Break biases in the labour market

Author, Audrine Bakarobwa Opiyo. PHOTO/COURTESY/FILE

What you need to know:

  • And like Mary Kom, an Indian amateur boxer turned politician and now a Member of Parliament said, “Don’t let anyone tell you you’re weak because you’re a woman.”

The phrase gender equality is becoming synonymous with Women’s Day because more needs to be done to realise a gender equal world.  Therefore, we come together again, under the theme “Gender Equality Today For Sustainable Growth Tomorrow”, to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness against bias and advocate more reforms geared towards equality of the genders. 

Achieving gender equality is impossible without breaking biases and stereotypes. We can break biases and challenge stereotypes by dropping labels and discriminatory practices, and instead embrace and accept diversity, equitability, and inclusiveness. 

Phiona Kiberu, a driver of heavy goods vehicles, has broken the stereotype about driving being a man’s job, particularly when it comes to heavy goods vehicles. 

In the spirit of breaking the bias, Phiona, the 43-year-old mother of two with over 13 years’ experience in professional driving, says: “I have always challenged myself to do what is considered a man’s job and most especially driving. I was the first woman to drive Uber in Uganda and have worked in the tourism industry.  

My ultimate dream has always been to drive a heavy goods vehicle, and this dream came true for me.” I hope that this inspires young girls and women out there to know that they can be whatever they want to be even if it is something in a field dominated by men,” Phiona adds. 

Building, metal fabrication, surgery, mechanics, butchery and being a grip (operating and maintaining cameras) are some of the fields considered to be men’s. By going along with that stereotype, employers leave out more than half of the population while recruiting. It is not efficient, fair or progressive, and negatively impacts sustainable growth by excluding women, who are known to have a greater impact on household economics than men.  

When qualified women are not employed in professions heavily dominated by men – they are at a risk of being underemployed and worse, unemployed. This can result in reductions of economic output, erosion of purchasing power and limited growth of family incomes, which in turn often leads to high poverty rates.

Gender equality in the labour market has improved because of changes in society and legislation towards women in the labour force, however, gaps remain between women and men when it comes to income and wage rates and participation in the labour market.

The European Institute for Gender Equality’s study about the impacts of reducing gender inequalities in different areas from a macroeconomic perspective affirms this. The study considered the demographic changes that would take place if gender gaps are reduced and a more equal distribution of unpaid care work between women and men is achieved.

The results show that improved gender equality would have a positive effect on GDP per capita.  There is, therefore, a need to improve the employment situation in Uganda, with an emphasis on improving gender equality in the labour market.  

The GIZ Employment and Skills for Development in Africa (E4D) programme with funding from the German and Norwegian governments and the European Union is contributing to these efforts.

To break the bias, the programme activities have indicators to drive enrolment of women in various trainings most of which are in sectors professionally dominated by men. As a result, the programme has enabled women to train as drivers of heavy goods vehicles, metal fabricators, pipefitters, riggers, scaffolders and plumbers, among others. 

The Uganda National Household Survey 2019/2020 on the employment status makes a case for such female centered interventions. According to the survey, analysis by sex showed that whereas most of the males (46 percent) were employees, majority of the females (47 percent) were independent workers without employees.

These independent workers usually describe themselves as businesswomen and with some help can grow their enterprises to a level at which they employ others.  The benefits of such interventions are twofold; they contribute to creating gender equity while reducing unemployment rates which will lead to a sustainable future and an equal future. 

To all the women out there, is it construction, farming, accounting, medicine, academics or sports that you want to pursue? Go for it! And like Mary Kom, an Indian amateur boxer turned politician and now a Member of Parliament said, “Don’t let anyone tell you you’re weak because you’re a woman.” 

Ms Audrine Bakarobwa Opiyo is the gender focal person at the GIZ Employment and Skills for Development in Africa (E4D) Uganda programme.