Still long way to go to incorporate gender aspects in development aid
To stop violent conflicts over natural resources, women need to have more influence in the resource management and decision-making. This recipe has proved successful in many parts of the world, but in many African countries, there are still lots of barriers to be broken – legally, economically, ideologically and not least, mentally. This was one of the main conclusions reached at seminar on African gender issues, co-arranged by NAI and Sida.
During a recent roundtable, researchers, policy makers, development practitioners and other stakeholders discussed new research, experiences and exchanged ideas on the gender dimension of conflicts and struggle over natural resources in Africa. Many African economies depend largely on natural resources. Agriculture, forestry and livestock production are major sources of livelihood but also reasons for conflicts. Disputes over access or control of a resource are common. In most cases, women, youth and children are the most vulnerable groups in conflict situations.
“The role played by neocolonialism has shaped the gender roles in Africa. Not all is good in African cultural history but there were African practices with a community based ownership of resources that were more inclusive of women,” says Opportuna Kweka, former guest researcher at NAI and one of the participants in the roundtable.
Development aid agencies, researchers and practitioners need to collaborate more closely for a comprehensive assessment of the situation during all phases of a project. Panel discussions reflected on the core issue - how effectively can the research findings be applied in practice?
“It is important to understand the local conditions and culture, and also make sure that the knowledge transfer is not lost in translation”, says Shilpa Asokan, NAI researcher.
Increased usage of water resources due to high population growth rates, urbanization and agricultural expansion have led to water scarcity in many parts of Africa. All this, in combination with the unpredictability of climate change, increases the vulnerability of the rural population, especially the subsistence farmers.
“It is important to train local people and provide technical support. Integration of local practices with policies and projects that have shown to be successful in other parts of the world has the potential to yield a higher success rate”, says Asokan.
We need to trust that women can do it on their own as well.
Opportuna Kweka points out that equality is not about numbers. It is about traditions, attitudes and cultural differences. Which leads to hindering people in a community and affect their well-being negatively. She shared a personal example.
“Men are surprised to see women in a building material shop. Whenever I go to buy building materials, Mr. or Mrs. is written on my receipts even though I am a woman and not married. The same applies when you purchase a car. This shows that there is an imagination of a man behind a successful single woman. We need to trust that women can do it on their own as well”, says Kweka.
TEXT: Susanna Dukaric