International Women’s Day 2019

On International Women’s Day 2019, CWEIC turns its attentions to the next host of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and Business Forum: Rwanda.

Rwanda’s exceptional track record over the past twenty years with regards to its efforts in pursuit of greater gender equality has received increasing attention in recent years, and with good reason; 61.2% of Rwandan Members of Parliament are women, and it is ranked fourth globally in political empowerment of women by the World Economic Forum. It is ranked sixth globally, and first in Africa, in the WEF’s pay equality analysis, with the vast majority of Rwandan women participating in the labour force.

Women occupy a significant share of leading roles in Rwanda, in both the public and private sectors; heading the Ministry of Trade and Industry, serving as Permanent Representative to the United Nations, and acting as CEO of the Rwanda Development Board among a host of other high-profile and influential positions, the voices of women are heard.

We should take pride in the achievements that have been made throughout the Commonwealth, not just in Rwanda; from New Zealand being the first country to pass women’s suffrage in 1893, to Sri Lanka electing Sirimavo Bandaranaike as the world’s first female head of state in 1960, and Canada’s 2017 Feminist International Assistance Policy, which provides financial support to programmes empowering women and girls in developing countries the world over.

Gender inequality is a global issue, and failure to address it affects all of us; the World Bank Group has estimated that global wealth would increase by a total of US $160 trillion if women had the same lifetime earnings as men. This is no simple matter; reducing inequality means not only passing laws against discrimination, but ensuring better and fairer provision of education, accessible and affordable healthcare, and improved infrastructure.

These are issues we look forward to addressing at the 2020 Commonwealth Business Forum in Kigali, where we will bring together leaders in business and government from around the Commonwealth to find ways for private enterprise and trade to bring about effective change and make equality a priority across all continents and industries.