East African states lack policies to address gender inequalities in the workforce, a new report shows.
The report by TradeMark East Africa, East African Community Regional Integration: Trade and Gender Implications, examines the impact of regional integration and overall trade openness on women’s employment patterns.
It recommends that the EAC work towards closing the education gender gap and improve skills training so women can compete more for higher-paying jobs.
It also proposes the creation of a regional credit mechanism to support women entrepreneurs.
The recommendation was supported by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said the new analysis was another UNCTAD contribution to the debate on “how we, together, can make trade policy more gender-sensitive, and pave the way for more inclusive prosperity that leaves no one behind.”
“Gender equality is not a natural outcome of the development process and there is a need to proactively promote gender equality policies,” Dr Kituyi said.
The report looks at gender and trade issues in Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania and Rwanda, assessing the impact of regional integration on women’s well-being.
“We will continue facilitating women’s empowerment through support of delivery of practical solutions to challenges that affect women entrepreneurs who trade across borders in East Africa,” said Trademark East Africa chief executive officer Frank Matsaert.
The report also recommends the establishment of a regional platform to exchange best practices among EAC member countries as well as a uniform monitoring tool to check the implementation of the 2017 EAC Gender Equality and Development Bill, an important piece of regional legislation on gender equality.
Although the regional economy has already shifted from farming towards services, and to a lesser extent, industry, 96 per cent of women in Burundi, 76 per cent in Kenya, 84 per cent in Rwanda, 71 per cent in Tanzania and 77 per cent in Uganda still work in agriculture, the report says.
Women are predominantly self-employed or are contributing family workers, the two forms of vulnerable employment.
This applies to 97 per cent of women in Burundi, 73 per cent in Kenya, 84 per cent in Rwanda, 80 per cent in Tanzania, and 83 per cent in Uganda.
For instance, the two largest economies in the region — Kenya and Tanzania — registered the highest levels of gender inequality among the five EAC members studied, according to the 2015 edition of the Gender Inequality Index issued by the UNDP.
“Building partnerships is indispensable for bridging information gaps which hinder women in participating in trade,” said Lisa Karanja, TradeMark East Africa’s senior director for business competitiveness.
“We have simplified information and partnered with public and private institutions to create ICT platforms whereby women can access information through their phones or in physical information centres located at border crossings across East Africa,” Ms Karanja added.
The introduction of equal property rights has not sufficiently reduced the gender gap in land ownership. Only 51 per cent of women in Burundi, 35 per cent in Kenya and Uganda, and 46 per cent in Rwanda are landowners.
Access to credit remains limited. In Kenya and Uganda, 18 per cent of men and only about 14 per cent of women borrowed from a financial institution.
Women also shoulder a higher share of unpaid care work than men.