NEPAD and gender issues in Africa

NEPAD’s document makes a clear call for centrally anchoring gender within the AU/NEPAD policy framework. Indeed, one of the goals of NEPAD is specifically devoted to promoting the role of women in all activities. In this regard, all of the organs of the AU, including the African Union Commission (AUG) and NEPAD, are committed to ensuring that gender equality is mainstreamed institutionally. The following are AU/NEPAD strategic objectives in achieving gender development which is anchored on the following African Union (AU) 2009 gender policy objectives:

  • • To advocate the promotion of a gender-responsive environment and practices and the enforcement of human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment commitments made at international, continental, regional and member-states’ level;
  • • To initiate and accelerate gender-mainstreaming in institutions, legal frameworks, policies, programmes, strategic frameworks and plans, human resources and performance management systems, resource allocation and decision-making processes at all levels;
  • • To promote the development of guidelines and enforcement of standards against sexual and gender-based violence, gender-insensitive language and actions in the workplace;
  • • To develop a Gender Management System (GMS) within the AU and promote its adoption within other AU organs, the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and member-states;
  • • To address gender-based barriers to the free movement of persons and goods across borders throughout the continent;
  • • To promote equitable access for both women and men to/control over resources, knowledge, information, land and business ownership and services such as education and training, healthcare, credit and legal rights; and
  • • To facilitate implementation of remedial measures to address existing inequalities in access to and control over factors of production, including land (NEPAD Report, 2011, p. 38).

The policy commitments are overarching and anchored on the pillars of AU Organs, RECs and member-states’ institutional policy statements, strategic plans, roadmaps and action plans for achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment targets in eight areas as follows:

  • • Creating and enabling a stable political environment
  • • Legal protection actions against discrimination for ensuring gender equality
  • • Mobilisation of different players for gender equality in Africa
  • • Rationalisation and harmonisation of RECs’ gender policies and programmes
  • • Resource mobilisation
  • • Capacity building for gender-mainstreaming
  • • Gender-mainstreaming in all sectors
  • • Maintaining peace, security, the settlement of conflicts and reconstruction (NEPAD Report, 2011, p. 38).

There were provisions for an institutional and legal framework in achieving the above, at the national level; the AU is involved in legislative reviews and amendment processes. At the regional levels, the AU has encouraged its member-states to adopt, ratify, implement and domesticate treaties. Its conventions and decisions have established a consensus on gender equality issues among states and play an important role in supporting research on gender issues (Olga, 2013). All RECs possess dedicated gender units which include declarations and tools for gender audit and mainstreaming. The Women and Gender Development Directorate (WGDD) was created in 2000. It has the mandate of ensuring that capacity is built for all AU organs and RECs and member-states understand gender and develop skills for achieving gender-mainstreaming targets and practices in all policy and programmes (AU, 2009).

Under NEPAD, provisions were made for both Implementation Committee and the Peer Review Mechanism to monitor states’ compliance with the implementation of NEPAD. The African Peer Review Mechanism is a self-assessment system where African leaders from time to time subject themselves (countries) to scrutiny to determine the extent to which their policies and performance comply with the NEPAD strategy (Clark, 2008). To achieve its objectives, NEPAD also partners with other international bodies; for instance, under the NEPAD/Spanish fund for African women’s empowerment, 38 projects were finished from the first phase of the fund. Under the second phase, 31 projects are said to be approved. The project proposals covered three priority sectors — economic empowerment, civil society strengthening and institutional strengthening (AU, 2018). Similarly, the NEPAD Agency also presents an annual report on its achievements.

Unfortunately, the NEPAD’s annual result-based reports for fast-tracking the implementation of Africa’s Development Agenda, which detailed the programmatic results within the continent, regional and national spheres using an integrated approach that was coherent and impact-oriented, did not present gender-disaggregated data that could be used for critical evaluation. However, the

.New Partnership for Africa’s Development 247 report of the African Development Bank (AfDB) on Africa’s gender equality index can be used to evaluate NEPAD’s gender equality in development in Africa. The index covered 52 of Africa’s 54 countries and offers a snapshot of the legal, social and economic gaps between men and women. The index measures three dimensions - economic opportunities, human development and law and institutions (Africa Gender Index, 2015). The findings of the index acknowledged that agriculture remains the backbone of Africa’s economy, employing 70% of the population. Women play a major role in the agricultural economy; they make up two-thirds of the agricultural labour force and produce the majority of Africa’s food. However, women farmers have less access to essential inputs, such as land, credit, fertilisers, new technologies and extension services. As a result, their yields tend to be significantly lower than men’s. In Ethiopia, for example, female farmers produce 26% less than male farmers, and in Ghana, they produce 17% less. Outside agriculture, female labour force participation rates are high throughout Africa, except in North Africa. They reach 85%-90% in countries such as Burundi, Tanzania and Rwanda. In many countries (Nigeria, Togo, Burundi), participation rates for men and women are equal or nearly so.

However, African labour markets are heavily gender-segregated, with women working primarily in low-paying occupations. Women are far more likely to be self-employed in the informal sector than to earn a regular wage through formal employment. In the formal sector, women hold four of every ten jobs and earn on average two-thirds the salary of their male colleagues. NEPAD focussed on market-driven growth and failed to elucidate how those outside the formal market economy will benefit. Only 15 African countries have laws against gender discrimination in hiring (Africa Gender Index, 2015). Thus, NEPAD did not address the exclusion from the formal economy of the small-scale agro-producers that sustain Africa’s population, a majority of which are women.

From the above, it is evident that the main components of NEPAD at the conceptual level suffer from a narrow understanding of the major needs for women’s economic and social empowerment. For instance, though NEPAD plans for the improvement of poverty level in Africa, with respect to women and gender issues in the context of globalisation, NEPAD does not specifically address the central issues of labour and women’s employment. The impact of globalisation on the gender division of labour goes unnoticed in the plan, along with the related issues that ought to be addressed in order to promote African women’s economic empowerment in a globalised economy. Thus, the plan does not payattention to the major trends in the labour market in general. Globalisation involves changes in a wide range of areas which include changes in the role and function of the state, governance, mechanisms of regulation, changes in labour demand and restructuring of labour market, among others (UN, 2001). The forces of globalisation have brought about far-reaching changes in the pattern of specialisation within agriculture. In many areas, subsistence agriculture is giving way to commercialised agriculture. However, the industrialisation of agriculture is leading to the erosion of the classical international division of labour in agricultural production. An important facet of the global integration ofagricultural market is the organisation of production through contract farming. The contract farming system can provide the opportunity to obtain an income from land-based production, to adopt improved production methods and a link to the market. An essential feature of globalisation is the shifting division of labour associated with changes in the nature of specialisation and production processes. How these changes affect women depends on the role women play in the declining activities and how equipped they are to take advantage of the expanding activities. The above factors depend, in turn, on a large number of underlying forces operating at the individual, household, community, state and global levels (UN, 2001).

The processes of globalisation are often articulated within existing gender relations as well as regional disparities (UN, 2005). As such, at the conceptual level, NEPAD did not recognise that the effect of globalisation are not gender-neutral. This gender-blindness of NEPAD confirms the new-liberal nature of its economic policy options. Such options typically ignore the social content and impact of economic policies and their implication for social and gender relations. Perhaps the most glaring evidence of the gender-blindness of NEPAD is the fact that it ignores the devastating impact of structural adjustment programmes (SAP) and policies imposed by international financial institutions on women and gender relations. In many African countries, globalisation is compelling states to alter their relations with the market. The onset for this changing roles was the structural adjustment policies, which entailed significant cutbacks in public spending and the provision of basic services. As a consequence, how gender is affected depends in part on their policy choices (UN, 2005). As Bodie 1994 (cited in Efanodor, 2009) pointed out, most empirical research on the gendered dimension of restructuring that has accompanied globalisation process with regards to women in Africa are identified as follows:

  • • The increasing gendered nature of poverty is an expansion of what has been called the féminisation of poverty.
  • • The increase in the burdens that have been placed on women by economic and social changes that have occurred by increasing their workload to compensate for the loss or reduction of household income.
  • • The effect of reduction in social welfare spending and public programme on women, particularly through shifting of large areas of the provision of unpaid social services to them.
  • • The direct impact on women’s employment and working conditions that the constraints in public expenditure have.

Furthermore analysis based on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Africa and Beijing Platforms for Action illustrate that there were gaps in the planning stages of the NEPAD, as there has been no use of the women’s rights and gender principles. The women’s empowerment framework was used in this analysis and from the welfare level to that where women have control over their lives and destinies

New Partnership for Africa’s Development 249 were examined in the NEPAD document. It was noted that gender issues while acknowledged fleetingly have not been well identified and it is clear that the planners of the NEPAD did not study other processes which would be beneficial, such as the Beijing Platform for Action and the recommendations from the Dakar process. Comprehensive integration of gender issues would have resulted in the collective recognition that there are unjust, unfair systems, which had led to differentiation in systems of most societies, and the formulation of strategies to effectively address these injustices. This would have involved tackling the causes of gender injustices, such as patriarchal control and discrimination that perpetrates and widens the gap between men and women in African societies. In the NEPAD, an attempt is made to ameliorate the situations and circumstances of women, not to effectively deal with the underlying causes of their marginalised position and develop viable and long-lasting strategies. The tendency to exclude women at the decision-making level has been repeated in the NEPAD, where women are missing from the peer-review and Implementation Committee levels of the process (African Forum for Envisioning Africa Focus on NEPAD, 2002). Preparations are concluding for transforming the NEPAD agency into African Union Development Agency with a wider scope for action and capacity (NEPAD, 2017). In recognition of the gender gap, it is important to mainstream actions that will translate into tangible benefits for the average African woman. The next session therefore proposes step-by-step strategies for mainstreaming gender into development strategies/programmes.

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