Tracking gender equality commitments in the East African community

by Ali Hersi & Marren Akatsa-Bukachi. There are several commitments and outcomes to gender mainstreaming efforts in Africa. However, the implementation of these commitments has in many occasions been ignored, and in fact, not much is said to have changed.

The need to assess the execution of gender equality instruments has therefore been identified in different forums and by various actors as important. For instance, the 7th African Regional Ministerial Conference on Women, held in Addis Ababa in October 2004, concluded that 'African governments continue to commit to international instruments promoting and protecting women's rights, but there has been a lack of effective implementation at the national level'. A similar conclusion was reached at the Beijing+10 conference held in New York in March 2005 which reiterated that 'the presence of protocols and conventions on women's rights would remain mere slogans and political pronouncements without deliberate efforts to hold governments accountable'.

Among the fundamental principles of the East African Community, comprising of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, is gender equality and equal opportunities. Article 5 (3e) commits the EAC to ensuring 'the mainstreaming of gender in all its endeavours and the enhancement of the role of women in cultural, social, political, economic and technological development'. The Community has also established the Gender and Community Development Committee which compiled a framework of socio-economic indicators to guide future programmes and activities.

However, recognizing the attitudes and approaches that have served to marginalize women's issues and undermine the agenda of gender equity are well entrenched within individual attitudes and governance structures, the EAC risks to fail in its gender mainstreaming endeavour if these gender commitments are not executed.

The Society for International Development (SID) and the Eastern African Sub-regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI) undertook to develop a regional monitoring and evaluation mechanism for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to ensure that the EAC is accountable for the gender-related commitments entered into. This initiative emanated from a project undertaken by EASSI entitled 'Towards an East African Declaration on Gender Equality (EADGE) which embarked on the development of a Gender Protocol for the region and a campaign for its adoption by EAC's partner states.

The primary objective of a regional monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework is to have indicators that help civil society groups assess the EAC on issues of: gender parity (equal representation and participation of women and men); equality (equal access, control, opportunities, rewards, and benefits for women and men); equity (the ratio of participation, access, opportunities, rewards, and benefits according to needs/concerns of women and men, women's empowerment and transformation of gender relations); empowerment (cognitive, behavioral, and affective changes to increase levels of equality and empowerment of women in relation to men); and transformation (transforming the gender order; changing existing distribution of resources and responsibilities to create balanced gender relations).

By developing a monitoring and evaluation framework and by building capacity of regional CSOs to effectively use the M&E framework, SID and EASSI hopes that: first, CSO's in the region will have an organized way in which to gauge the progress/level of gender mainstreaming in national programmes and within the EAC institutions; second, CSO's in the region will have the ability to enumerate actual gender equity outcomes and evaluate gender impact of national programmes and those of the EAC institutions; and third, CSO's in the region will establish a way of ranking the performance of all EAC countries on issues of gender. It is envisaged that this process will enhance the realization of gender equity within the EAC.

Ali Hersi is regional director and head of Nairobi office, Society for International Development (SID)

Marren Akatsa-Bukachi is executive director, Eastern African Sub-Regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI).


Photo: Gael Fortier/flickr