Gender and Governance

Gender and Governance; EASSI increases the participation of women in decision making process through influencing women’s equal access to and full participation in power structures and building capacity of women leaders to participate in decision making and leadership. We believe the women leaders will in turn influence, challenge, and mentor and support grass root level women to increase their efforts to take part in decision making processes at the household and community level.

The participation of women in political decision-making positions was recognized as a political right after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. UDHR Articles 2 and 21 stipulate equal enjoyment of political rights without discrimination on the basis of one’s sex or any other ground. In 1966, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) reaffirmed the UDHR principle of the right to participate in public and political life without discrimination. Despite the principles enshrined in the UDHR and ICCPR, discrimination against women regarding participation in decision making process persisted. In order to address obvious discrimination, it became necessary for the United Nations to adopt a convention dedicated to protecting the political rights of women. Hence, the Convention on the Political Rights of Women was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 1952. This Convention, one of the early covenants adopted in the area of women’s rights promotion and protection, affirms the right of women to vote and hold public office without discrimination.

The Political Rights Convention was followed by the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which the UNGA adopted in 1979. CEDAW moved the right of political participation another step toward genuine equality by affirming the obligation of State Parties to take affirmative action to accelerate the participation of women in politics and their representation in other public decision-making positions. The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the African Women’s Rights Protocol) adopted in 2003 by the African Union (AU) further affirms the principle of equal participation and the use of affirmative action to ensure equal and effective participation of women in politics. Important resolutions and development frameworks such as the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) also call for gender parity in decision making.

Women who want to enter politics or take up leadership roles find that the political, public, cultural and social environment is often unfriendly or even hostile to them. A quick glance at the current composition of political decision makers and public leaders in Eastern African Region provided evidence that women still face numerous obstacles in articulating and shaping their own interests.

  • Political Obstacles: Men dominate the political arena; men formulate the rules of the political game; and men define the standards for evaluation. The existence of this male dominated model results in women either rejecting the rejecting male-style politics or conforming to it or rejecting politics altogether.
  • Socio-Economic Obstacles: The economic crisis in the so-called developing democracies has intensified the risk of poverty, like unemployment is increasingly being feminized.
  • Ideological and Psychological Hindrances: Gender ideology, cultural patterns, and predetermined social roles assigned to women and men; women lack of confidence to take up leadership role or to stand for election; Women perception of politics as dirty and leadership as a masculine role and the way in which women are portrayed in the mass media. In other countries in the region, corruption scares women and provokes their fears of losing members of their families which militates against their leadership involvement or their standing for elected bodies.

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