afrol News / Gender Links, 26 June - Gender activists congratulate the Finance Minister of Mauritius, Rama Sithanen, for making moves in the right direction with the 2007/2008 budget. The budget makes provision to close the gender gap and challenge gender stereotypes. While Mauritius has reformed its legislation and awareness, the budgets to back them up have so far missed.
For the first time in the history of Mauritius, a whole chapter in a budget speech covers breaking cultural barriers for women and challenging stereotypes. "This will help give a backbone to the organisations and individuals who are working hard to raise awareness about gender inequality," activists hope.
Over the past few years, Mauritian gender and media organisations have worked hard to achieve this goal by raising awareness. Local and regional activists such as the Mauritian Media Watch Organisation (MWO)-GEMSA have facilitated workshops on gender and such issues as violence, discrimination, the economy, and politics. Most recently, the organisation is spearheading the creation of a national action plan to end gender violence and gender discrimination.
In early June, participants of a four-day workshop, a partnership between South African based Gender Links, MWO-GEMSA and the Ministry of Local Government, came out with a draft gender strategy for local government. The key message is to mainstream gender in local government and to address the gender gaps. Some of the strategies approved by participants of the Local Government workshop are in line with the Budget Speech 2007/2008.
This includes ensuring that women have economic opportunities through gender parity in employment opportunities and training. It also includes encouraging women entrepreneurs by ensuring women suppliers are aware of opportunities to submit tenders, encouraging large companies to sub-contract to women-owned enterprises, and providing space for women to sell products.
Activists see these moves as a step in the right direction for addressing unemployment among women. The female unemployment rate in Mauritius is 15.5 percent compared to 5 percent for men, the Minister pointed out. "The higher female unemployment rate is a gender gap that we must urgently close, because it will worsen income disparities and create other gender inequalities."
There continues to be a lot of gender stereotyping when it comes to the workplace. Women engineers, pilots or truck drivers were a rarity few years ago. With the 2007/08 budget the whole scenery could change. More women may be encouraged to enter the male dominated work place.
These changing roles are now to be seen in a new photo exhibit, "Égalité des sexes face aux métiers" (gender equality through jobs) to be held on 29 June 2007 by MWO-GEMSA. The 50 pictures from the Indian Ocean Commission region - Comoros, Madagascar, Réunion, Seychelles and Mauritius - break stereotypes in gender roles.
Minister Sithanen said, "We must break the cultural barriers that keep women from taking jobs theirs sisters do overseas such as electricians, plumbers, tile layers, drivers, painters, metal working and gardeners. Employers also must end any prejudice against employing women in these activities."
Mr Sithanen did not speak in a vacuum, "To achieve this revolution we must first provide adequate possibilities for training women in those occupations that traditionally have gone to men only," he said. The Industrial and Vocational Training Board and the association of construction is soon to launch training programmes for women to learn various trades in the construction section.
The Minister further added, "This will redefine our approach to development with equal opportunities for women to enter the world of work in any fields they desire." Reengineering the parastatal is to bring additional benefits to women enterprises for outsourcing.
Moreover, since the Mauritian government is encouraging women entrepreneurs with the setting up of the empowerment fund, women are set to benefit from these contracts. Over and above ending prejudices, women are also to be empowered to apply for tenders in a wide variety of sectors that have remained male dominated.
The budget also mentions positive discrimination in favour of women. "Government will reserve space for women in the Villages Touristiques". Women in the Mauritian prisons too have a place in the budget. They will get training by "Kinouete", an organisation working with women inmates.
Groups that are committed to work with women and children who are victims of abuse and violence are also to get support from government. A women and children solidarity fund to the tune of rupees 25 million (euro 590,000) has been earmarked for projects that would brighten the lives of battered women and children.
MWO-GEMSA says it hopes that "the removal of duties on household appliances will not only make life easier for women but will also encourage men to do household work. This will break gender stereotypes and will give men the opportunity to show that they too can be professional home managers."
By Loga Virahsawmy. Ms Virahsawmy is the President of Media Watch Organisation in Mauritius.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.