Tackling the costs of gender inequality to Africa's development

Nov 26, 2010

A young businesswoman in suit with her baby strapped to her
back walks on the street in Nairobi, Kenya.
(Photo: UNDP/Stefanie Leigh Plant)
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has teamed up with the African Institute for Economic Development to launch a major programme aimed at boosting policies that deliver equally to low-income women and men in countries across Africa.

The ‘Global Gender and Economic Policy Management Initiative-Africa’, known as GEPMI-Africa, targets government officials, development practitioners, civil society organizations and research institutes to help countries promote gender-responsive policies in specific areas such as health, education and labour.

The initiative was born from evidence showing that investing in gender equality – such as increasing women’s access to healthcare, employment and credit – can accelerate countries’ economic growth and reduce poverty.

In addition, cutbacks in public health expenditures can lead to increased unpaid and unrecognized care work for women at home. As a result, families often take their daughters out of school to share the burden of unpaid care work at home.

“Economic development approaches are actually gender blind,” said Tegegnework Gettu, UN Assistant Secretary General and Director of UNDP's Bureau for Africa, at the launch event during the 5th African Economic Conference, held on 27 October in Tunis, Tunisia. “They fail to take into consideration the division of labour between men and women in the private and public spheres, and their access to and control over economic assets and opportunities,“ he said.

The programme includes the first Master of Arts in Gender-Aware Economics, as well as tailored advisory services designed to help countries promote gender-responsive policies in areas such as health, education and labour. The Masters programme is offered in English.

The Master’s curriculum, which enrolled its first students at Uganda’s Makerere University in October, includes a three-week course on ‘Gender-Responsive Economic Policy Management’ is targeted towards middle level government policy makers, parliamentary staff, civil society organizations and other national stakeholders.

Another 12-module course, offered in French, is being delivered by the UN African Institute for Economic Development in Dakar, Senegal. One course, for example, looks at the consequences of unpaid care work, or domestic work, which is often undervalued and limits women’s and girl’s opportunities to earn money, attend school and, ultimately, escape poverty.

A global initiative, GEPMI is currently being implemented in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and is expected to expand to other regions soon.

"This initiative will contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by making economic policies and poverty reduction plans respond to women's and men's, and boys’ and girls’, specific constraints, options, incentives and needs," said Winnie Byanyima, UNDP’s Gender Team Director.

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