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Annex 5: Summary of meetings with African NGOs, academics, and government officials.

In the course of preparing this report, a series of meetings was held in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda with NGOs, academics, and government officials. (1) The objective of these meetings was to solicit African perspectives on the issue of poverty and gender. The scope and substance of the report has sought to reflect the main messages conveyed at these meetings. These messages are summarized below.

A. Culture

* African culture is a barrier to development to the extent that it perpetuates culturally sanctioned biases against women and provides excuses for men.

* Cultural biases operate at all levels - macro: institutions, government policy; meso: community; and micro: household and individual.

* Culture can be changed if specifically targeted.

* Education, incentives and affirmative action, legal reform, and participation are the means by which culture changes.

* Policies will fail if the cultural context in which they operate are not taken into account.

" Women's time constraint is a problem of culture. Men culturally do not collect water or firewood."

" Domestic violence is tied to culture; women are regarded as property."

" Incentives should be given to get more girls into school. After about fifteen years, the value of educating girls will be internalized and special incentives will no longer be required."

"Changing culture requires an enabling environment. The legal system, institutions and structures must be subject to change."

" Cultural constraints in Uganda are being addressed at the macro level through the Land Bill and the Domestic Relations Bill."

" If we could look at decision-making within the household, and look at the position of the girl child, we would begin to deal with the cultural issue that underlies the gender problem."

"As an antidote to cultural biases, donor agencies should educate the family before putting resources into educating the girl child."

"Some money should be invested in socializing women for change."

B. Participation

* The participation of women at all levels of decision making, macro and grassroots, is important.

* Participation, to be effective, has to be promoted in conjunction with capacity building and the provision of skills such as functional literacy.

* Affirmative action should be considered as a means of getting women into all cadres of leadership.

* A participatory approach leads to insights which would not otherwise be gained.

C. Labor

* Women don't necessarily shift their labor in response to changes in price or other market signals.

* Women's choices in production reflect issues of control and security.

"Inclusion, control and lobbying are the most important words when considering poverty and gender."

" Women must be on committees where the decision is made as to which road is built Kitchens are designed by men who spend three percent of their time in the kitchen."

" Fetching water may be time consuming, however, it also has a social dimension. It may be the woman's only opportunity to socialize. Only a participatory approach, as opposed to mere observation, would provide this information."

" The Ugandan Constitution requires that one third of the seats in the local councils be occupied by women. However, these women have moved from the private to the public sphere without any experience of public office. They need capacity building in order to participate effectively, to know how to influence policy."

"Through the Constitution making process in Uganda, women became aware of their rights. Their participation in the process led to a gendered Constitution."

"There are policies that only the higher ups are aware of. Women at the bottom don't know what they are, even the local governments don't know. Participation is key."

* The estimation of women's contribution to the economy is inaccurate given that their unpaid labor is not included in the national accounts.

" Productivity as a whole is an anomaly. Women have no incentive to produce more because their husbands take a new wife with the increased income."

" A woman will not grow more maize because her husband will use the extra money to take another wife. The issue is insecurity of her control over the income generated. It is the same reason why she won't build a house; it's a permanent structure over which she has no control."

" When food crops become cash crops, they are taken over by men leading to food insecurity. The public sector should focus more on the food crop sector as the cash crop sector only benefits men."

D. Credit, Law, and Violence

* In a hierarchy of assets, including land and labor-saving technology, credit takes priority.

* The manner in which credit is extended has a bearing on its impact and results.

* Legal reform is a powerful agent of change despite the coexistence of customary law.

* Violence against women stems from poverty and therefore should be addressed by policy makers.

"The reality is that men are also badly off. Therefore targeting women for credit would create conflict hi the household. Credit should be targeted at both spouses."

" Gender discriminatory customary law has been made null and void by civil law. But women must be made aware of the legal reforms and the impHcations for them."

" Poverty has a double negative impact on women. Within a household, it breeds violence against women and children."

" In Tanzania, the Gender Task Force on the Land Bill conducted workshops in villages. The women in the villages said that it was nice that the land bill was being discussed but that they would like to see a bill that forced men to work harder so that they would be too tired in the evenings to beat their wives."

(1) This annex was prepared by Chitra Bhanu, Consultant Poverty Reduction and Social Development Group, Africa Region, World Bank, following her meetings with African counterparts.
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Title Annotation:Gender Growth and Poverty Reduction: Special Program of Assistance for Africa, 1998 Status Report on Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa
Publication:Gender, Growth and Poverty Reduction
Date:Mar 1, 1999
Words:934
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