Across the Greater Horn of Africa (GHEA) countries, the status of women is still tied to traditional patriarchal norms, which limit their opportunities, politically, economically and socially. Despite strong affirmative action provisions adopted in the national policy and legal documents, aimed at promoting women’s rights and participation, these gains are eroded as women are systematically harassed, abused, and sometimes mass raped, especially in countries still deeply affected by violence and conflict. The security of women and girls remains a huge challenge. In areas where armed insurgents are still active, acts of abuse largely go unpunished. In the past decade, some countries have witnessed tragic terrorist attacks that have prompted brutal anti-terrorism campaigns and a crackdown on refugees.
Most GHEA countries have got strong normative frameworks like the national or federal constitutions and women are represented in national and local elected bodies. However, women and girls continue to face traditional harmful practices, such as Female Genital Mutilation/Circumcision (FGM/C) and child marriages. In the dominantly Islamic areas, where the legal frameworks are based on Sharia law, there is general marginalization and dis-empowerment of women and young girls hence leaving them with fewer economic and educational opportunities compared to men. Across the region, the operating space for civil society is increasingly constricted and NGOs are discouraged from working on human rights or governance issues. In some countries civil rights activists are regularly harassed and targeted by the different government agencies. The poor infrastructure and lack of guaranteed security across the region is a huge impediment to organized civil society action.