Businesswoman and activist Graça Machel says it’s a myth that African women have made progress in the world of business.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum on Africa 2015 in Cape Town on Thursday, Machel said she would spend the rest of her life fighting for economic equality for women.
“Let me begin by being a little irreverent. I don’t think there has been much progress in the economic advancement of women in Africa,” she said.
“We’ve made progress politically but not economically. There’s no single African country where we can say equal work, equal pay.”
She went on to say that African countries had formal and informal economies – and that women mostly worked in informal sectors, where they struggled to make ends meet and did not prosper.
The formal sectors – or “boardrooms” – were dominated by men, with the exception of a few token female faces, she said.
“I have been a political activist and we have made progress politically. But for the rest of my time, I want to focus on economic equality and to free women,” said Machel.
She was a speaker at a talk entitled Closing the Economic Equality Gap – How Can Increased Women’s Economic Participation Accelerate Sustainable Development?
The session was moderated by Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, director-general of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
According to Gornitzka, on a global scale, women earn 10% to 30% less than working men, and women spend twice as much time as men do on unpaid domestic work.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, was also a speaker at the conference and said: “In most places around the world, you cannot be racist with impunity. But with gender inequality, you can just do it and get away with it most of the time.”
To this, Machel said that it would take a long time for change to occur.
“It will take generations to change people’s attitudes on gender equality and society. We are still at the beginning of the journey,” she said