Politics of Poverty

All eyes on Ukraine: the EITI needs to bring gender in from the cold

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gender EITI dominican republic The Bonao mountains in the “mining triangle” of the Dominican Republic. Photo: Caliesha Comley

Yasmine has a message for the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

¡Aleeeerta! Aleeeerta! Yasmine sends out the call to action. Her voice rises from deep within the concrete meeting hall, echoing across the mountains and lush banana leaves of Cotui, a small municipality in the “mining triangle” of the Dominican Republic.

Yasmine’s voice is a cross between a tuba and a trumpet, deep and bold. She is a member of a coalition of peasant women farmer groups, supported by Oxfam, and she is summoning others to join her. The chant intensifies:

¡Alerta, alerta, alerta que camina, la lucha de la mujeres por el derecho a la vida!

¡Alerta, alerta, alerta que camina, la lucha feminista por la América Latina!

[Alert, warning that transcends, the women’s struggle for the right to life, the feminist struggle of Latin America!]

“No more dispossession and destruction.” A small sign of protest created by activists in the Dominican Republic concerned about the impact of mining on women’s lives. Photo: Maria Ezpeleta/Oxfam America

The chorus reflects the voices of over two dozen members of women’s rights organizations converging in Cotui to discuss the harmful effects of mining on women’s lives. Despite the force behind their chant, women the world over—from the Dominican Republic to Ghana—have little say in how their countries manage revenues from natural resources.

First on the agenda in Cotui is a discussion about the Dominican Republic’s implementation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global initiative to promote open and accountable management of natural resources. Countries and companies that join the initiative are required to disclose information relating to oil, gas, and mining projects, from contracts to revenue flows. However, as Yasmine is keenly aware, the EITI does not mandate, or even suggest, that implementing countries release information on gender or encourage women’s participation.

To her credit, Yasmine is pushing for her coalition to join the Dominican Republic’s EITI multi-stakeholder group. These groups are comprised of representatives from government, extractive companies, and civil society organizations in each EITI member country to oversee implementation. Membership would mean better access to information, a stronger hand in influencing how data is disclosed, and more leverage to ensure that mining revenue reach municipalities like Cotui.

This is not just a fight over information, but investments, too. For women, especially women in rural areas, accountable revenue flows from the extractive industries could mean better access to water, more schools for their children and improved health services for their communities.

Yasmine knows this. Despite the heat of the day, however, she remains frozen out of the EITI process.

There is an opportunity to bring her in from the cold—fittingly, in wintry Ukraine. The EITI board will convene in Kyiv this week and decide on a range of revisions to the EITI’s global standard. The body will consider, for the first time, adopting gender provisions. If adopted, all 51 EITI member countries, including the Dominican Republic, will need to commit to the requirements.

On the table in Kyiv are very basic provisions around 1) gender balance in multi-stakeholder group participation, 2) gender-disaggregated extractive industry employment data, and 3) the consideration of data accessibility across genders and other subgroups. Civil society members of the board are also championing a fourth requirement—for countries to state whether they conduct gender-responsive budgeting. All four of these requirements can be easily met, and it’s high time the EITI prioritize women.

Currently, no women’s organizations are members of the Dominican Republic’s national EITI multi-stakeholder group. In 2015, more than half of the 51 national EITI groups had fewer than 25 percent female participation. Two groups had no female representatives at all.

Until recently, extractive industry transparency has not been understood as having any implications for gender equality. However, disclosures made under the EITI and other mechanisms can promote inclusive resource governance, sunlight harmful practices, and direct revenues toward programs and services that support women. Still, the EITI needs to recognize that it does not operate in a socio-political vacuum. There are deeply rooted politics of power in information disclosure, such as who decides which data should be disclosed, how it is disclosed and with which audiences in mind.

“Transparency” reflects the inequities of its larger context, including gender biases that have left women at the sidelines for too long. Updating the EITI standard will not solve gender inequality in mining areas like Yasmine’s, but it will be a step in the right direction

The EITI board should seize on the opportunity to stand with Yasmine, and with women and feminist organizations all over the world. Ukraine is a chance to let them know that they count—that the EITI is everyone’s chance to have a say in how natural resources are managed and how we can use the revenue to fight poverty and gender inequality.

Alert! The women of the Dominican Republic are watching. Oxfam is watching. Are you?

Keep our united chant until Kyiv and beyond!

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