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SIHA calls to improve women working conditions in Horn of Africa countries

Due to drought, women are exposed to an increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence since they have to walk long distances in search of water (ActionAid Kenya photo)May 1, 2020 (KAMPALA) -Women rights group in the Horn of Africa Friday called to improve working conditions and ensure social protection for the female labour force in the region, pointing that the coronavirus health crisis has revealed their key role in the healthcare sectors.

On the occasion of International Labour Day, the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) recalled that much has to be done to "ensure just, equitable, healthy working conditions and social protections for women, whose labour continues to be under-appreciated and unrecognized throughout the region".

In a report about women work conditions, the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) said that the informal economy comprises more than 90% of total employment in all Greater Horn of Africa countries, except for Sudan where the percentage varies between 50% and 74.

"Across the Greater Horn of Africa, most women labourers are represented in the informal labour and lower-level health services sectors," said SIHA.

The network which gathers women and civil society groups from Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Somaliland, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Uganda. blamed the region’s governments for not doing any effort to improve healthcare or women working conditions even under COVID-19.

"Governments throughout the region have not lifted a finger to ensure that they can work safely and can access basic necessities in the case of temporary unemployment," said SIHA

Further, the statement denounced the working condition of informal female labourers saying they are exposed to many risks and vulnerabilities including, among others, exploitation, income interruptions.

"COVID-19 has revealed how utterly essential women in the healthcare sectors and the informal economy are, and still our governments are content to place the greatest burdens of risk on their shoulders without increasing their pay or providing social protection and safety nets in the case of their unemployment or loss of business as a result of the government-imposed virus containment measures".

Convention 190

Also, the statement called on the Horn of Africa governments to sign and ratify the ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment known as Convention 190.

The convention recognizes the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment, including gender-based violence and harassment.

"SIHA strongly urges all the Greater Horn of Africa nations to ratify the ILO Convention 190 among other crucial regional and international human rights instruments."

The statement stressed that time has come for the region’s government to end their "gender-blind policies" and to engage in a series of reforms to provide women with protection, and equality and to recognize their essential contributions to the health and economic welfare of our region.