The Secretary General of the East African Community Amb. Dr. Richard Sezibera Thursday 24th May 2012 launched the East African Women in Business Platform (EAWiBP) in Arusha. The new platform is aimed at promoting women's participation in the EAC trade and integration process.
Amb. Sezibera said that the launching of the platform comes at an opportune moment when a great momentum has been generated in the EAC strategy for empowerment of women in the regional integration and development process.
He added that EAC's commitment to equity and mainstreaming gender in social and economic development is basic and essential.
"Over the years, these issues have galvanized the attention of the key players and stakeholders in the regional integration and development process and the discourse that has involved the broad spectrum of the EAC from the civil society to the national authorities, the private sector, regional economic community and our development partners has been comprehensive and far reaching," he said.
He said this has addressed age-old marginalization of women and the skewed allocation of resources and assignment of responsibilities, rights and roles from the family unit to the society at large.
Amb. Sezibera said that what has clearly emerged is that despite great potential for contribution to social development, the role of women in society has for long been taken for granted.
"Women have been less appreciated and continue to suffer from limited access to opportunities and resources in most sectors especially agriculture and business development," he added.
EAWiBP Executive Committee Member Joanne Mwangi said the platform was initiated in 2011 by the East African Business Council (EABC) with the support of TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) with a view of putting in place mechanisms to address challenges faced by women-owned businesses within the region.
She reiterated that drawing its mandate from the Treaty for the Establishment of East African Community, particularly Article 121 and 122, the platform will be guided by the vision of becoming a Women's Centre of Excellence for intra and extra-EAC trade.' The Treaty obligates Partner States to promote the role of women in socio- economic development and in business.
EAC Principal Gender and Community Development Officer Mrs. Perpetue Miganda reiterated that EACTreaty under Articles 5, 121 and 122 provides for gender mainstreaming and enhancing the role of women in socio-economic development and women in business.
Mrs. Miganda said that translating these commitments to tangible results and actions, the fourth EAC Development Strategy 2012-2016 and the EAC Strategic Plan on Gender, Youth, Children, Social Protection and Community Development have included substantial activities.
These include formulation of policy on promoting women in socio-economic development and business, establish a programme on women in cross-border trade, expand financial infrastructure to increase women's access to financing and credit and facilitating formulation of women in business associations.
"In the specific area of women and cross border trade, there are major specific issues to be addressed such as high illiteracy levels among border communities, lack of market information, lack of storage facilities, poor infrastructure, ignorance on laws and policies, illegal routes, insecurity concerns, inadequate business skills and knowledge, lack of developed border market and gender-based violence.