High-level experts and policymakers have issued a clarion call to African leaders to ensure the needs and perspectives of the continent’s women and girls are fully integrated into efforts to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies.
Although in 1995 African women made their voices heard during the Beijing World Conference on Women, progress still fell short of commitments made as part of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, told a high-level meeting on gender equality and women’s empowerment on late Saturday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
“What I have learned since being a young boy is that power is not usually given. Power must be taken. As it is a question of power, parity in decision-making bodies is absolutely essential,” Guterres added.
Guterres said he was happy that since the first of January, the UN had for the first time in its history, achieved full gender parity in the high-level management of the organization.
“This represents a first step for full gender parity in 2028 at all levels of the UN, which remains our basic objectives,” he said, adding this year’s anniversaries of Beijing+25 and of the UN’s resolution 1325 on women “must push us further and faster towards progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment”.
The UN Chief further stressed that “it is sad that poverty in Africa, as in the rest of the world, still had a woman’s face with violence against women remaining pervasive.”
“Although by now we clearly understand the benefits – indeed the imperative – of inclusion and gender equality for achieving peace and sustainable development, our actions fall short,” he said.
Reiterating the UN’s standing alongside the African Union (AU) in working to overcome the peace and security, development and human rights challenges that continue to limit African women and girl, Guterres also stressed that “we must facilitate women’s meaningful contributions to the communities they live in.”
Guterres, noting his commitment and support to the African Women Leaders Network initiative as well as the African Women Leadership Fund that was launched Saturday, also stressed the crucial significance of encouraging African women and girls to develop scientific skills through access to innovation and technology.
Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat echoed Guterres’ comments, as he emphasized that “it is unacceptable that women on the continent continued to bear the brunt of violence and conflict, limiting their contribution to their economies.
As I speak thousands of women in Libya, South Sudan, Somalia, and elsewhere are enduring the unspeakable,” he said, adding Africa cannot build peace without women.
Chairperson of the 55-member pan African bloc also stressed that the AU Commission is “doing all it can to ensure there is gender parity in the organization.”
Ethiopia’s President, Sahle Work Zewde, said much still remained to be done in the fight for gender equity.
“Gender equality is far from being achieved despite many conferences, resolutions and debates,” she said.
The high-level meeting on gender equality and women’s empowerment, which was held in the context of the ongoing 33rd African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government being held from 9 to 10 Feb. at the headquarters of the AU in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, was organized by the AU Commission, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UN-ECA), UN-Women, the African Women Leaders Network (AWLN) and their partners. Enditem