Women in Angola: An Update on Gender-Based Barriers and Opportunities for Democracy and Governance Work

Saturday, April 1, 2000
Southern Africa

The author's scope of work calls for a summary report that captures what is (existing condition), what should be (desired condition), discrepancies between the two (problems), and causes of the discrepancies (sources of the problems and how to address the discrepancies).2 Not surprisingly, much extends beyond Angolan circumstances. Similar conditions can be observed in countries around the world and are reflected in the Beijing Platform for Action. With regard to Angolan women, however, the answers to these questions may be briefly addressed as follows:

� Existing condition. Although some Angolan women are powerful and rich, the average Angolan woman is increasingly poor, uneducated, and illiterate, lacking access to basic services, struggling to support herself and her family, and desiring a better life. Many are also victims of violence in their homes and their communities. Each day, more are injured (or killed) by landmines.
� Desired condition. All Angolan women should have access to health care and education/literacy; services and education for their children; opportunities to generate income to support themselves; safety and security; and the opportunity to participate in government, peace making, and local decision making.
� Sources of the problems. The problem sources are traditional, gender-based roles; extreme poverty; a lack of education and information; ongoing conflict; restricted
1 See, for example, the New York Times article of April 9, 2000, p. 3.
2 Of importance also will be an analysis of domestic allies and partners, as well as an examination of opportunities for integrating gender into USAID/Angola's Democracy and Governance Strategy and Results Framework.
Women in Angola: An Update on Gender-Based Barriers and Opportunities for Democracy and Governance Work
mobility and an inability to cultivate land because of landmines; and dysfunctional and corrupt government.
� How to address the discrepancies. Improving the lives of Angolan women requires three conditions: (1) government use of Angolan resources to deliver basic services (health care, water, electricity, education); (2) removal of restrictions on organizations, civil society, and so forth, to ensure that government is responsive; and (3) availability of resources (financial, training, and information) for self-help and entrepreneurial activities by women's groups. In addition, however, improving women's lives requires that donors, international organizations, and the Angolan government pay attention to ways in which ostensibly gender-neutral policies may actually harm women. For example, privatization and land-tenure issues, selection of crops and sectors for economic support, and decisions regarding timesaving and labor-saving infrastructure (such as water systems) all affect women. Similarly, donors' education, training, and hiring policies will influence whether Angola develops gender-stereotyped professions, as well as who will have the capacity to become leaders and whether policymakers will be aware of women's needs.

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AWID, An update on Gender-Based Barriers and Opportunities For Democracy and Governance Work, 2000