It was all smiles in Arusha, Tanzania on Monday, September 17, 2018, when the East African Community (EAC) finally launched the EAC Gender Policy. The policy framework will be used by the regional body and the partner states of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and South Sudan to ensure that gender equality and the empowerment of women are integrated in every aspect of development by eradicating poverty and reducing inequalities and exclusion.
The launch, which was facilitated by GIZ was attended by high ranking dignatories from the region including parliamentarians of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), officials from the Partner States from the Ministries of Gender and Social development and East African Community Affairs (MEAC); Civil Society Organisations,the Media and Development Partners. EASSI was proudly represented by the Executive Director, Hon. Sheila Kawamara-Mishambi (left below) together with Ms. Nancy Gitonga (right) the Regional Coordinator of the East African Women in Business Platform (EAWiBP).
Work on the development of the gender policy begun way back in 2006 but stalled due to logistical hiccups. In 2012, the EAC Secretariat with support from the Society for International Development (SID) and EASSI resumed the process by offering the initial technical support in the formulation of the draft policy.
The EAC Gender Policy derives its mandate from Articles 121 and 122 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC and envisions a society where women and men, boys and girls are living a quality life in an inclusive community.
The Policy provides a framework that is intended to accelerate gender equality, fairness between men and women, -discrimination and the observance of fundamental human rights in East Africa. It is a policy framework that will be used by all the partner states to facilitate the advancement of East Africa’s political and social economic integration; guarantee the inclusion of gender issues in the EAC agenda; accelerate gender mainstreaming; and contribute to higher living standards.
Speaking at the launch, the Chairperson of the EALA General Purpose Committee, Hon. Abdikadir Aden, noted that the Gender Policy will go a long way in integrating gender in all aspects of the EAC. “In EALA, with the joining of South Sudan, we have 64 members of Parliament and 25 of these are women. With gender balance we should be targeting having a 50/50 balance since EALA has got a very important role of bringing on board the issues affecting the lives of the East African people and in playing its oversight role over governments of the partner states that have to deliver on their mandate”, Aden explained. He emphasised the need to target the “boy-child” in all development initiatives because by being left out it was disastrous. “It is those boy-children that are turning into gangsters and terrorizing society”, he said.
Ms. Joyce Kevin Abalo, representing Dr. Kirsten Focken, the Programme Manager, EAC-GIZ called for the development of specific interventions that could promote the effective participation of women in regional integration. She appealed to the Heads of States to fast-track the assent to the EAC Gender Equality and Development Bill that was debated and passed by EALA on March 8, 2017. “The EAC needs to achieve gender parity at all levels of decision-making and we need to make use of sex and gender disaggregated data to influence policy-making”, she said.
The Director of Social Sector at the EAC, Ms. Mary Makoffu, who represented the Deputy Secretary General in Charge of Productive and Social Sector, Hon. Christophe Bazivamo, pointed out that the EAC Gender Policy draws on the best gender practices from all the six partner states. “We want to ensure that women equally benefit from what is provided for in the public sector.”
The EAC Gender Policy has got 14 priority areas that include Governance and Participation; Education and Training; Health and HIV/AIDS; Gender Based Violence; Environment and Climate Change; Energy; Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition; Trade and Economic Empowerment; Security, Peace Building and Conflict Resolution; Mining and Extractive Industries; Access to Safe Water, Sanitation and Housing and Migration.