Gender inequality in the East Africa region is manifest at all levels: in the social spheres, at the domestic level, and in public institutions. Gender based violence is particularly problematic. While there has been increased representation of women in politics – Rwanda leads the world in women’s representation in parliament at 61.4%, progress has been uneven.
Until recently there was a lack of harmonized policies and legislation to deal with gender inequality across the region. But in March 2017, the EAC Gender Equality and Development Act (also called the Gender Bill) was passed by the East Africa Legislative Assembly. While the Act awaits to be assented to by the Heads of States and to take effect nationally, there is a clear need for a harmonised framework for action, to track success, and to make cross-national comparisons.
The Eastern African Sub-regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI) is monitoring the implementation of the Gender Bill at both the regional and national level to gauge progress toward gender equality.
EASSI is a civil society network working through National Focal Point member organisations in eight countries of the region: Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda. Its Secretariat is based in Uganda.
The Commonwealth Foundation has supported EASSI’s advocacy on the Gender Bill by enabling interaction between EASSI and members of the East African Legislative Assembly. The project also includes the development of a gender barometer which will provide an annual report that assesses progress of government’s actions, such as formulating policies that remove gender based discrimination, guaranteeing women’s rights, and providing the necessary services for the realisation of these commitments. These actions require financial resources, institutional mechanisms and accountability frameworks that should be integrated in national plans and budgets.
Citizens views on government performance are a fundamental component of the barometer that integrates the use of a ‘Citizen Score Card’. The barometer offers evidence based information for holding governments accountable to their gender commitments.
EACSOF is a platform for civil society organisations in East Africa.
EACSOF was established in 2006 to be the channel through which civil society can make representation to the regional governance institution, the East African Community (EAC). Its vision is to see an East Africa in which citizens are fully engaged and involved in all affairs affecting their lives. EACSOF’s mission is to provide a platform and catalyse a critical mass of organised civil society to engage in need-driven, people-centred East Africa integration and to cooperate effectively and proactively for equitable and sustainable development.
The Commonwealth Foundation is supporting the institutional strengthening of EACSOF and working with it to develop an East Africa regional agenda for action at the EAC.
The Forum is currently reviewing its strategic plan and prioritising key regional issues for its action agenda for 2015 – 2019. National consultations in each of the five East African countries are currently ongoing and findings will be brought together at EACSOF’s General Council meeting in early 2015.
In his welcoming address to the Kenya consultation in October 2014, Morris Odhiambo, Chair of the Kenya EACSOF Chapter captured the vision of EACSOF: “Regionalism is a global movement and the voices of the most disadvantaged citizens must be heard”.
Women living with HIV in Uganda are significantly underrepresented in the decision-making processes that affect their healthcare, their living standards and ultimately their lives.
International Community of Women Living with HIV Eastern Africa (ICWEA) works with the women to strengthen their institutional and technical know-how to take part in policy discussions on HIV. ICWEA helps the women’s groups develop strong knowledge of vital elements of a participatory process, including budgets and monitoring and evaluation, allowing them to shape the structures and debates. It will work with the groups to develop their confidence to open up the avenues through which they can communicate with other women’s groups for more concerted policy advocacy and engagement at bi-annual meetings attended by district officials and key local organisations
ICWEA has been building relationships within Uganda since it was first formed in 2005, feeding into health and HIV/AIDS policy processes, addressing related issues and advocating for change for several years. Its continued push for direct engagement with these decision makers and legislators has the long-term aim of allowing women living with HIV to sustain their own advocacy efforts and continue to push health sector reforms long after the grant project is completed.
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