Gender rank and ordinary women

By the time you read this Lesotho’s national budget for 2012/13 would have been announced.

A look at where women stand will build a background against which the budget can be analysed when full details emerge.

The latest gender rankings from the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report for 2011 shed some light on Lesotho’s situation.

Even though Lesotho slipped one place to No. Nine from the No. Eight spot in 2010, its still good news all round.

The top three grouping is unchanged from 2010, with Iceland in first position, followed by Norway and Finland in third place.

A closer look at Lesotho’s scores shows that the country is still doing extremely well in closing the gap between men and women’s access to critical resources.

In the four categories measured, Educational Attainment and Health and Survival Lesotho’s perfect scores of One and 0.9796 were unchanged from the previous year.

Where the country slipped slightly was in the Political Empowerment category (0.2128 from 0.2130 in 2010) and Economic Participation and Opportunity (0.8740 from 0.8789 in 2010).

Lesotho retains the top position in the sub-Saharan cluster followed by South Africa, Burundi (a new entrant), Mozambique and Uganda to make up the top five.

But what does this all mean for the woman on the street?

I remember last year, Lesotho’s high ranking generated some debate on this issue.

It’s important to note that the report measures the access that women have to certain resources such as education, health, economic opportunities and political involvement.

What the report doesn’t do is to measure the level of such resources.

So basically the rankings are independent of the country’s level of development.

As the report states, on educational attainment for example, countries are penalised or rewarded for their male and female enrolment rates and not for the levels of education available.

What this means for women is that there are now fewer impediments stopping them from accessing some of the resources or opportunities.

The average woman has the choice to register a company and try their hand at entrepreneurship or to apply for a tertiary qualification and make a go at that.

However the challenge comes in because the level of resources certainly plays a role in determining the quality of life a woman has.

Not every young woman who wants a job is able to find one.

This is despite Lesotho having achieved equality in this area with a 1.08 ratio of female to male legislators, senior officials and managers.

I believe the access to resources and their levels go hand in hand and this is where the national budget comes in, to direct resources in a way that creates a conducive environment for both men and women.

I am of the view that it’s each woman’s choices and actions which play the greatest role in shaping her life.

Has one exhausted all possible avenues within the existing economic framework or there are still some unexplored possibilities?

Why do some women succeed under the same conditions while others fail?

I am aware that a lot still needs to be done to facilitate women’s full participation in the economy especially at the entrepreneurial level but life must go on.

The effects of such initiatives can only be seen in the medium to long-term but during that time a woman has to use all the resources at her disposal — however small in global terms — to change her life.

Yes, the ranking is relevant to ordinary women.

Not only as a form of inspiration that the country is doing something right but as a real indicator of the ordinary women who make up the numbers which constitute the ratios measured.

Even though the rankings must be looked at within the context of other factors, this shouldn’t detract from the gains that Lesotho has made in closing the gender gap.

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