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Gender  has  proved to be a key element in influencing decision making among other key things. Based on this, world organisations like the United Nations and Oxfam International have pushed forward the agenda of women emancipation across the world. Women emancipation has stretched out from the areas of service provision and delivery in public sector to the private sector with women serving in various capacities and heavily getting involved in economic production.

  • For the past ten years stretching from 2007 to 2017, Rwanda has dominated other regional states regarding the proportion of seats held by the women in national parliaments. With 61.3% seats in the national parliament belonging to women, Rwanda in 2017 ranked highest in the COMESA region while Comoros ranked lowest with 6.1% of the seats held by women. 
  • Ethiopia with 38.8%, Uganda with 34.3%, Burundi with 36.4and Sudan 30.5% had a fair representation in the region. However, there was a 0.31% increase in the proportion of seats held by females in the national parliament in the year 2017 compared to 2016. 

Countries in Sub Saharan Africa currently have high fertility rates coupled with a high level of adolescent birth rate. Fast rising population growth rate in COMESA Member States is one other challenge that is looming and hindering development in some Member States.  High fertility rates among women coupled with increasing cases of adolescent child births have contributed the fast rising population of children below 20 years and consequently increased dependency burden.

  • Adolescent fertility rate (births per 1000 women in the age 15-19 years) ranked highest in the year 2015 in Malawi with 144.82 births for every 1000 women aged between 15 and 19 years, Democratic Republic of Congo with 135.30 births and Uganda at 126.65 births.
  • Libya ranked lowest with 2.52 births and this is attributed to the unstable political environment in the country.

Women participation in agriculture over the years has been improving as the demand for food to sustain households keeps on increasing. For instance,

  • Comoros(50%) Rwanda(48%), Burundi(46%), Malawi(44%) and Djibouti(44%) had the highest number of females engaged in agricultural production as a percentage of the total number of females that were active in agriculture in 2017.
  • Other Member States in COMESA had a combined 87% as a percentage of the total females that were active in agriculture in 2017.

Another important issue regarding gender has been that of women labour participation rate in a country. Recent developments have shown that women offer extensive labour services to different sectors of the economy ranging from the public service to the private sector. Women share in the total labour force was 2% higher in 2016 than it was 10 years ago in 2006. 5 out of the 19 COMESA Member States had over 80% share of the total labour force for women with Egypt and Libya having the least share of women in the total labour force.

To achieve the development targets of COMESA, Member countries have to pay attention to issues related to gender and in particular enhancing on the capacity of women in all in areas from knowledge acquisition and production capacity to service delivery. This is because women have proved to play a significant role in social and economic development. 

  • Enhancing women capacity and promoting women emancipation ensures that COMESA is in line with the MDG goal 3 that states,"Promote gender equality and empower women" and SDG 4 that states,"Gender Equality". All countries in COMESA region have adopted at least one or two or more policy reforms in this line. 
  • Member states have opened up fully for women participation in politics as evidenced by the increased number of women member of parliament if these countries.
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