Tribute to Women in Cross-border Trading: How can Africa Achieve Social Justice by Including Protection Needs and Voices of the Vulnerable?
The 8th of March marks the celebration of the International Women’s Day which is the day to raise awareness on what still needs to be done to achieve gender equality internationally. This year’s theme is geared to look at women in leadership and the role of equality when recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic. While governments and international organizations worldwide called for concerted efforts by all to stop the spread of the pandemic, it is paramount to include the most vulnerable and marginalized in our society in the response mechanisms and protect their rights, in the spirit of social justice.
This year’s theme resonates also with the International Day of Social Justice which was celebrated on the 20th of February; under the theme “Closing the Inequalities Gap to Achieve Social Justice”. With social justice being an underlying principle to achieve a peaceful and prosperous Africa driven by its people, the African Union upholds this principle when promoting gender equality or the rights of marginalized people, such as women migrants’ worker in cross-border trading domain.
The AU Agenda 2063 is calling for an Africa that is people-driven and relies on the potential of its people. Aspiration 6 of Agenda 2063 specifically focuses on African women and children. The Global Compact on Migration calls on all signatory Member States to adopt and strengthen legislation relevant to women migrant workers such as the extension of coverage in national labour law in the formal and informal sectors, prohibition of sexual, gender and disability-based violence, discrimination and harassment in employment and occupation.
The informal economy forms a large part of Africa’s job market with the share in Sub-Saharan Africa being amongst the highest globally. Congruently, the informal economy plays a significant role in most African countries and employs a significant share of women workers – including female migrant workers. Informal cross-border trade has been significant to African economies as it represents approximately 40% of regional trade. Informal trading is primarily dominated by women, who represent as much as 70% to 80% percent of such traders in some African countries. The traders play an unprecedented and economically important role in the continent, which includes alleviating poverty and supporting food security.
However, with countries implementing regulations that limit cross-border trade, allowing only the movement of goods and services by large companies, cross border traders are alienated to their livelihoods leading to their socio-economic status put to precarious situation. COVID-19 has had significant impacts on global health and economies due to the measures implemented to contain the virus. Such measures have profoundly affected the most vulnerable social groups, particularly those in the informal economy, who lack secure employment and protections – the case in point is cross-border women group.
The Revised AU Migration Policy Framework for Africa recognizes gender and migration as a cross-cutting issue. It identifies the need to make national migration strategies and policies gender-responsive and to strengthen responses to the particular needs of migrant women and girls, ensuring their human and labour rights and their health needs – especially for labour migration, equality of opportunity and the protection of the rights of migrant workers through gender-sensitive policies and practices are emphasized.
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