Monday, March 10, 2008

International Womens Day

Last Saturday, March 8, was International Womens Day (a day that has been observed since the early 1900's) which prompts us to reflect on the goals of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the extent to which such goals are reflected in national and international measures addressing gender disparity.   Last month (Feb. 8-13), women entrepreneurs and lawyers from 12 African countries (Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Swaziland, South Africa, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Uganda) gathered in Cape Town, South Africa, to discuss obstacles facing African female entrepreneurs and possible solutions for reform. The key legal barriers identified as impeding women's entrepreneurship in Africa included (i) lack of access to credit (land is often required as collateral and womens land ownership may be subject to their husbands approval or prohibited by clan law); (ii) lack of property rights; (iii) inferior legal status under family, succession, corporate and commercial law (e.g. husband's permission may be required to register a business); (iv) inadequate implementation of labor law provisions which protect women; (v) and cumbersome, costly systems for enforcing contracts (which have a disproportionately negative effect on women because of their lack of resources (time and cash).

The World Bank Group's Doing Business Gender Project plans to compile a database of legal provisions impeding women's rights and their economic development, scheduled to be launched online in June 2008.  eh

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