afrol News, 1 December - The situation of women in Djibouti, where some 98% undergo female genital mutilation, is again targeted by international agencies. Already playing a vital part in economy, it is hoped more education and public campaigns could improve Djiboutian women's status.
The African Development Fund (ADF) recently approved a new Technical Assistance Fund (TAF) grant of approximately US$ 1 million "to finance the project for institutional support to improve the condition of women in Djibouti."
Women already play an active role in the economy of Djibouti, especially in the informal and small-enterprise sectors, and constitute one third of the labour force, according to UN figures. In the formal urban sector, women are employed mainly as clerical or administrative staff, while in rural areas they play an important role in livestock raising.
It is estimated that more than 80 per cent of Djiboutian enterprises fall into the informal and semi-informal sector, including a large number of informal microenterprises. Women figure strongly in this sector, and are expected to play an increased economic role if they were to have increased access to microfinancing.
The UN has thus launched some local, small-scale microcredit projects targeting the women so far. The World Food Programme has also been assisting women's adult literacy programmes for several years. In the same spirit, the government instituted the Division for the Promotion and Development of Women's Affairs within the President's Office in the late 1990s.
While the labour and education situation for Djiboutian women surely has improved over the last years, deep-rooted traditions still prevent real changes in the status of women. Almost 100 percent of Djiboutian girls still undergo female genital mutilation and the use of traditional laws discriminates against women in such areas as inheritance, domestic violence and divorce.
The new ADF project, in cooperation with the Djiboutian government, is to address the failures of other programmes to better the status of women in more than a superficial manner. "The sectoral objective of the project is to integrate women so as to enable them better contribute to developing the country by genuine improvement with regard to development, modernization and equity," according to an ADF statement.
More specifically, the project aims at increasing the institutional and operational capacities of the Ministry of Women Promotion, the civil society organisations and the media in respect of advocacy for improvement of the situation of women.
The project will involve the strengthening of the operational capacities of the ministry, a coherent national policy for the Government and the effective application of the National Strategy for Integration of Women into the Development process.
- On account of the activities of the NGOs and the media, the population will be extensively sensitised on the situation of women, while the bases for a change of behaviour and attitude towards women will be consolidated, ADF reports.
Furthermore, the project will increase the capacities of national institutions with regard to design preparation, implementation and management of advocacy programmes in favour of women and integration of gender concerns.
The Djiboutian government has been noted for its recent change in policy towards women. Earlier this year, an important step was taken towards enforcing the 6-year-old legislation prohibiting female genital mutilation (FGM). A government-sponsored campaign against FGM was launched. According to UN estimates, the rate of girls undergoing FGM has been slightly dropping lately, especially in the capital, although no reliable statistics are available.