Women’s Rights and Gender Equality

Women’s Rights and Gender Equality programme is designed to promote the rights of women and enhance gender equality by influencing processes and actions that address both practical and strategic needs of women and girls. Key areas of focus 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 (GBV).

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 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.

Similarly, natural resources represent a major source of wealth for economies around the world, and are central to Africa’s economic growth and development. The full benefit of these resources will only be enjoyed if they are managed in a transparent and responsible manner and directed towards creating sustainable and equitable economies and societies. There is recent trend of discovery of oil and other extractive minerals in Eastern African sub-region, government are shaping economic development of the countries and the region on the extractive industry. A better understanding of the gender dimensions of the extractive industry is vital to improving development outcomes both at the micro and macro levels and affected communities. Gender should not be an afterthought in the extractive industry, but an integral and explicit component which is addressed along the extractive value chain.

Natural resources are a public good which belong to all citizens but evidence from many countries indicate that women barely have a place in decision making bodies related to the governance of these resources, in respect to policy making, regulations, technical aspects and revenue management. It is therefore important that women, as citizens, become central to these processes, gain the capacity and access to resources, services and technologies to enable them participate and compete in the extractive business- as owners, service providers and or employees. It is also imperative that the revenue accrued from the extractive industries is shared by the local communities, and in particular women. In most cases the mismanagement of the extractive industry contributes to the violation of human rights, especially the rights of women, where by excesses such as environmental degradation and displacement also causes serious threats to women’s livelihoods and wellbeing. Unfortunately there is limited data, access to information and knowledge about gender issues in the extractive sector, making it difficult to ensure gender responsive policies, legal frameworks and programmes in the sector. Thus EASSI works towards increasing efforts in promoting gender equality and women rights in the extractive industry.

Gender Based Violence

Gender based violence (GBV) especially violence against women is a grave social and human rights concern affecting virtually all societies. Gender based violence covers domestic violence; sexual violence, human trafficking; physical and emotional abuse to mention but a few. The patriarchal structure of most communities in Africa and its resultant attitude, ignorance and illiteracy, unemployment, broken homes, bad neighborhoods, poor family environment, alcohol and drug abuse, early marriage and dowry are the leading causes of violence against women.

The problem is further compounded by the weak investigation and security mechanisms and on many countries the tendency among law enforcers to effect reconciliation without punishing the perpetrators, lengthy and difficult judicial process, lack of control over productive resources, inadequate political participation of women and very less decision making power. Though most cases of gender based violence occur among the illiterate and deprived section of society, it is a misconception that GBV does not exist among the educated, sophisticated and the privileged.

Studies have shown that GBV has a ripple effect on the future generation. Children who grow up in families where they are exposed to intimate partner violence can suffer from a range of behavioural and emotional disturbances. It can also lead to increased rates of infant and child mortality and morbidity. The social and economic costs of GBV are much more devastating than we can imagine. Time has come for respect for women to be enforced along with awareness and measures to address Gender Based Violence.

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