"EQUALITY means RIGHTS"-Urgent for a Giant Africa
In this age of democracy and human rights African Women is Africa’s greatest wealth. Despite the progress that has been made on the African continent in terms of legislation, the reality in implementation remains a huge disappointment, and all actors, both state and non-state actors are obliged in ensuring that women’s rights matter and that law passed actually have an impact on the lives of the people. There is the need to ensure that gains made in women’s political mobilization, advocacy, and government representation actually reflect a substantial change in the lives of ordinary women, which is still far from the reality. The realization of women’s rights is based on the universal human rights and the rule of law. We need to continue the struggle to end traditions, practices and laws that harm women in Africa.
The UN Secretary General, Ban-Ki-moon in his speech for the African Women’s Decade said;
“We are at the dawn of the African Women’s Decade...
We need to empower African women who produce food,
raise children and drive the economy here. When these
women take their rightful place at the negotiating table,
in the parliament and in leadership positions across society,
We can unleash Africa’s enormous potential”.
Women’s empowerment can drive economic growth; promote peace and advance development and social justice. Women and girls need to be considered agents of change so that they can participate to the economic, social and political development of the continent and have equal access to health information and services, education, employment and political positions.
“We need to work to ensure that women in Africa have
a real voice in all governance institutions, from
the judiciary to the civil service, as well as in the
private sector and civil society, so they can participate
equally with men in public dialogue and decision making
and influence the decisions that will determine the future
of their families and countries.
We can’t develop a continent if half of its population
Is left behind”
The African Women’s Decade of 2010-2020 presents a renewed opportunity for further realization and improvement of women’s participation with the goal and objectives; to cascade, in concrete terms, the execution of commitments on gender equality and women’s empowerment from the grass roots, national and regional to continental level. To preserve and build on the African women strength in the women movement and leverage on global and regional political goodwill for the advancement of African women; To usurp the opportunity for African women to provide leadership in rejuvenating the global women’s movements, with a focus on youth and grass roots women; and to maintain the drive for empowering African women and marshal resources for the performance and relevance for the decade.
It is now evident that the African women’s contribution forms a critical part of the global women’s movement. African women’s brilliance, creativity, hard work, commitment and unwavering determination to shape their own destiny have made them visible globally. The increasing evidence that the inclusive participation in decision making and exposure to gender related matters through capacity building, education and women’s empowerment, among others, are necessary to achieving gender equality in Africa persuaded the Assembly of African Union to declare 2010-2020 as the African Women’s Decade through African Union Assembly Declaration 229 (XII).
The need for ownership, commitment and compliance with reporting requirements on cross-cutting gender issues resulted in the development of a new framework, operational strategies and road map for the advancement of gender equality and women empowerment in the continent with the underlying conviction for this new process which includes;
-The need for meaningful participation and increased collaboration of key stakeholders on women issues through capacity building, effective programming and movement building.
-Demonstrable commitment by member state through implementation of key regional and global agreements on women’s rights and development.
-Need to develop and adopt required best practices for the enforcement of agreed protocol at all level.
-Requirements for developing appropriate framework for tracking the performance and relevance of gender outputs and results.
-Profound appreciation of poverty determinants and linkage with the grass roots through adoption of a holistic development approach.
-The need to strengthen key relevant regional Organizations and international institutions such as the Regional Economic communities (RECs), Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) for integration purposes and;
-Ownership and drive requirements for the implementation of the various gender policies developed by the AU as well as those developed by other relevant Regional Economic communities and AU Member states, with vital speed and commitment.
The African Women’s Decade (AWD) inception could be justified as an idea hatched by the United Nations at the Mexico City-First World conference on Women (1975). African women as key players and visionaries in world global women movements were actively involved in the United Nations Women Decade finalized at the First World conference on Women. They continued to participate and leverage on the Women’s Decade and its midterm reviews held in Nairobi, Kenya in 1985. With a robust history of global participation and local consultation on women’s right and gender equality, African women have contributed to enriching discussions on women empowerment and gender equality during these periods;
-The First World Conference on Women (FWCW), Mexico City (1975)
-Second World Conference on Women (SWCW), Copenhagen, Denmark (1980)
Third World Conference on Women (TWCW), Nairobi, Kenya (1985)
-Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, China (1995)
Equally, the Assembly of Heads of States of the African Union has demonstrated consistent leadership in promoting and advancing gender equality in the continent. These efforts evidently visible in the development of the AU Gender Policy and its 10year implementation plan have contributed robustly to reaching decisions on the implementation of vital gender equality instruments in Africa. Key decisions taken in the last few years include those of Article 4 (1) enshrined in the Parity Principle, the Protocol to the African charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, and the solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA).
The AU Heads of States continue to promote international and regional agreements on gender equality and women development through states support for efforts to domesticate various gender equality commitments such as the Beijing and Dakar Platform for Action and the Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) with special consideration for activating MDG3 on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.