Gender, Community Development and Civil Society
Adopting common approaches towards the disadvantaged and marginalised groups, including women, children, the youth, the elderly and persons with disabilities aimed at employment creation, poverty alleviation and improving working conditions.
Overview of Gender
In catering for the enhancement of the role of women, the Treaty provisions enumerated in Articles 121-122 endorses that women in East Africa play an important role in the economic, social and political development of the region. This is mainly through their activities as producers of goods and services, keepers of family health, first teachers of the children and guardians of morals and culture.
Women, despite constituting over 60 percent of the EAC population are still marginalised in the decision-making processes and have limited access to education, finance, information and communication technologies in comparison to their male counterparts. In order to address the above challenges, Partner States have taken several measures to address the imbalances meted out on the female Gender through human history. This has been done through enacting and implementing different policies and legal frameworks.
At the regional level, Article 5(e) of the Treaty covers issues of mainstreaming gender into all EAC endeavours, while Article 121 and 122 emphasise the role of women in socio-economic development in the Partner States.
Various EAC policy frameworks have operationalised the Treaty provisions by recognising the vital role of women in driving EAC’s regional integration process. Such documents include the EAC Gender and Community Development Strategic Plan and the 4th EAC Development Strategy (2011-2016) and provide guidelines for mainstreaming gender in EAC policies and programmes.
The EAC also organises the EAC Conference on the Role of Women in Socio-Economic Development and Women in Business (the first one was held in August 2011 in Kigali, Rwanda and the second was held in August 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya). Such conferences are of key importance in contextualising challenges faced by business women within the region.
The EAC has also developed a draft regional strategy on promoting women in socio-economic development and women in business. It is as well in the process of developing a regional financial facility targeting women-owned businesses and to be hosted at the East African Development Bank (EADB). Both drafts currently await adoption by the Council.
Overview of Community Development
The EAC Partner States undertake to closely co-operate amongst themselves in the field of social welfare with respect to:
- employment, poverty alleviation programmes and working conditions;
- vocational training and the eradication of adult illiteracy in the Community; and
- the development and adoption of a common approach towards the disadvantaged and marginalised groups, including children, the youth, the elderly and persons with disabilities through rehabilitation and provision of, among others, foster homes, health care education and training.
The EAC Gender and Community Development Framework and its operational plan put emphasis on enhancing infrastructure at community level with focus on those that would enhance community development such as community access roads, community centres, rural training centres, water and sanitation and health care centres. The plan is to achieve this goal by gradually empowering communities, through their local authorities, in light of the opportunities offered by the Common Market Protocol.
Overview of Civil Society
The EAC Treaty stipulates that regional integration and development in the community shall be people centred and participatory. This involves broad participation of key stakeholders including women, the youth, private sector and the civil society. Governments have to create s an enabling environment for these stakeholders to thrive.
The last ten years have witnessed growth in the participation of the civil society, professional, women and private sector organisations in the integration process. To this extent, organisations such as the East African Business Council, the East African Trade Union Council, the East Africa Law Society, the East African Magistrates and Judges’ Association, East African Local Governments Authority have in one way or another participated in the activities of the EAC.