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African Women’s Decade (2010-2020) officially launched on International Day of Rural Women

arton3073On the “International Day for Rural Women, the AU officially launched the AWD (2010-2020) with the aim to advance gender equality through the acceleration of the implementation of global and regional decisions and commitments on gender equality and women’s empowerment. Under the theme “Grassroots Approach to Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment,” the Decade hopes to effective combine a top down and a bottom up approach.

The launch was attended by Heads of State and Government, AU ministers, representatives from UN entities, development partners, civil society organizations, and the private sector, as well as academia, gender activists, and grassroots women.

Ahead of the official launch in Nairobi, Kenya, various meetings were organized to ensure the Decade’s success, including an NGO Forum (7-8 October); the Decade’s Working Committees’ Meeting (9 October); an Experts Meeting (10-11 October) and a Ministerial Meeting (14 October).

Ms. Litha Musyimi-Ogana, Director Women, Gender and Development of the AU Commission opened the NGO Forum on behalf of the Commission’s Chairperson Dr. Jean Ping and underlined that “it’s time for Action, not just Action Plans.”

Following the NGO Forum, civil society representatives released a communiqué in which they recognized the AWD’s potential to bring about a “revolution” in the realisation of women’s civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights. They urged governments to ensure that grassroots women are fully represented and actively involved in all platforms of decision making with the space to speak and contribute; to make efforts to bridge the divide between women in decision making and grassroots women living in poor rural communities; to enhance the capacities of grassroots women’s networks to undertake community research and to manage and own action plans that feed into local government and national policies and programs.

To read the full communiqué, click here.

For an overview of NGO events organized in parallel to the various forums, click here.

At the opening of the Experts Meeting, Naomi Shaban, Minister for Gender, Children and Social Development, warned that “despite the significant progress made in advancing gender equality [in Africa], the gender gap remains wide as reflected in inequitable allocation of resources, unequal participation in decision-making including peace processes, gender based violence and harmful practices on women thus denying women enjoyment of their human rights.”

At the official launch, AU Chairperson, President wa Mutharika reiterated this viewpoint and reminded the audience that many frameworks and commitments have been made in the past but that women have still not yet been fully emancipated. He stressed that the AWD should bring real positive changes in the lives of African women, including regarding their participation in all decision making processes.

The Decade is focussed around the following 10 thematic areas:

  • Fighting Poverty and Promoting Economic Empowerment of Women and Entrepreneurship
  • Agriculture and Food Security
  • Health, Maternal Mortality and HIV&AIDS
  • Education, Science and Technology
  • Environment and Climate Change
  • Peace and Security and Violence Against Women
  • Governance and Legal Protection
  • Finance and Gender Budgets
  • Women in Decision Making Position
  • Young Women Movement

These themes have been carefully chosen and are in line with the thirteen critical areas of the Beijing Platform of Action, the eight Millennium Development Goals and the programme of the International Conference for Population and Development (ICPD).

The Decade will be implemented in two phases. The first phase will be from 2010 to 2015 and the second phase will be from 2015 to 2020. There will be reviews in 2015, back to back with the MDG Review and at the end of the Decade in 2020.

Each of the 53 Member States of the African Union is expected to establish national committees, including representatives of all segments of the society, which will propose one good practice project for each theme on an annual basis (so ten projects per year per country in total), to be supported by the African Union Fund for Women. This means that during the decade a total of 530 existing projects for the advancement of women will receive additional financial resources to maintain and enhance their work.

To read the press release of the launch, click here.

See also the website of the official launch, as well as AU’s website on the AWD for more information.

Civil society

Following a workshop in Accra, Ghana on 28-30 September 2010, entitled “Beyond Beijing +15: Implementing and Resourcing the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020)” and jointly organized by the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), the Network for Women’s Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT), the Association of African Women for Research and Development (AAWORD), and Women in Law and Development (WiLDAF - West Africa), West African women called upon African leaders to give high priority to implementing the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020)

In a press release, they emphasized that ‘business as usual’ would not deliver the goals of the Decade. “Women’s issues and machineries charged with women’s affairs have been marginalized and under-resourced for too long, and this has led to the very slow implementation of international and regional commitments made to women’s empowerment and gender equality,” the release highlighted. Therefore, West African women urged their governments to develop national action plans in line with the objectives of the African Women’s Decade; to ensure budgets are allocated to implementing the plans; and to integrate these plans into national development plans and poverty reduction strategy papers.

Click here for the full press release.

Read also the full communiqué.

The International Day of Rural Women

In December 2007 the UN General Assembly declared 15 October as the “International Day of Rural Women” with the aim to recognize the important role of rural women, including indigenous women, in “enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”

In his message for this day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated this important role, while also noting rural women’s remaining unequal daily realities. He said “Rural women do most of the agricultural work in developing countries, but endure the worst working conditions, with low pay and little or no social protection. Rural women produce most of the world’s food, yet they are often excluded from land tenure and the credit and business services they need to prosper. They are the primary users and custodians of local natural resources, but are seldom given a voice on national and local bodies that decide how these resources are managed. They are the care-givers and managers of households, but rarely share these responsibilities equally with men or have a say in major household decisions.” He therefore called on governments to keep their commitments made at the MDG Summit regarding rural women’s empowerment, equality and rights.

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