A woman’s place is at the table

The EITI can be better used to ensure that women’s voices are heard in how the extractive sector is managed.

During my first mission to Kabul, my colleague and I had a Taliban rocket land some forty meters from our guesthouse. It happened in the evening, while we were working on our notes from the day before, and it shook the whole guesthouse. We ran to the safe-room and put on our bullet-proof vests. What was going on, was the compound under attack?

When we finally got the all-clear we found out that three rockets had been lobbed into the green zone and one happened to fall in our compound. No real danger, just bad luck.

But how does one sleep after something like that? We put on a DVD in the hope that it would take our mind off things. Fifteen minutes into the movie, my colleague said, “Ok, I think I’m fine now. I’m going to go to bed. See you at breakfast”. I was still terrified, but knowing that my colleague felt the situation was under control worked wonders on my frayed nerves. It wasn’t long before I too was sleeping soundly in my room.

At half my size and weight, wearing her pajamas, a bullet-proof vest and bright-red toenails, my colleague’s calm demeanour made me feel that everything was going to be ok.

I wanted to share this story today, as we celebrate Women’s Day, to highlight how incredibly lucky we are at the International Secretariat to be able to build on each other’s strengths – whatever our gender, nationality, faith or culture. There is something quite unique about working in an office where the ratio of women to men is consistently around 50-50 and where alongside English you’re bound to hear French and Russian as often as you’ll hear Spanish or Norwegian.

This diversity is to some extent also present at the EITI Board, where 33% of Board members and alternates are women. Making sure that there is an equal balance between men and women is something that constituencies in the EITI are encouraged to keep in mind when deciding who should represent them on the EITI Board (see the draft constituency guidelines from 2013 here).

Pluralistic and diverse representation

The EITI is (among other things) a forum for stakeholders to discuss natural resource governance. The more representative the EITI’s structures are, the better they may be able to reflect the needs and opinions of the societies they serve. The EITI’s Requirement 1.4(a)ii states that “each stakeholder group must have the right to appoint its own representatives, bearing in mind the desirability of pluralistic and diverse representation”.

When discussing extractives, balanced representation between genders is not just an end in itself

According to Oxfam, “Large-scale oil, gas and mining projects – like projects of almost any kind – affect women and men differently. Women often bear the brunt of the negative impacts while receiving few, if any, of the benefits (such as compensation for land or employment). But it doesn’t have to be this way. These risks can be mitigated if women are more systematically included in consultation and decision-making processes.”

Although the EITI cannot solve the gender imbalance in the extractives, there is no reason why it should not be part of the solution. Through the EITI, implementing countries have a tool to ensure that women’s voices are heard in how the extractive sector is managed. In some countries, this is already very much the case; in others, we all have more work to do.

In the meantime, from all of us at the International Secretariat, men and women alike, Happy Women’s Day everyone! 


Image showing the female Board members at the 36th Board meeting in Bogota, Colombia, on 8 March 2017.