Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment

Despite regional growth and trade and notable progress in advancing gender equality, large variations exist within and between countries. Inequalities of income and of opportunity still remain high for women and girls. The gender gap in the labor market has been decreasing slowly, but women’s participation is more likely to be in the informal sector. In fact, 80 percent of all informal traders in East Africa are women trading in grains, staple foods, textiles, and cosmetics. 

Individuals who frequently travel across country borders, risk losing access to crucial transboundary referrals and healthcare access as they engage in economic and social activities on either side of the border. Mobile populations include migrants, cross-border communities, pastoralists, fisherfolk, long distance truckers, and informal traders. Disruptions to their healthcare, especially women’s access to critical reproductive health needs such as family planning, pre/post natal services, child health and HIV services, is more tenuous in these communities.

The region also grapples with deeply rooted structural inequality such as gender based violence and vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. These issues, as well as, risky sexual behaviour among mobile populations and sexual harassment for mobile and vulnerable populations living in, traveling through, or trading across multiple borders all negatively impact women and girls. Advancing gender equality as a catalyst to improved management of these transboundary risks and challenges, leads to optimization of opportunities that transcend the East Africa borders.

Therefore, USAID investments focus on:

  • Increasing access to healthcare for vulnerable and mobile cross border populations
  • Strengthening integrated cross-border health systems
  • Addressing and reducing barriers to trade and movement of people
  • Promoting cross border trade while strengthening the region’s agricultural markets
  • Improving women’s livelihoods by building the capacity of women informal cross-border traders on trade regulations, enterprise management, structured trade, EAC grain standards, market information and access to finance 

Fact sheet: Gender equality in East Africa 

Toolkits: USAID Gender Based Violence Toolkits

Last updated: August 25, 2020

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