative

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