Gendered change to transparency in extractives starts in West Africa

Making women visible and locating gender expertise in their own movements have put West African Publish What You Pay (PWYP) coalitions at the forefront of working with gender in extractives. But there is a long journey ahead before minds and work processes have shifted to more gendered ways of working.

How do you change a system that is largely ‘gender blind’? That is, if women are systematically underrepresented or absent from discussions, if gender is not on the agenda, and if women are made even more invisible by not gender disaggregating routinely collected data and using it for analysis.

For many (if not most) civil society groups seeking to influence the transparent governance of extractive industries in their countries, this is a reality. And it led to PWYP picking up the challenge to undertake some research, led by three PWYP coalitions in West Africa (Burkina Faso, Guinea and Senegal), with others joining (Ghana, Nigeria and Togo) to do a gender scan of their own coalitions and membership. These gender scans sought to answer: Where do women and men currently participate in our system? Where are there gender disparities and why? And where is there existing gender expertise among our members that we can collectively draw on?   

Gender ‘neutrality’ solidifies status quo

A wealth of literature points to inherent gender inequalities in the extractives sector, with benefits and risks unfairly shared. Consequently, gender blind policies and data (until recently considered ‘gender neutral’) actually create negative gender outcomes for women by helping to maintain, or further aggravate, existing power imbalances while failing to support women as a force for development.

Other factors may also play in. A predominantly male culture can make informal ‘pat-on-the-back deals’ between men more acceptable. To thrive in this culture, women may have to adjust to it rather than using their voice to express solidarity with more marginalized women. All this affects transparency, as exemplified across the PWYP coalitions’ reports.

Recently the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) has been more vocal on gender issues. However, it is up to EITI implementing countries to put a more transformative gender approach into practice. So far, much has remained aspirational, and a previous PWYP blog argues that women have largely been left behind. Three key takeaways from the West African gender research are synthesized below:

  • Make women – and gender disparities – visible

It’s easy to accept status quo for as long as women are mostly invisible and gender issues are not systematically analyzed. At present that is the case. A gender break-down of participation in governance and decision-making structures within the EITI universe is not easily available; neither is it always clear what percentage of participants were women or representing local women’s groups when validations of EITI reports took place locally.

Multi-stakeholder groups (MSGs) – with representatives from government, companies and civil society mandated to oversee the national EITI implementation – had a representation of women which varied from 7% to 20%. Some MSGs elsewhere have no women participating at all according to research by the Institute for Multi-stakeholder Initiative Integrity (2015).

Another form of making women invisible is not gender disaggregating data in the reporting. When it exceptionally happens, reported gender disparities are revealing. For instance, in Burkina Faso the 2016 EITI report showed that women held less than 3% of all jobs created by mining companies (with no further analysis included, or contextualized information from women’s groups on the ground). Moreover, a cross-country comparison is not possible since up until now, gender disaggregation of data is not required according to the EITI Standard.  

  • Make gender issues discussed and acted upon

But lopsided participation is only one side of the story. The sometimes astonishingly low level of participation of women in EITI processes is often symptomatic of broader, deeper, more structural gender inequalities and power imbalances. These need to be analyzed holistically, with a wider-angle gender lens.

Several of the coalition research reports found glaring gaps between the relatively good national policy framework for advancing gender equality (e.g. via national gender plans and strategies), and the complete absence of any references to gender in the frameworks regulating extractive industries. Local women’s groups as well as national public institutions mandated to promote gender equality (such as the Gender Ministry, the gender unit in the Ministry of Planning etc.) could play an important role in making such linkages clearer, with PWYP potentially helping to broker such knowledge.

Each of the participating PWYP coalitions could identify at least a few members with particularly relevant gender expertise. While some of them had previously been relatively inactive in the coalition, the ‘buzz’ of doing this research led to increased interest, with a few additional gender-focused groups wanting to join as members.

  • Get gender into the institutional DNA and culture

As part of the research, we developed a method for visualizing and tracking gender references across key documents (work plans, strategic plans, reporting etc.) to determine whether gender really was part of the institutional DNA or whether it was just mentioned in passing. Any reference (or dedicated publication) on gender issues was either classified as: aspirational – meaning that it constituted a recommendation or non-obligatory guidance, but had not yet happened; normative – indicating some sort of obligation (e.g. in a Code of Conduct); informational – stating a fact, announcing upcoming gender-focused events or providing a gender break-down of participation; results-oriented – accounting for gendered impacts or results (including analysis of such results); and community generated – representing feedback and data from those who are closest to the problem on the ground.

Even though coalitions often reported a complete absence – or at best aspirational or informational – gender references in key documents at this point, the idea is to continue to use this classification to track how it might evolve over time. It could also be a way to hold each other mutually to account for incorporating a gender dimension in the EITI multi-stakeholder partnership.

In conclusion, isolated gender projects like this one clearly cannot do the job of gender mainstreaming the broader EITI process on its own. Nevertheless, this research – as part of a longer PWYP gender project funded by the Hewlett Foundation – can maybe be a first trigger. In addition to taking stock and providing a baseline, it illustrates how women are not just potential victims or passive beneficiaries of extractive resources or economic opportunities in the sector; they are also forceful change makers. That is when they are not excluded, and when deeper gender inequalities are not ignored.  

A gendered approach to transparently governed extractive industries may still be a distant destination, but at least in West Africa, the navigation for how to get there has started.

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

“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.

Guinea

Since its launch in 2006, PWYP Guinea has focused on EITI implementation, including disseminating EITI reports aimed at the wider population. It also advocates for national legislation to support transparency in mining contracts and was instrumental in the process that led to the adoption of a new mining code and implementing legislation. The coalition is currently monitoring companies’ fulfilment of legal obligations, promoting revenue allocation back to communities that live alongside mining sites, and assessing the environmental impact of mining.

Moussa Iboun Conté

I am from a country deemed very resource rich – when we went to Burkina Faso for work, and we introduced ourselves as Guineans, everyone was saying “You come from a rich country – there are mineral resources, gold and diamonds”.

I was really intrigued to see that there is so much attention paid to Guinea because I know that – from seeing the deterioration of basic services – mining revenues do not benefit the population as a whole. There is no electricity, the country is plunged in total darkness and all successive governments since independence have not been able to resolve this energy issue. In addition, we have to consider access to water. I see how often people struggle to find drinking water and there are entire villages that have no water. So what’s the point of being resource rich I thought? That’s what pushed me to get involved in this issue.