Lesotho scored highest in Sub-Saharan Africa and 14th out of 135 countries globally for closing the gender gap and empowering women in areas of education, health, economic participation and politics, according to a report in Forbes.com.
South Africa was the second-best performing country in the region, ranking 16th out of 135 countries, according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2012. The report was introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 as a framework for tracking changes in the size and scope of gender-based disparities, according to its website.
South Africa ranked No. 1 in the region for political empowerment of women based on female leaders in political office. Chad scored lowest in the region, 133rd out of 135 countries, and was the lowest performing country for education, the report said.
Over time, a nation’s competitiveness depends significantly on whether and how it develops and uses female talent, says Elsie S. Kanza, Head of Africa at the World Economic Forum, in an interview with Forbes.com. Kanza is considered one of the leading females emerging from Africa, the report says.
Lesotho is a landlocked country of about 11,500 square miles surrounded by South Africa with a population of about 2 million. It’s the only country in the region that has closed the gender gap, achieving equality in both education and health, Kanza said.
“The report also tells us that African women are reasonably well empowered economically (ranking third out of six regions), but are still being failed by the region’s education systems,” she said in the interview.
Of 20 Sub-Saharan countries, six top the world in female representation in government, the report said. Rwanda has 56 percent of seats in parliament held by women.
“Increased participation of women leaders is great news,” Kanza said. “The challenge is to… harness progress in the political sphere to generate economic gains. This could include, for example, empowering women farmers, as well as increasing the consumption power of women.”