East African Community (EAC) partner states will be legally obliged to collectively promote participation of women and men in regional trade and sustainable economic growth, while considering gender dimensions to personal safety in cross border trade once a new Bill is passed this month.
The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) is sitting in Kampala, Uganda to, among others; consider the EAC Gender Equality and Development Bill, 2016, which makes provision for gender equality, protection and development in many aspects of the EAC’s integration agenda.
The draft seen by The New Times partly indicates that in the process of engendering trade, countries shall: support national and regional associations of women in business; address gender and non-tariff trade barriers; and ensure gender analysis in diagnostic trade integration studies and other trade impact assessments.
Francine Uwera Havugimana, second vice chairperson at the Private Sector Federation (PSF), in Kigali, is concerned by how the culture myth harming women will be deflated.
“As we all know that women are starting freshly, my opinion would be to set a proper policy supporting women in this long and hard journey in order to avoid disappointment,” Havugimana told The New Times on Monday.
“For example, putting in place a strong policy that is well regulated where by 30% is applied for gender equality as minimum share in procurement, loan in big project, or joint venture with government in big projects for development. I think this will be the only way to build this trust among women and in the entire Community.”
The mover of the Bill, MP Nancy Abisai [Kenya], says it seeks to consolidate and harmonise various commitments on gender equality made at regional, continental and international levels in EAC context.
Women constitute over 60 percent of the EAC population and 52 percent in Rwanda.
Last month, Rwandan women entrepreneurs in Kigali urged EALA to hasten work on the legislation. During the first ever national conference on the role of women in socio-economic development in the EAC held to mobilise women to tap into opportunities provided by regional integration, it was noted that regional laws are gender blind.
At the time, Elizabeth Ampairwe, coordinator for women and girls’ empowerment at the Eastern African Sub-Regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI), said the EAC Elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers law passed in 2015, “does not address the needs of women.”
EASSI gender analysis found gaps and called upon countries to invoke implementation of the Act in a gender responsive way.
Stephen Gerald Okello, the EASSI project officer for women’s economic justice in the EAC, told The New Times that the Elimination of NTBs Act has been ratified by only Tanzania and Kenya.
“The Act has no specific consideration for women traders and yet the gender dimensions of trade clearly highlight that women are acutely affected by the NTBs as compared to their male counterparts. The ministries or departments of gender in some EAC countries are not consulted especially on issues concerning trade,” Okello said.
“For example, ministry of gender is not part of the national monitoring committee on NTBs in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. However, some ministries of trade have mainstreamed gender in their programmes through establishing gender desks at the ministry or within the department of trade. Nonetheless, these desks are silent or inactive.”
According to Okello, the 2015 Act also does not give special consideration to small scale traders.
The NTB reporting mechanism does not take into consideration the sex of the respondent, therefore categorisation of NTBs by sex is not possible, he added.
“Further study on why certain NTBs are faced by women and men may not be explored due to this limitation. Also, the time bound programme on the elimination of NTB is also not gender responsive.”
Partner States ratified regional and international instruments relating to gender equality and women’s rights and have national legislations and policies on gender equality.
However, according to EASSI, these are either not extended to fully protect women’s rights or efforts to implement them are insufficient, which still leaves women vulnerable to human rights abuses and have exacerbated inequalities in governance and trade.
Partner States are being urged to implement requisite instruments, ensure legislation and policies, allocate sufficient funds and take affirmative action to address gender inequalities and women’s rights and mitigate barriers to advancement of women and girls.
Meanwhile, there is no legal framework providing authoritative data that can be used to hold EAC partner States accountable on their gender commitments and, for the first time, the region is also looking to produce a gender equality barometer, a tool which will include a gender and development index and citizens perceptions.