Social Justice Day around the world is celebrated Feb. 20, under the theme: “Achieving Social Justice through formal employment.”
But social justice is under attack in several countries between the Lake Chad Basin and the Sahel zone with disparities that undermine the rights of populations due to various conflicts.
For the UN, transition to formal employment is a necessary condition for poverty reduction, inequality, work advancement, productivity and sustainability and expanding the scope of government action in times of crisis.
Nevertheless, the scourges are exactly what many social justice advocates deplore in countries between the Lake Chad Basin, the Sahel and their neighbors.
The informal sector is a gendered terrain in Africa where 84% of women are informally employed, compared to 63% of men, giving the continent the highest rate of informally employed women in the world, according to the African Union (AU).
In some cases, as in Togo, “the government should try harder as soon as possible in the informal economy’s inclusion in its priorities regarding the extension of social protection to workers in these sectors of activity,” according to Kera Hodabalo, a leader in the country’s worker’s confederation.
This area is left behind, yet it contributes to 36% of national GDP and provides more than 90% of jobs in Togo, he told Anadolu Agency.
“All Togolese should feel concerned about the sustainable development’s process. Social justice is certainly a priority for authorities but it must be recognized that their ability to extend its application and compliance has always posed a problem,” he said.
Hodabalo said despite notable progress in gender equality and freedom of expression, there is still much to do.
“This particularly in terms of protection and security of social strata. It is good that the government is already trying through its National Development Program (PND) to strengthen the population’s development and create more jobs to absorb young people, but much remains to be done to reduce unemployment among young graduates,” he added.
The Citizens Coalition for the Sahel, a diverse and informal alliance of civil society organizations, believes that to date, government interventions have not been commensurate with the magnitude of the human security crisis in the Sahel and that national and international actors have not effectively addressed the conflict’s root or people’s needs.
– Anti-development crises
In Mali, citizens are suffering from an embargo imposed by the African and international communities because of the lack of a democratic post-transition electoral timetable expected from the junta.
In addition to trade difficulties caused by the closure of borders with certain sub-regional neighbors, the progress of humanitarian projects and jobs have been impacted.
“Activities are not easy because of the embargo. Currently, I am technically unemployed. I was working on the project of migration management and promotion of free movement in West Africa. This project is totally stopped for the moment and we are looking for other opportunities. This embargo is also affecting trade,” Konate Lasseni, a Malian sociologist and researcher, told Anadolu Agency.
In Cameroon, a separatist crisis arising from protests by the Anglophone minority against marginalization is paralyzing two major regions where Anglophone people are heavily concentrated.
Development there is “suspended” because “it is impossible to develop in a climate of insecurity and without peace,” said Cameroonian socio-economist Simon Crepin Bikele.
“Socially, families are disorganized. People have been separated from their families for some time, others do not know where their loved ones are. Lives are taken away overnight without the families involved knowing,” he said.
The right to education also looks like a lure in these areas where, because of the conflict, 700,000 students have been out of school since 2017, according to Human Right Watch.
The lack of justice for people who have suffered violence during the crises also contributes to the nest of frustrations pushing young people to join the ranks of battles.
It is a situation that human rights defenders warn and deplore.
In the far north of the country, inter-communal conflicts linked to environmental hazards and recurrent attacks by Boko Haram terrorists also limit opportunities.
Across the Lake Chad Basin – Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria – 10.6 million people need humanitarian assistance, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported, noting that after several years of violence, basic social services and already limited natural resources are under strain.
There are 3.3 million people who are “food insecure – the worst situation for the same period in four years – and 400,000 children are suffering from severe malnutrition. 1,050 schools are no longer functioning due to attacks in the Lake Chad basin, depriving thousands of children of an education. 2.8 million are internally displaced, including 2 million in Nigeria alone, and 264,000 are refugees,” the UN agency said in a humanitarian overview in December.
Many other African countries are also affected by the scourge, in addition to the political transitions that some are undergoing following coups born of protests reflecting the social needs of the population.
The French Development Agency believes that in Burkina Faso, now ruled by coup leaders, various development policies have “always been based on values of justice and equity,” noting that despite political commitments, challenges in reducing social and economic inequalities remain.
More than 43% of the country’s population lives below the poverty line, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Demography.
In a report on gender and poverty, it noted discrimination related to gender, marital status, household size, education level and the area where one lives.
And among other social injustices, women are more affected by the phenomenon of poverty than men, as they represent 52.4% compared with 47.6% of men.
In Niger, where the level of extreme poverty has reached 42.9%, affecting more than 10 million people out of a population of more than 24 million, environmental, political, social and agro-climatic factors, the decrease in agricultural productivity, degeneration of natural resources and frequent natural and man-made shocks are at the root of persistent underdevelopment and extreme poverty, according to Care International, a social justice NGO.
It also noted “extreme gender inequalities and weak governance” are drivers and causes of food insecurity.
In its publication entitled “Sahel: What Needs to Change” published last April, the Citizen’s Coalition for the Sahel recommended, in the face of crises, prioritizing the protection of civilians, promoting a political strategy that addresses the root causes of the crisis, responding to humanitarian emergencies and fighting impunity.
In the same sphere, the AU Commission (AUC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) signed a partnership aimed at improving the world of work and employment in Africa at a virtual ceremony on Feb. 4, on the sidelines of the 40th Ordinary Session of the African Union Executive Council in Addis Ababa.
The agreement reflects, according to promoters, a mutual commitment to closer collaboration between the two organizations for social justice’s achievement in Africa.