The principle of equal rights for men and women was established in the UN Charter and in the UN Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, and since has been further developed through a number of Un Conventions and normative instruments. The Beijing World Conference probably set the clearest agenda for improving gender equality and women’s rights internationally as articulated in the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA). The BPFA provided the background upon which African institutions and states have sought to rectify the challenges of gender inequality and the respect and promotion for women’s right in Africa. The Beijing Conference pronounced the reality that women were not considered as important/meaningful players in the development of their communities and economies nor were they regarded equal citizens to their male counterparts. A difference in access to resources, opportunities and information between women and men is one of the maintainers of gender inequality in Africa.
EASSI will promote women rights and gender equality through influencing processes and actions that address both practical and strategic needs of women and girls. Key areas of focus will include: Equality of access to productive resources, opportunities and information; Right to benefit from outcomes of development and public investments and addressing Gender Based Violence.Under this programme. EASSI implements the following projects:
The campaign for an East African Community Protocol on Gender Equality has been a long one, and has been going on since 2008. The need for an EAC Gender Protocol came about following a situational analysis carried out by EASSI in 2008 to measure implementation of gender equality in the five EAC Partner States. The study confirmed that the countries were at different levels with regard to implementation of these instruments and that women were not equally enjoying the benefits of the East African Integration Process due in part, to these factors that inhibited their enjoyment of rights in their countries and subsequently at the EAC level.Following successful lobby and advocacy, the Protocol was accepted as a concept by the EAC in 2012.
However, with the passage of over five years since the advocacy begun in earnest, and with the bureaucratic hurdles appearing insurmountable, EASSI adopted an alternative approach of a Gender Bill which would still have the spirit of the Protocol but with a much less protracted process. The development of an EAC Gender Bill is a way of fast tracking the EAC Gender Protocol process to provide evidence for this campaign, and in order to accelerate the process of the Gender Bill, EASSI, in partnership with the Society for International Development (SID) conducted a regional study on the Cost and Implications of not having an EAC Gender Bill. (2014). This campaign outlined the gaps in economic, political, environmental and social sectors and reinforced EASSI’s regional gender analysis of 2008, showing once again that the countries had not leveled the playing field among themselves with regard to implementation of women’s rights and gender equality. Countries still remain at different levels and it is high time a unitary document which would act like a scorecard to measure government implementation of gender equality.
EASSI and SID also developed a Gender Monitoring and Evaluation Framework of the EAC Treaty, to help organizations monitor EACs work in relation to Gender Issues as outlined in the EAC Treaty.A number of key women’s rights organisations in the EAC are in possession of this tool and are using it to monitor different aspects of the EAC Treaty according to their own mandates. Its use will also highlight implementation gaps related to gender in the EAC treaty and back up the campaign for an EAC Gender Bill.
In September 2013, EASSI took her advocacy efforts a notch higher to directly target men through a one year pilot Project, the Men Engage to end Sexual and Gender Based Violence, a sub project of WOGE. The project is implemented in the districts of Uganda, namely, Kabale, Rakai and Busia Districts. The Men Engage Project is a complimentary intervention of the WOGE project that promotes the belief that targeting men as change agents in the fight against sexual and gender based violence is a long overdue strategy. 90 community Male champions identified by their communities were trained and working as change agents in their communities. They use the men to men approach of counseling fellow men to stop the practice as well as preach family unity and respect for women and girls.The project also works with government officials such as the Ministry of Gender and local government in order to entrench the project within the communities for future sustainability. These champions include religious leaders, Local council chairpersons, leaders from various institutions including health facilities, district officials and youth councilors from the selected districts. Involving community leaders is the first step towards supporting and linking SGBV survivors to legal referral networks as a way of creating pathways for them to report their cases and attain justice.
The Male Champions were able to develop Referral pathways for preventive and legal support for SGBV survivors and Community Bye-Laws relevant to each district. This project was strengthened by support from the Solidarity for African women’s Rights Coalition which targeted the two sub-counties of Katuna and Kamuganguzi in Kabale District, Uganda, and worked with the Male Champions against GBV and community duty bearers. The project was implemented using a community participatory approach that enabled the involvement of community members in identifying common causes of SGBV in their community, the effect of SGBV on women and girls and possible prevention measures against SGBV.
It is also confirmed from the feedback and documented I-stories that cases of SGBV have to some extent reduced and the public is now more aware about women’s rights. Some men in the community that were reluctant in the past, to support their partners have developed a positive attitude and have started to support their spouses to engage in economic and social activities. As a result of involving various male duty bearers on the follow up committee of the project, there is increased vigilance among leaders to address SGBV in their communities.
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