Is corruption sexist?

"For their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work."

Citation of Nobel Peace Prize 2011 - awarded to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman.

Tawakkul Karman is a member of our contact group in Yemen. The executive director of our Palestinian chapter, Ghada Zughayar, talks to us about Tawakkul’s Nobel Peace Prize here.

Corruption blocks women’s access to education, healthcare and markets as they struggle to get their voices heard.

Corruption hits women hardest

As the main users of services such as schools and health facilities, corruption in this area affects women to a greater extent. In fact, more women (60 percent) than men (52 percent) thought there had been an increase in corruption levels in public institutions over the past three years according to Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer.

67 percent of female pupils had been sexually harassed at school in Botswana, with 10 percent consenting to sex for fear of reprisals, according to UNESCO.

Good grades are offered by teachers in return for sexual favours. Schools often expel pregnant students rather than firing staff. This sexual extortion is a good example of gender-based corruption.

Catalysts for change

During the Arab Spring women stood shoulder to shoulder with men in protest at corrupt regimes.

Giving women a voice is an important step towards a fairer society. Any successful anti-corruption measures must include women: those that do not speak for both sexes are doomed to failure. Anti-corruption measures must engage the vulnerable if they are to have an impact. Women, often living in male-dominated societies, are a huge part of this vulnerable group.

Towards a fairer society

A role in politics

Problem: In many countries, women and other vulnerable groups struggle to engage with politics and to get their voices heard on issues of corruption and how governments operate.

Our development pacts are publicly signed agreements, negotiated between public officials and groups of citizens to whom they are accountable, including women’s groups. Officials commit to behave with integrity, and groups commit to actively monitor them. So far, women in Uganda, Zambia, Bolivia and India have been able to positively engage with public office holders through implementation of this tool by our chapters.

Free legal advice, tailored for women

Problem: Women are marginalised and unaware of their rights and existing anti-corruption legislation.

Some of our chapters run Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres which empower citizens in the fight against corruption by providing free and confidential legal advice. The legal centres in Cameroon, Senegal, Niger and Madagascar run special sessions that are targeted specifically at vulnerable groups – including women – who might otherwise find it difficult to benefit from these centres.

Forced to give birth in silence: corruption in Zimbabwe

Corruption starves public services of funds. Our chapter heard that nurses in a local hospital were charging women US $5 every time that they screamed while giving birth. Those who couldn’t pay had to get family members to help them escape, and some were hassled by debt collectors afterwards. TI Zimbabwe met with the deputy prime minister, who called for an investigation into maternal health issues as part of a broader health review. TI Zimbabwe now raises awareness and trains people to act in similar situations. The chapter has not heard of the same problem occurring since. See the full story here.

Financial support where it’s needed

Problem: Money that is supposed to help those in need, often women and children, never reaches them because of corruption in the system.

Conditional cash transfers give money directly to households on the condition that they fulfil certain criteria for sustainable development, for example sending their children to school or getting regular health check-ups. In Latin America, our chapters work to ensure that this money is not touched by corruption and gets directly to the people who need it most – beneficiaries are usually women and girls.

Strong gender policies

Problem: Gender inequalities are likely to persist and are sometimes even reinforced if gender is not considered during the planning and implementation of anti-corruption initiatives.

TI Bangladesh has developed a gender policy which aims to enable the chapter to promote gender equality in every aspect of its activities. TI Kenya is incorporating gender assessments at all stages of its citizen demand programme.

Access for all to the information that matters

Problem: Access to Information laws are supposed to enable citizens to keep their governments and public bodies accountable. But often only a small male elite knows how to actually use the laws to access relevant information.

In Veracruz, Mexico, Proyecto Communidades explained the process and made it easier for marginalised communities to access information. Women learned of health and housing benefits they were entitled to and how to receive them.

Resources

Gender-based corruption remains a relatively under-researched area, and is excluded from international legal instruments tackling corruption such as the United Nations Convention Against Corruption.

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