Rwanda rings the bell to highlight business case for gender equality in the private sector.
In commemoration of the 2023 International Women’s Day under the theme, DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”, UN Women Rwanda teamed up with Rwanda Stock Exchange, International Finance Corporation, Sustainable Stock Exchanges Initiative, UN Global Compact, and the World Federation of Exchanges for the seventh year to co-organize a ‘Ring the Bell’ event for gender equality in Rwanda, joining more than 118 global exchanges around the world to demonstrate support for women’s rights and gender equality. The Ring The Bell for Gender Equality ceremony aims to bring attention to the pivotal role the private sector can play in advancing gender equality to achieve sustainable development goals.
The occasion brought together different players in the financial sector, entrepreneurs, regulators, students to discuss the role and opportunities for the private sector to advance gender equality and sustainable development.
Opening the event, Mr. Pierre Celestin Rwabukumbi, Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Stock Exchange stressed the role of stock markets around the world can and must play in advancing gender equality and stated that Rwanda Stock Exchange was the third exchange on the African continent to join the United Nations Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) more concretely to promote and support the implementation of SDGs. “We have been a part of this fraternity over the years and we’re leading the pack. Today ‘s official Ringing the Bell for gender equality is a testimony of our exchange’s unwavering commitment and support to the Sustainable Development Agenda, as it is embedded in our Exchange’s DNA. As an exchange we shall continue in this direction in the years to come and lead the way to make sure that gender equality does not fade away with the sounds of this bell. We shall make sure it becomes the norm; Mr. Rwabukumbi affirmed.” He said.
Rwanda stock exchange and many businesses have demonstrated efforts to give women more opportunities and leadership in the private sector. However, while the private sector currently employs 94 per cent of the labor force in Rwanda as per official statistics, the number of women is still low, especially in technical fields which normally pay more wages. As of 2022, women’s participation in mining stood at 9 per cent, transport and storage at 3 per cent and at 17 per cent in construction. Women occupy only 32 per cent of decision-making positions in the private sector and only 33 per cent of business enterprises are owned by women, most of whom own micro and small business enterprises.
Speaking on behalf of the UN Women Rwanda Country Representative, Tikikel Tadele Alemu commended the Government of Rwanda’s efforts to recognize the gender digital divide and adopt various commitments and initiatives that promote women and girls’ role in the digital economy, making Rwanda a shining example to many countries. “Currently, Rwanda is globally among the three countries that have become commitment co-leads under the Generation Equality Campaign Action Coalition on innovation and technology,” She added. However, Ms. Alemu recalled persisting barriers to women and girls’ access and opportunities to technology and innovations. She underlined the importance of a paradigm shift to urgently scale up and accelerate partnerships to implement Rwanda’s commitments to close the gender digital divide.
Ms. Alemu further called upon the private sector and stock exchange stakeholders to sign and adopt the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs). The principles aim to address gender-related barriers in businesses while catalyzing entrepreneurship including in tech and innovation fields, develop new products, such as sustainability-linked bonds with gender criteria and gender bonds, that can help advance gender equality, among others. She reaffirmed UN Women’s commitment to the collaboration with Rwanda Stock Exchange and other relevant partners including Ministry of ICT, Ministry of Education, women in innovation and science fields, CSOs, tech institutions and innovation labs for a digitally equal Rwanda.
IFC Representative, Patience Rukundo Ingabire appreciated IFC’s partnership with the Rwanda Stock Exchange and UN Women in raising gender equality as Stock Exchanges are uniquely positioned to influence their home markets in a way few other actors can. She stated that the theme of the event aligns with the commitments of IFC to support companies to address digital barriers by enhancing women’s access to digital technologies and economic opportunities.
Participants had an opportunity to observe a mock trading which showed women’s role in stock exchange markets in Rwanda. UN Women Rwanda, as a key partner, took the opportunity to ring the bell to announce the opening of the market and the call for a digitally equal Rwanda in line with the theme of the IWD celebrations.
The event culminated in a fireside chat with two inspirational women leaders, Managing Director of Ecobank, Ms. Carine Umutoni and innovator Ms. Tadhim Uwizeye, CEO of Olado Rwanda. The two shared their career journeys as young women leaders in digital innovation and finance spheres and advice to inspire young women and girls in the room. They both stressed the importance of focus, personal life goals, perseverance, hard work, mentorship and networking as key steps in the journey to success.
At the conclusion of the fireside chat, Mr. Rwabukumbi, CEO of Rwanda Stock Exchange officially awarded the “Outstanding Woman Achiever in the Finance Sector” prize to Ms Carine Umutoni, the CEO of Ecobank Rwanda. He announced the prize as the Stock Exchange’s annual flagship to recognize women’s contribution to the development of the financial market industry in Rwanda.