Imagine a world where women and men, boys and girls are guaranteed equal rights and opportunities. This is the sole goal the newly launched East Africa Community (EAC) Gender Policy seeks to achieve.
The journey which begun in 2006 culminated in a victory for both men and women as the policy roots for gender equality and equity, two pillars upon which the first steps to this journey were founded.
During the launch at the EAC headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania last Monday, Christophe Bazivamo the community’s deputy secretary general productive and social sectors, said the policy was developed out of the recognition that there still are disparities among men and women in various spheres of life.
“For example, despite various accomplishments by Partner States in educating the girl child, and despite the various skills possessed by women and girls, there is poor representation of women in the employment sector and more so in political representation,” he said.
The Treaty establishing the East African Community in Article 121 provides for women’s participation in governance including appropriate affirmative action at all levels.
Rwanda leads in women representation with 64 per cent in the national Parliament, 38 per cent in Cabinet and 45 per cent in Public Service. Kenya is among other partner states lagging behind in meeting the one third gender representation at all levels in government. Women representation in parliament stands at 28 per cent, 29 in Cabinet and 37 per cent in public service.
Notably, gender inequalities have been blamed for the slowdown in the East African Community integration process, a challenge the policy seeks to tackle.
Dr Kirsten Focken, German Development Cooperation (GIZ) Programme Manager, said there is still a lot of work needed to be done beyond the launch if the policy is to achieve its purpose.
“We take note that there is still more to be done in the achievement of gender equality as progress is hampered by inadequate resources and technical skills; conflict between statutory and customary laws; and captivity to patriarchal attitudes, beliefs and practices,” said Dr Focken.
GIZ provided support in developing the policy.
The policy identifies 14 key priority actions that it believes will also promote gender equality and equity within laws, policies, programmes and projects of the community, if applied.