Tabia Kazembe is the Africa Correspondent of The German Diplomat. Growing up in Malawi, a country with the highest rates of gender inequality, her academic and career choices have always been centered on subjects and agencies focused on fighting for gender equality, women empowerment, and ending violence against women and girls. She has professional experience working with international organizations such as the United Nations Secretariat, UN Women, CARE International and Save the Children.
Malawi | May 19, 2020 | Analysis Article
“Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world” (UN SDG-5). In todays’ world, we have gender stereotypes that classify women and girls in the lower social status of our societies.
The Federal Government of Germany operates in several areas in sustainable development and international development in over 130 countries. Through some of its programmes, the German government is actively engaged in the fight for poverty alleviation, food security, peacekeeping, freedom, democracy, human rights, environmental protection and climate change mitigation, health, and basic education.
One of the most prioritized regions of German foreign policy is the African continent with Germany being involved in African development for decades. The Federal Government of Germany’s development policy is formulated by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), which considers development policy as a joint responsibility of all international organizations. Among its principles, BMZ has been actively engaged in the Millennium Development Goals, the Monterrey Consensus, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, and the Aid Effectiveness Agenda. In essence, the Federal government of Germany aims to transforms the lives of people in need in regions such as Africa through its development cooperation.
The African continent is rich in resources, from natural to cultural. However, Africans still remain to be some of the poorest people in the world. Regardless of poverty rates going down in the continent, in the Accelerating Poverty Reduction in Africa report, the World Bank established that gender inequality is an ongoing issue that makes it difficult to deal with poverty in the region.
African women are the poorest of the citizens in the continent. Despite the crucial roles that they play in their families, gender roles in Africa are determined by dogmas, ethno-religious beliefs and socio-cultural factors as determinants of resources between men and women. In addition to that, Gender Based Violence (GBV) is another serious developmental challenge that African women and girls are facing. They also face social inequalities, and lack of access to opportunities in areas of wage, political participation, and education. While several countries in the region are members of the international treaties and conventions on ending violence against women and fighting for gender equality, their national policies still lack commitments to the legislations.
Germany’s efforts to tackle gender inequality in Africa dates back to the time they pledged to support the women empowerment principles, and when they established the Development Policy Action Plan on Gender Equality 2016-2020. Gender equality is one of Germany’s core principles. Being a great power, Germany believes that both men and women, boys and girls should have equal rights. Through BMZ, Germany recognizes the importance of implementing gender equality strategies in all its programs.
Being a country that is at the forefront of supporting international development, including the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Germany has stressed the importance of promotion of human rights, gender equality and women empowerment. It is a collective goal of its bodies to intensively mainstream gender equality in all its development programmes. As part of a project on promotion of gender equality and women’s rights, BMZ has been working towards expanding services related to women empowerment and gender equality in the Sub-Saharan and North African regions.
Through implementation of gender centered projects that mainstream gender equality, BMZ’s projects aim to see positive change in gender equality in the region. In detail, the ministry applies a threefold strategy that guarantees that gender is represented in all development policies and strategies. This includes confirming that gender is a cross-cutting issue that has to be mainstreamed in all its development policy and strategies. Furthermore, the strategy ensures that promotion of women and girls’ empowerment programmes are at its core, and that women’s rights are affixed in the high-level dialogue at the global level.
Poverty eradication is a core mission of BMZ. In all its programmes, BMZ recognizes that “poverty is not gender neutral,” and that the worlds’ poorest people are women. To promote women and girls empowerment, BMZ has nine priority areas. This article focuses on three:
- Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG);
- Armed conflicts, peacekeeping, and displacements;
- Access to justice and legal services for women and girls, political participation, voice and leadership.
VAWG is one of the grave forms of human rights violations. In efforts of ending VAWG, following international agreements such as the United Nations Declaration on Elimination of Violence Against Women, and the Convention of Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, BMZ has been tackling VAWG challenges through active commitment and integration of projects such as educational activities, awareness raising, and dialogues that promote ending violence against women and girls as priority areas of development.
BMZ recognizes the importance of power that development cooperation’s have. Since 1999, the ministry has been enforcing governments that still practice harmful traditional gender practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), early and forced marriage, to abolish such practices. As a result, countries that practiced FGM, such as Mauritania, Guinea and Burkina Faso have seen positive changes in the harmful practice. For example, FGM is no longer considered a taboo subject. Subsequently, men and women have been able to collectively discuss the issue. In Mauritania alone, the inclusion of religious and traditional authorities, teachers and medical staff resulted in the elimination of FGM in Islamic Law. It is now considered a very harmful practice.
During displacement, oftentimes, it is women and girls who face discrimination and violence. In humanitarian crises, increase in issues of sexual and gender-based violence faced by women and girls continue to rise. Part of its contribution to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, the Federal Government of Germany ensures that women and girls in armed conflicts and crisis countries are protected and involved in conflict resolution processes. They guarantee that refugee women and girls are at the core center of peacekeeping. Additionally, they assure that their needs are included in reintegration activities, and that survivors of sexual violence are supported through psychosocial interventions.
When women are included in peace processes, their presence broadens the perspectives and improves the process of decision-making while reducing conflict. In the Central African Republic (CAR), BMZ agreed with the government to focus on peacebuilding and conflict prevention as a way forward in their development cooperation. Women in the CAR have been actively seeking inclusion in decision making processes so they can assist in rebuilding their country. Following the Beijing Declaration and pressure from the international fora such as BMZ, women in the CAR are slowly being integrated into decision making positions. However, the challenges and gaps still remain wide. The decision to include women in decision making and peace processes is a step closer to positive results in the CAR, where until today, the situation in the country still remains a grave concern for human rights.
Investing in women’s economic empowerment is paramount for gender equality. The German Federal Foreign Office views gender equality as a critical factor of foreign policy. As such, Germany is one of the top funders of the African Women Leaders’ Network (AWLN), which was founded in 2016 to promote opportunities in gender and bring transformative changes in peace, security, and development in Africa. With financial support from Germany, the network established ten national offices. Out of the ten, one of them is in Sierra Leone, a country that struggles with gender inequality, poverty, and sexual violence to the extent of declaring it a national emergency. The Federal Foreign Office has taken concrete measures to support the network. Germany and Sierra Leone are planning to collaborate on projects that aim at improving women’s inclusion and participation in political processes, both at the local and the national level.
In conclusion, the Federal government of Germany is very much involved in gender mainstreaming in Africa by taking transformative approaches in its development policies. However, from an African perspective, there should be clearer strategies outlined for specific countries facing different challenges in the region. Adopting transformative gender mainstreaming approaches, particularly for crisis countries like the CAR, which genuinely integrate women would be instrumental.
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