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8 Jul 2014

Dr. Melba K. Wasunna, Thamani Trust, on Information Centre for the Extractives Sector (Kenya)

Kenya: Extractive industy urged to pay special attention to women's rights

"Women & Gender in Kenya's Extractives Sector; Why it Matters", 18 June 2014

Recent discoveries in Kenya of non-renewable natural resources, such as oil, natural gas and minerals, have been viewed by many as a sure-fire foundation for the nation's development goals, which are captured in the economic blueprint 'Vision 2030'. Many see these discoveries...as critical precursors to the country's road to prosperity as well as the means for lifting thousands of individuals out of poverty...What remains largely unexplored is whether corporations should become aware of, prevent, and address the potential gendered impacts of their activities. In other words, should there be a stronger focus on women's rights in extractive projects? If so, why should women or gender issues receive special consideration, because after all, potential impacts of an extractive project on the economic, social, cultural and environmental strata of a local community are likely to impact both women and men? For example, an extractive project can improve infrastructure, create jobs and bring about social development schemes such as hospitals and schools where both women and men stand to benefit. By the same token, extractive projects can lead to pollution and destruction of the local rivers thus threatening or adversely affecting the livelihoods, drinking water and general health of both sexes of the surrounding communities. The simple answer in my view is this: the belief that the impacts of extractive operations are gender neutral, as implied above, is a fallacy.