It is an unknown fact that the Central African Republic (CAR) was a forerunner in terms of women's political commitment with the appointment of the first female head of government in the entire African continent: Elisabeth Domitien, Prime Minister in 1975.
Since then, the Central African authorities have shown their commitment to putting in place a protective legislative and political framework. The March 2016 constitution enshrined gender equality in its Article 5. It guarantees women equal rights with men in all areas. This commitment was reflected in the vote in 2016 of a parity law which obliges the state, political parties, the private sector and civil society to reserve at least 35% of decision-making positions for women over the period 2016-2026.
However, CAR remains a deeply patriarchal society: according to the Gender Inequality Index, it ranks 159th out of 162 countries. Girls and women are poorly educated: according to government statistics, less than 20% of girls of school age attend secondary school. The active labour force participation rate for women is 65%. In addition, the country, which has been weakened by numerous crises, has a significant number of cases of gender-based violence (GBV). For several years, the GBVIMS (Gender-Based Violence Information Management System) has recorded an average of 10,000 cases of GBV per year, including 2,000 cases of sexual violence. In the absence of an integrated national information system, these data are certainly greatly underestimated.
The Bêkou Fund supports the population and the Central African authorities through a programme specifically dedicated to gender. This programme mainly targets women and girls, and particularly victims of gender-based violence (GBV). In addition, the gender dimension is also very present in the other programmes of the Bêkou Fund, particularly those relating to social cohesion, health and employment.
The third phase of the gender programme aims to "reduce gender-based violence in the Central African Republic".
It is aligned with the national strategy to combat gender-based violence, child marriage and female genital mutilation in the Central African Republic (2019-2023).
Since 2014, 11 million euros have been allocated by the Bêkou Fund to this gender theme via the three phases of the gender programme.
Phases 1 and 2 of the Gender programme
The Bêkou Fund financed the programme "Improvement of the economic and social situation of women and their families in the Central African Republic" (Gender I) for an amount of 1.5 million euros. This action, which ended in August 2016, was implemented in the capital Bangui and in Bocaranga and Kaga Bandoro. The achievements of this first phase were capitalised on and deepened during a second phase (Gender II) carried out between 2017 and 2020.
Thanks to the Bêkou Fund, public and community reception or listening centres were supported: a House of Hope was inaugurated in 2020 in the capital as well as two Women's Socio-Economic Autonomisation Centres - CASEF.
An important part of the funded programmes targeted socio-economic empowerment, allowing GBV victims to resume their activities or to start new ones. This was made possible through literacy campaigns, vocational training and material or monetary support.
Gisèle Pana, Minister for the Promotion of Women, the Family and the Protection of Children, spoke of the concrete benefits of the projects financed by the Bêkou Fund, which have made it possible to "develop training activities in order to give qualifications, to give skills to women who need them, because if these women have a qualification, they have a skill, they can take charge of their lives, they can be autonomous, and they can make their contribution to the recovery of our country.”
Finally, community mobilisation work was also carried out to raise awareness of women's rights. The aim was to prevent further violence, but also to eliminate the stigmatisation of victims of gender-based violence so that they can reintegrate into their communities.
Between January and September 2019, more than 8,800 cases of gender-based violence were recorded by the GBVIMS system, 93% of which involved women. To combat this situation, the third phase of the gender programme (Gender III) was adopted in March 2020. It is structured around 2 axes:
- Support for integrated care structures for victims of GBV
The project led by the International Rescue Committee supports the victims at several levels: by offering them temporary accommodation, by providing psychosocial care, by referring them to the relevant medical structures; but also by facilitating their family and socio-economic reintegration and, finally, by mobilising the communities on these issues.
- Technical assistance to the Ministry
The second component will strengthen the Ministry for the Promotion of Women, the Family and Child Protection (MPFFPE) in its governance and coordination efforts with all the actors involved in this issue. It will provide the MPFFPE with essential materials and equipment, rehabilitate its premises and offer technical support.
In addition, the programmes financed by the Bêkou Fund in other sectors also integrate a gender dimension. This is notably the case for the health programme, which provides free medical care for victims of GBV. Some partners also provide psychosocial support and even mental health care.
Furthermore, the economic and social urban reconstruction (PRESU) and return support projects have made it possible to support and revitalise a number of reception or listening centres in Bangui (in particular Les Flamboyantes and the Centre d'écoute Réseau des Psychologues en Centrafrique) and in Bambari. These structures are anchored in the communities and located in areas of fragility (KM5 or Miskine neighbourhoods). Thanks to the use of "labour-intensive work - THIMO", people with little or no experience, including young girls, have been able to learn about construction activities.
- 68 000 women supported in their socio-economic integration
- 200 000 assisted deliveries in supported health centres.