International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on 8th of March to recognize women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. It is also known as the United Nations (UN) Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace. The UN drew global attention to women’s concerns in 1975 by calling for an International Women’s Year. It also convened the First World Conference on Women in Mexico City that year. The UN General Assembly then invited member states to proclaim 8th of March as the UN Day for Women’s Rights.
The International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made in women’s rights, to call for change, and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of women’s rights.
International Women’s Day 2018
There have been various efforts across the globe to promote Gender equality and promote the rights of women most crucially for equal contribution, distribution and access to opportunities between women and men to every dimension of life, whether private or public; known as Gender Parity. While we know that gender parity won’t happen overnight, the good news is that across the world women are making positive gains day by day. Plus, there’s indeed a very strong and growing global movement of advocacy, activism and support.
The United Nations theme for International Women’s Day, 2018, focuses on the theme: “Press for Progress’; Planet 50-50 by 2030”.
The theme has been developed in cognizance that the global understanding that Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are guiding all actors in area of gender equality to have more progress in economic empowerment of women. However, gender inequalities and the recognition of the needs, roles and potential of women and girls are challenges in achieving remarkable progress in development outcomes for all – women, men, boys, girls and their communities and societies around the world. So we can’t be complacent. Now, more than ever, there’s a strong call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity. A strong call to #PressforProgress. A strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.
International Women’s Day is not country, group or organisation specific. The day belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. So together, let’s all be tenacious in accelerating gender parity. Collectively, let’s all Press for Progress.
EAC Commitment to Gender Equality
The Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community provides the overall legal framework for promoting Gender and Women’s empowerment in the regional integration process. The Treaty recognizes the importance of Gender Equality as well as enhancing of the role of women in socio-economic development and women in business towards achieving the Community’s broad objectives. Gender is listed as one of the essential principles alongside Good Governance, the Rule of Law, Accountability, Transparency, Social Justice, Equal Opportunities, Recognition, Promotion and Protection of Human and People’s Rights that govern the achievements of the Community’s overall objectives. Articles 5,3 (e); 6 (d); 121 and 122 of the Treaty emphasize gender mainstreaming and respect for women’s rights as one of the fundamental principles that will govern the EAC integration process.
Mainstreaming of Gender is a priority sector in the 5th EAC Development Strategy (2010/11-2015/16). The development strategy lays out various actions to promote gender equality, women’s empowerment and the effective participation of women in business and social economic development. EAC have Partner States have also made various strides in promoting the empowerment of women in order to meet the Gender Parity goal. For example, the Constitutions of the respective Partner States guarantee one-third majority for women in elective positions and this has considerably increased the number of women legislators in elective positions across the region. Affirmative Action in politics has considerably increased female representation in parliament by 63.8% in Rwandan Lower House and senate or upper house at 38.5%. In Burundi by 36.4% in the lower house and 41.9% in the senate, In Uganda by 35% while in the United Republic of Tanzania, Women are at 36% and Kenya is at 20%.
It is the aspiration of the East African Community to attain the 50:50 goal in all sectors including political participation, education, access to services and employment. This aspiration will be realised through the effective mainstreaming of Gender in all EAC Policies and programmes. Through the passing of the EAC Gender Equality and Development Bill 2016 by the East African Legislative Assembly on 8th March 2016 and the development and implementation of the EAC Gender Policy, it is hoped that positive steps will be taken to press for progress towards an equitable community.
Progress in the Promotion of Women in Socio-economic Development and in Business
As provided for in Articles 121 and 122 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community, Partner States have undertaken various efforts to enhance the Role of Women in Business and Socio-Economic Development. The EAC Partner States recognise that women make a significant contribution towards the process of economic transformation and sustainable growth and that it is impossible to implement effective programs for the economic and social development of the Partner States without the full participation of women. To this end, the EAC has put the inclusion of women and girls at the centre of the development programmes with Partner States ensuring affirmative action, constitutional and legal reforms, development of national gender policies; institutional mechanisms for implementation and accountability; economic empowerment measures; and sector-specific policies.
At the regional level, the EAC is implementing the Regional Strategy for Promoting Women in Business and Social Economic development under which various initiatives have already been instituted including;
- The promotion of cross border trade thorough the dissemination and capacity building on the Simplified Guide for Women Cross Border Traders and Service Providers in the East African Community.
- The implementation of the flagship project in collaboration with COMESA and ECOWAS dubbed the 50 Million African Women Speak Networking Platform Project. The project aims to contribute to the economic empowerment of African women through the provision of a networking platform to access information on financial and non-financial services. The project is expected to create a dynamic and networking platform among women entrepreneurs, connecting them with one another in ways that will foster peer-to-peer learning, mentoring and the sharing of information and knowledge within communities, and access to trade finance and market opportunities between urban and rural areas, and across borders and between countries
- The EAC Secretariat also organises regular Women in Business and Social Economic Empowerment conferences which aim at bringing together Women in business to network and explore the opportunities offered by the EAC Single Customs Territory and the Common Market. Such conferences provide a platform for the exchange ideas on ways and means of increasing affordable financing for women-owned businesses in order to promote the entrepreneurship spirit as a major springboard to their economic empowerment.
Therefore, International Women’s Day 2018 aims at recognising such achievements, highlighting the challenges and barriers that still exit in the quest for Gender Parity and exploring different approaches to be adopted by the EAC in pressing for progress.
Walk for Gender Equality and visit to Mount Meru Hospital, donate a package of materials in maternity ward and discuss with the administration the progress made so far since EAC visit to this hospital in 2014.
- Together with the Arusha City Council, Women Organizations’, partners at regional level, Staff of the EAC Secretariat and other guests, the Secretary General will lead all women and men in a ‘walk for gender equality’.
Main Celebration at the East African Community Headquarters
- This will feature talks and presentations:
- A panel session on: Agriculture Sector: Jackline from Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA); Finance- Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB); Tourism- Lady Tour Guides; Mining- Women in Mining
- By Women Leaders in the EAC – Topic: ‘Press for Progress’
- On progress made to achieve Gender parity in the EAC by 2030
- Presentations from the IIDEA projects that focus on women and with success stories
- Moderated interactive session.
- Some other initiatives that show a tremendous progress
The theme for International Women’s Day 2018 is #PressforProgress with a “strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.”