Have women been left behind in the transparency and accountability agenda?

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“How can we effect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feels welcome to participate in the conversation?”

These words, spoken by UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson, in 2014 capture the drive behind Publish What You Pay’s (PWYP) newly launched two-year Gender & Extractives pilot project, which is being supported by the Hewlett Foundation. Starting with one of the key transparency and accountability mechanisms in the oil, gas and mining sector, the project will look at how the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) could be implemented in a way that ensures women’s active participation, including in decision making processes about the exploitation of their natural resources. Initiated in response to calls from PWYP members to address the gendered impact of natural resource extraction, the project will take into consideration women’s distinct experiences of the extractive sector, and of the EITI process in particular, in order to inform transparency policies and governance reforms that better respond to women’s needs and priorities.

Stephanie Rochford, Director of Member Engagement at the PWYP International Secretariat, speaks about PWYP’s objectives and approach on this project.

1. Tell us more about PWYP’s motivations for taking on this project and why it is important

There is a wide consensus, as highlighted by the articles in a recent issue of Oxfam’s Gender & Development journal, that the exploitation of natural resources affect women and men differently, and that it is women who bear the brunt of the negative consequences such as environmental degradation, with access to few of the benefits such as employment. Yet, there is very little research to assess whether the information being made available as a result of the initial push for transparency by organisations like PWYP – including fiscal data such as royalties, signature bonuses and taxes – is accessible to, and being used by, women to address the specific challenges they face as a result of extractive activities. And whether it is relevant in informing policies that address the impact of those extractive activities on both men and women; or whether women are as able as men to participate, and to be heard, in multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the EITI.

For example, the information currently being disclosed thanks to EITI and mandatory payment disclosure laws is critical for deterring corruption and enabling citizens to assess whether their country is getting a good deal for its natural resources. However, it has become clear that what the EITI, and other transparency and accountability initiatives, have not taken into account in their theory of change is the extent to which women and men have different experiences of the extractive sector; different capacities to relate to, access and use data that is made available; and, consequently, that different types of data may be required to ensure that women’s rights are addressed by the policies which these data disclosure initiatives seek to influence.

If the disclosure of information which reflects women’s distinct experiences continues to be overlooked by a key transparency mechanism then there is little likelihood of women being truly engaged in that mechanism, or of policies leading to real change for those women impacted by the sector.

Our project seeks not only to address how we can place gender at the centre of the transparency and accountability work that PWYP coalitions do with communities impacted by extractive activities. We are also looking to our own institutional processes, and those of the EITI, to understand how we can place a gender perspective at the heart of our own organisations. Even a cursory look at the proportion of women who sit on the national EITI boards, known as multi-stakeholder groups (MSGs) made up of government, industry & civil society representatives; as well as the proportion of women to men among many PWYP national coalitions, indicates that women are not equally represented or heard at the table even within our own movement. And a recent roundtable discussion organised by NRGI and Oxfam, which gathered key voices in the transparency and accountability and the gender justice fields, concluded that there is very little research available to inform an understanding of whether women are indeed benefiting from the increased transparency that we have witnessed from the sector over the last decade.

We therefore need to begin addressing this systemic failure to advance gender equity within the transparency and accountability movement. And to push for the publication and analysis of information that will support policies that respond to the different experiences of men and women affected by oil, gas and mining activities.

For accountability to be truly achieved, and for that accountability to lead to improved lives for the citizens of resource rich countries, the voices and perspectives of all members of affected communities needs to be heard and considered. As a key mechanism which is leading the promotion of accountability in the management of natural resources, the EITI is therefore a prime starting point to ensure women’s perspectives and voices are heard.

2. Who will be involved in the project?

We will be implementing this pilot project with our national PWYP coalitions in Burkina Faso, Guinea and Senegal as these are the countries where both our members and the EITI Secretariats are keen to address the issues of gender equity and transparency. In addition, we will work in a further four West African countries to undertake gender ‘scans’ of the PWYP coalitions there.

We will be working with key actors – civil society representatives, community members, government and industry officials – with the aim of building their capacity in order to be able to address the following questions:

  • What barriers are there to women’s participation in the EITI process? Looking specifically at barriers which might prevent women’s voices being heard during consultation and feedback at the community level and within the Multi Stakeholder Group.
  • How can the EITI be used as a tool to advance gender equity and to reduce the negative impact of oil, gas and mining activities on women?
  • What type and/or format of data is most useful to ensure information published through the EITI process reflects and helps to effectively mitigate against the negative ways in which women are impacted by oil, gas and mining activities?
  • How can PWYP coalitions and MSGs in Senegal, Guinea and Burkina Faso ensure meaningful and representative participation by, and engagement with, women and women’s rights organisations at an institutional level?
3. What do you expect to come out of this project?

While this is a pilot project for PWYP, over the coming year, we expect to increase the understanding by key actors in Burkina Faso, Guinea and Senegal – including government, civil society and industry stakeholders – of how women and men are impacted by, and able to participate differently in, extractive (governance) activities and of what type of data could inform mitigation of those impacts.
We expect this understanding to lead to both process-level changes in how EITI is implemented in those countries, and how women’s voices are reflected and taken into account in that implementation process. In addition we expect to see disclosure of different types or formats of data that could inform policies that are able to address and mitigate the specific negative impacts of extractive activities on women.

In addition, we expect the project to give PWYP a better understanding of how we can embed a gender perspective at an institutional level into our own network – in other words, how can we as PWYP walk the walk on gender equity?

If these key expectations are met, we anticipate seeing policy reforms that are grounded in evidence and that will effectively address the impact of mining, oil and gas projects on women; as well as a more effective natural resource governance movement where information disclosure is informed by, and used by, key stakeholders – including women – to transform their lives.

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