Transforming social and gender norms

April 13, 2021

Mr. Maxwell Gomera handing over a certificate to Ms. Kampeta Sayinzoga, the CEO of Banque Rwandaise de Dévelopement(BRD)

A speech by Maxwell Gomera, UNDP Resident Representative in Rwanda, on the occasion of Gender Equality Seal Recognition event, on 20 March 2021

*Recognized companies include Bank of Kigali, Development Bank of Rwanda, Mata Tea Company, MTN Rwanda, Nyabihu Potato Company, Rwanda Energy Group, Rwanda Interlink Transport Company (RITCO) and Wolfram Mining and Processing Company.

Last night, my daughter was surprised when I asked her what to say to you about advancing gender equality. I was to find out that she was surprised, not by the fact of me consulting her, but that I could not pick from any number of starting points she thought available on achieving gender equality. 

‘The gender equality bar is too low, dad.’ She said. ‘The current starting point is: let’s have equal rights for women!’ 

‘I cannot believe that in 2021, equal rights for women is an actual position that I or anyone has to take.’ She went on. 

Women are demanding more rights than men. No.

Women are not even demanding superior rights to men. They just want equal opportunity and access… that should not be a controversial statement!’

‘Like one person says, hey let’s have equal rights for women and another says, no! I disagree!’

This conversation with my daughter represents the state of our world today and an indictment of our generation. 

How is it that in 2021, we have not quite settled the issue of equal rights and equal opportunity for men and women?

The ideas about what it means to be a man or a woman, a boy or a girl, a mother or a father, need to be reassessed and redefined for gender equality to move forward.

That is why today we are celebrating these ten Champions.

We look forward to accompanying you in your journey towards achieving gender equality in the workplace.

The companies we are celebrating today have taken the bold step of recognising the value of gender equality in business and are committing to eliminate all forms of gender-based inequality and discrimination.

I congratulate you and I strongly believe your decisions today will make a positive impact on your company’s productivity, profitability and market share. 

Let me also express my sincere gratitude to the Gender Monitoring Office (GMO) and the Private Sector Federation for championing this cause and helping unleash the incredible power in women and girls. The National Strategy for transformation (NST1) has put the private sector at the center of economic transformation. It is difficult to see how that can be achieved without the incredible power and resourcefulness that women and girls can bring.

As you move forward in this journey, please consider UNDP an ally. At UNDP we rolled out globally the Gender equality seal for both the public and the private sector as a mechanism tackling gender inequalities at the workplace with a focus on key six dimensions: eliminating gender pay gap, increasing women’s roles in decision-making, enhancing work-life balance, enhancing women’s/men’s access to non-traditional jobs, eradicating sexual harassment at work and using inclusive, non-sexist communication.

It is a work that is bearing fruit.

I would like therefore to invite companies both public and private, which have not yet adopted mechanisms for gender accountability at the workplace to adopt them.

A few years ago, someone said to me social order is negotiated order. Through the stories that we tell, we are constantly negotiating our order and reality. We are shaping our world view and reality. 

The challenge for my daughter will remain until we improve the stories that shape the social position of women and girls. In order to advance equality, we need sustained efforts to first improve the social position of women and girls.

So today, I will leave you with three challenges to reflect on:

1.    First, the gaping hole where fathers should be in the domestic sphere has consequences for women. We need men to be champions at the household level and to tell new and different stories about the role and potential of their girl children. As individuals, local influential people and institutions that hold power to influence change in the lives of women and girls, what can you do to ensure that from an early age, boys understand that it’s OK to do the dishes, it’s OK to cook, its ok to show emotion?

2.    Second, it seems to me addressing the gender equality change also requires that men are as likely to take time off to look after children as women; Looking after children is not an unproductive labour. Is it time for both parents to see child rearing as a joint venture?

3.    Third, how do we make the work-place more child friendly? We have emerging examples from Rwanda. A few weeks ago, I learnt from a Champion whose work I most admire, the CEO of BRD Kampeta Sayinzoga, that her new offices include space for child playgrounds. That is not cosmetic undertaking. A 2015 report found 54,000 new mothers lose their jobs across Britain every year. While the gender pay gap is small among young women, it widens dramatically as women hit their child-rearing years and still stands at 18.4% for all full- and part-time workers. 

Murakoze Cyane(Thank you very much)!

Read more about the recognition event: Private firms urged to sign up for gender equality seal program