Shamiso Yikoniko in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Africa will speak with one voice on key issues to boost rural women and girls empowerment at the upcoming 62nd session of the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) to be held in New York next month.
The sentiments were echoed during the Africa Ministerial Pre-Consultative meeting held at the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In her opening remarks, UN Women regional director for West and Central Africa Ms Diana Ofwona said Africa would speak with one voice.
“Africa advocated hard for the adoption of this priority theme and it goes without saying that Africa needs to lead in pushing for global consensus in New York on this issue,” she said. “To do this, Africa would need to speak with one voice.
“What we have on our side is the reality of our history, the resolve for change and a moral commitment to our own – the African woman and girl living in the rural areas. This is our time, this is our chance. History will remember us, but history will also judge us.”
Ministers responsible for gender equality and women’s affairs, regional economic communities (RECs), UN agencies, representatives of the civil society and other development partners have been meeting in Addis Ababa since Wednesday until to yesterday to adopt a common African position.
The meeting provided the member states with an opportunity to agree on a strategy to ensure effective implementation, monitoring and reporting of the Commission’s recommendations, including priority actions to advance the gender equality priorities of Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063.
Agenda 2030 forms the new global development framework and is anchored on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a total of 169 targets covering economic, social development and environmental protection.
Agenda 2063 is a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years. Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting, Women and Youth Affairs Minister Sithembiso Nyoni said Africa needed to start looking at the means of production to empower rural women and girls.
“It’s still disappointing that a lot of African countries aren’t learning from Zimbabwe’s land reform programme,” she said. “We need to look at the means of production such as land, water, transport and other infrastructure to empower women rather than give them jobs.
“We still talk about agriculture as if it’s a chore for rural women. In Zimbabwe, the land reform has really changed the lives of rural women and agriculture from subsistence farming to commercial farming. The most self-reliant people are rural women, they do everything for themselves, so we can build on that.”
During the meeting, participants recognised that the challenges faced by rural women were inextricably linked; noted with concern that rural women and girls in Africa face structural barriers to the full enjoyment of their human rights and acknowledged that the contributions of rural women and girls to rural economies and societies were slowly being recognised.
More than 50 percent of Africa’s population are women and 80 percent of these reside in rural areas, with more than 60 percent of rural women’s employment in the agricultural sector.
This year’s CSW62 was held under the theme “Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls”.