• Stock Exchanges around the world have united again this year to ‘Ring the Bell for Gender Equality’ in commemoration of the International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8 in an effort to raise awareness of the importance of gender equality in all spheres of life.

    On Thursday morning, Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE) joined Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) Initiative, UN Global Compact, IFC, UN Women, Women in ETFs and the World Federation of Stock Exchanges to ring their opening bell in support of gender parity and to highlight the business case for women’s economic empowerment, as well as opportunities for the private sector to advance gender equality and sustainable development.

    NSE becomes the first Exchange to start off the initiative that begun today and is expected to run until March 11, at Bursa, Malaysia. By the end of the series, it is expected that 35 Exchanges will have rung their opening or closing bells in support of gender parity.

    Speaking at the bell ringing ceremony at NSE offices in Westlands, Nairobi, Mrs Zebib Kavuma, UN Women Country Director, Kenya, noted with delight that the event was a historic day for Kenya as it was ringing the opening Bell for Gender Equality and leading several other Exchanges around the world.

    “Despite many years of promoting gender equality, inequalities among women and girls as well as men and boys continue to manifest in egregious ways around the world. Gender inequality is one of the most persistent human rights violations of our time. While there has been a lot of good progress, a lot still remains to be done if we are to achieve the ambitious targets under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

    This years’ IWD theme is ‘Planet 50-50 BY 2030: Step it up for Gender Equality’.

    Mrs Kavuma noted that this year’s celebration will be different as it will be marked in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals which were adopted by member states in September 2015. “A very significant aspect of the SDGs is that for the first time, we have a standalone goal on Gender Equality (Goal No 5). This is a great achievement for gender equality advocates and it reaffirms that Gender Equality is a prerequisite for the achievement of the future we want by 2030,” she said.

    Reiterating the importance of gender parity NSE Chairman Mr Eddy Njoroge said that gender equality is not only a key issue globally but has also been recognized locally, in the Constitution, which promotes gender equality both in the political and economic spheres. He added that ensuring the presence of more women on Boards and in senior management positions is a priority for the Exchange.

    Mrs Kavuma noted that the realization of the SDGs in the next 14 years requires the concerted efforts of all stakeholders, including the private sector which is a key driver of economic growth through innovation, capital formation, and productivity.

    She added: “current research demonstrates that gender diversity helps businesses perform better –this signals that self and common interests can come together and that gender equality is good for business.”

    Consequently, to bridge these gaps, there is a need for deliberate actions and policies. As a result, the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) comes in. WEPs provide a ready-made platform to mobilize corporate action and catalyze partnerships and collaborations that have the potential to deepen and accelerate impact in a bid to achieve the new SDGs set forth in the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

    Speaking during the bell ringing ceremony Mrs Kavuma applauded NSE for signing the Women Empowerment Principles (WEPs), urging other Listed Companies to join in. She further called for the implementation of the Principles in Kenya through specific action plans involving voluntarily reporting to stakeholders on achievements, future goals and partnerships for action in the realization of the recently unveiled SDGs. “Investing in women and girls, and enabling their full economic participation is important for business and society,” said the Country Director, UN Women Kenya.

    The series of events scheduled for the remaining Exchanges will range from standalone bell ceremonies to half-day educational programs on topics such as gender diversity on boards and management of listed companies, as well as women’s entrepreneurship in the market.

    Citing a 2015 report by African Development Bank, Mr Njoroge noted that the overall percentage of women board directors on the boards of Africa’s top listed companies stands at 12.7%. The research was carried in 12 African countries and out of 307 companies covered in the report with a total of 2,865 seats on their Boards of Directors, only 364 of them are held by women. He insisted on the need to rally women to take up leadership in such positions.

    “As we ring the bell today let us all join hands and put in place a deliberate strategy to promote equality at all levels of our society,” concluded Mr Njoroge.    

    Image Credit: NSE