By Edmund Kagire


PROMISING FUTURE; Rwandan Girls happily perform at a function. Rwanda has emerged second best country for girl child


KIGALI – Rwanda is the second African country, after Seychelles, where it is best to be born a girl, a new report by the Royal Commonwealth Society and Plan-UK, a British NGO, indicates.

The report, released on the Commonwealth Day (March 14) titled “Because You’re a Girl: Growing Up in the Commonwealth”, ranks Rwanda 10th among 54 Commonwealth countries ahead of countries, such as South Africa and Nigeria.

Seychelles lies at number four while Nigeria and Sierra Leone tie at number 50, making them the worst countries to be born a girl.

The report published in line with the 2011 Commonwealth Day theme, ‘Women as Agents of Change’, puts New Zealand as the best place to be born a girl, followed by Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The report looks at how well females are doing compared to men in their respective countries against eight major indicators reflecting various aspects of a girl’s life cycle, ranging from survival to achievement.

Country scores are graded on ‘A’ if they score above average, ‘B’ for average; and ‘C’ for below average.
Rwanda scored three ‘A’s for female political participation and for fertility rate of girls aged 15-19 years and the gender pay gap. It also holds the world record for the biggest percentage of female Members of Parliament, and as the first country with a female dominant parliament.

As a new member of the Commonwealth, the country never participated in Commonwealth scholarships or fellowships and scored a “C” in sports.

The report suggested that it was the political will – and not economic wealth – which is most important in advancing gender equality, highlighting poor countries that did relatively better than some rich countries.

“Rwanda (10th) Mozambique (21st), and Malawi (23rd) all score highly despite being among some of the poorest countries in the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth’s richest country, Brunei Darussalam, only manages a rank of 23rd,” it adds.

The Director of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Dr Danny Sriskandarajah says, “Our research shows that women and men are not living as equals in any Commonwealth country,”

“I hope Commonwealth leaders will use this year to show the political leadership that is needed to promote women as agents of change.” He adds.

The starkest evidence of gender inequality is revealed by the Pay Gap measure. Even in the best-performing countries, women earn only around four-fifths of male income on average. In New Zealand, women earn only around 72 per cent of the average income.

According to Marie Staunton, Chief Executive of Plan UK, the research shows that in Commonwealth countries that have shown bold political will, there had been great progress towards realising girls’ rights and lifting them out of poverty.

“But much more needs to be done. Globally, 75 million girls remain out of school and robbed of a fulfilling future. Often undervalued and neglected, and held back by their gender and age, girls are prevented from contributing to the societies in which they live. This holds us all back,” she adds.

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