Shirley Randell AO has had a fascinating and eminent career in developing countries across the globe. She is world renowned for her work with women in Rwanda after the genocide, in particular in educating and enabling their rise to political leadership roles.
Rwanda is the leading country on women’s empowerment in the world, with women comprising 64 percent of Parliamentarians, 50 percent of female judges in the Supreme Court and over one-third women in other decision-making positions.
Shirley has been invited to participate in the next African Development Bank (AfDB) Global Gender Summit sponsored also by the Republic of Rwanda and taking place 25–27 November 2019, at the Kigali Convention Centre, in Rwanda. The summit is organized by the AfDB with other multilateral development bank partners. The biennial event brings together leaders from government, development institutions, private sector, civil society and academia.
With the theme “Unpacking constraints to gender equality”, the summit will consider three dimensions in which gender equality and women’s empowerment can be achieved:
- scaling up innovative financing;
- enabling legal, regulatory and institutional environments;
- and securing women’s participation and voices.
Shirley said “the main objective of the summit is to share best practices and catalyze investment to accelerate progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment in Africa and around the world.”
AfDB is developing a new tool, the Women’s Financing Index to track the level of lending to women across the continent that will be important for ensuring women get the critical financial help they need. The Index will rate banks and financial institutions who apply for loans from the Bank, against the amounts they have lent or are lending to women. Institutions will be rated by their development impact: the rate and volume at which they lend to women. Top institutions will be rewarded with preferential financing terms from AfDB.
Shirley commended AfDB’s recent initiative – Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) designed to help plug the $42 billion financing gap between women and men. The aim is to mobilise $3 billion to bridge this financing gap for women on the continent. She said, “Despite being at the forefront of economic activity on the continent, women in Africa are disproportionately disadvantaged, particularly those in conflict-ridden areas, who are three times less likely to go to school, have less access to resources and justice, and are unable to obtain funding for businesses, farming and other commercial ventures”.
As an international gender expert working in 2004-5 with UNDP and the Government of Bangladesh in gender mainstreaming the Bangladesh public service, Shirley was invited by the Netherlands Development Agency (SNV Rwanda) to take up a position as its Senior Gender Adviser in 2006. This role was expanded to include Education and Governance over the following three years. Shirley joined with Rwandan graduate women to establish the Rwanda Association of University Women in 2006. In 2007 she worked closely with women parliamentarians in celebrating their achievements in government through the seminal Women’s Parliamentary International Conference on Gender, Nation Building and the Role of Parliaments held in Kigali.
At the end of her contract with SNV, senior women parliamentarians invited Shirley to stay in Rwanda to establish a university centre for gender studies, now part of the University of Rwanda. She maintains a mentoring role through regular contact with her master of gender graduates and other female and male colleagues working in Rwanda, across the continent and around the world, including Egidia Rukundo, a 2010 graduate, who is now the Senior Gender Specialist with AfDB working at the Bank’s headquarters in Cote d’Ivoire.