Between 1995-2002, 48 African countries prepared national plans of action for poverty reduction that included gender concerns. Furthermore, some African countries have strategies for supporting women’s entrepreneurship through micro-credit schemes and capacity-building in enterprise management.
However, while the number of people living in poverty dropped in all developing regions in the world between 1990 and 2000, it actually rose, in Africa, by over 82 million. African women constitute the majority of both urban and rural poor (over 70 per cent in some countries). Unequal power relations between women and men, the skewed distribution of remunerated and unremunerated work, unequal inheritance rights in some countries, food insecurity and lack of secure access to land, property, and other productive resources, as well as inadequate support for women’s entrepreneurship are some of the major causes of women’s poverty. Widespread poverty among women also affects other critical areas, such as women’s health and education.
Education and training for women
During the last decade, there have been improvements in basic education in many countries. A number of countries report increased gross and net enrolment ratios for both boys and girls, while others have almost reached 100 per cent enrolment for boys and girls. At the secondary level, a few countries report having achieved parity between boys and girls or reducing gender gaps. Many African countries have made progress in reducing illiteracy levels, particularly among women and girls.
However, despite these improvements, Africa has still, by far, the lowest number of children in schools. Only 58 per cent of children of school age are actually enrolled in school. With few exceptions, educational statistics show large gender disparities. Female-to-male school enrolment, retention and completion favour boys in a majority of countries. Moreover, African women have the highest illiteracy rates in the world, which in some countries are rising. In addition, gender disparities in schooling undermine national efforts for human capital development, thereby slowing down the pace of economic and social development. At the tertiary and university levels the low participation for young women continues. Gender gaps are particularly pronounced in science, mathematics and computer sciences.
Human Rights of Women
In the last decade, progress towards the promotion and protection of the human rights of women has concentrated on strengthening legal and policy frameworks. At the regional level, the AU has adopted the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa, and 31 countries have signed while 4 have ratified it. At the subregional level, intergovernmental bodies (ECOWAS, SADC, EAC, IGAD, ECCAS, COMESA) have adopted gender policies, declarations and guidelines for the promotion and protection of the human rights of women. At the national level, some governments have enacted or amended legislation on women’s human rights and some have adopted constitutions that take on board gender equality. These legal instruments support the creation of an enabling environment for the realization of women’s human rights.
Nonetheless, many challenges remain. The domestication of international instruments on women’s and girls’ rights and the enforcement of existing legislation remain low. Twenty-two countries have not signed the women’s protocol to the African Charter, and 49 countries have not yet ratified it. Women’s and girls’ access to the justice system is limited by legal illiteracy, lack of resources, and, gender insensitivity and bias of law enforcement agents. Violence against women and girls, including rape and domestic violence, is rampant, particularly in conflict zones. Some cultural and traditional practices continue to inhibit progress in promoting women and girls’ human rights. In some countries, women are denied equal rights to inherit property. Furthermore, public awareness of women’s and girls’ human rights and the obligation to ensure the enjoyment of their rights remains low. In some countries, several sources of (modern, religious, traditional) laws continue to govern the lives of women and restrict the enjoyment of their rights.
Conflict Prevention, Peace building and Reconstruction
Women’s voices in conflict prevention and peace building are only faintly listened to often leaving them at the margins of peace processes. Dilemmas persist between post conflict reconciliation and gender justice, reintegration and rejection, participation and partisanship all of which call for a continued focus on women in conflict and post conflict situations.
In the last decade, some African countries have prioritized women’s health as an area of concern. This has resulted in increased attention to the reproductive health and rights of women, encouraging breast-feeding and other infant feeding options making facilities available for the management of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, and raising awareness among men of their responsibilities in reproductive health. In many countries, progress has been made in offering free or subsidized sexual and reproductive health care services and commodities, affordable preventive health services for rural populations and training grassroots health providers.
However, the offer of and access to comprehensive health services continues to be a major challenge, especially for rural and urban poor women. Furthermore, health gains made in the last decade in Africa are being reversed due to HIV/AIDS, high levels of maternal and neonatal mortality, the resurgence of malaria and STDs, TB in more virulent forms and all forms of cancer that affect women. Effort is still needed to make anti-retroviral drugs available at affordable costs or for free. Women and girls in Africa continue to suffer from food insecurity and malnutrition. The rates of maternal morbidity and mortality are higher than anywhere else in the world. Female genital mutilation and other practices that harm women’s and girls’ health continue to be a grave concern in many parts of Africa.
Participation in governance
Some positive trends in the area of governance are exemplified by the consolidation of democracy and the increasing number of countries that have conducted peaceful democratic elections in the last decade. The creation of regional instruments such as the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and the creation of a Gender and Civil Society Sector within the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) are positive and promising initiatives. Several countries have significantly increased the level of women’s representation in parliament, with one country reaching an impressive 49 per cent and two at over 30 per cent. Women have also been elected and/or appointed into powerful decision-making positions in the civil and public services. However, gender equality and equity principles are not yet fully integrated into democratization processes, and, women continue to be under-represented in most structures of power and decision-making, including leadership positions in political parties, local government, the public and private sector and civil society organizations. Another evaluation area, relating to gender concerns, should be included in the APRM.
Gender Mainstreaming and Institutional Mechanisms
African governments have established various mechanisms at different levels, including national machineries to mainstream gender in the formulation of policies, plans and programmes, policy advocacy and to monitor and evaluate the implementation of international, regional and national commitments. Gender focal points have proven to be a valuable but fragile link between Women’s/Gender Affairs and line Ministries. Particular attention has been given to the formulation of national gender policies and implementation plans, with some countries having prepared sector-specific gender policies. Capacity-building for gender mainstreaming has been undertaken at national and regional levels. Issue-based advocacy has been successfully conducted in some countries, for example on violence against women and legal literacy.
. Nonetheless, the mechanisms for the integration of gender equality and women’s empowerment remain weak at all levels – lacking adequate capacity, authority and funding. Line ministries have not reached gender equality targets due to low levels of resource allocations. Gender concerns continue to be treated rhetorically or as separate women’s projects. Sex-disaggregated data and information from gender-sensitive indicators are often not collected, lost in aggregation of published data or not used.
There is growing public awareness about STDs and HIV/AIDS in Africa, through advocacy by governments, parliaments, public sector, development partners and civil society organizations. The threat posed by HIV/AIDS and related diseases such as malaria and TB, is now widely acknowledged at the policy level throughout Africa. Every country has established a National AIDS Commission. Some countries have succeeded in reducing infection rates while a few others have succeeded in keeping infection rates relatively low. Several African countries have approved codes and declarations on non-discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWA). Increasing attention is being paid to the HIV/AIDS pandemic’s link with poverty and sustainable development.
African women are the most affected by HIV/AIDS. Almost 70 per cent of people infected with HIV/AIDS live in Africa. Women form 58 per cent of those infected in Africa and they carry the overwhelming burden of the impact of the HIV/ADS epidemic. HIV/AIDS has decimated the ranks of the most productive age groups, and restructured families such that the burden of care now falls on the oldest and the youngest members, usually grandmothers and girl-children. In many countries of Africa HIV/AIDS is having negative impacts on women’s economic empowerment, health, education, and on the enjoyment of all human rights. The public sector’s provision of care for HIV/AIDS patients has steadily diminished in the past decade; thereby placing a greater burden on women to care for sufferers, regardless of whether those (women) who are infected have the care they need (especially post-natal treatment). Women are also having to provide economic sustenance for their families even as they themselves are afflicted. Growing poverty, traditions in many parts of Africa, such as female genital mutilation, and beliefs and attitudes that empower men and subordinate women are key factors in increasing the spread of the epidemic.
3. Programme of Action
In the light of the above, the African Ministers adopted the following programme of action that needs to be undertaken to accelerate further implementation of the BPFA in the coming years and agree to monitor results regular.
To be continue...........
Source united States of America Tanzania Embasy;Sent by E.Soka from Tanzania