The Official opening ceremony of the 8th Gender Pre-Summit today, Tuesday 19 January 2016, brought together over four hundred delegates from across the continent and abroad in the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Nelson Mandela plenary hall at the New AU Conference Center was full to capacity with women leaders in all the socio-economic and political sectors who gathered to exchange views on the theme: 2016 African Year of Human Rights with Particular Focus on the rights of Women. The objective of the meeting is to bring together the voices of key actors dealing with gender equality and women’s empowerment, to update and discuss critical developments related to the empowerment and rights of women, so as to influence and shape the discussions and decisions of the policy makers during the 26th African Union (AU) Summit.
The event was organised by the Directorate of Women, Gender and Development of the AU Commission in collaboration with partner organisation, under the patronage of H.E Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) Addressing the distinguish delegates at the official opening of the Gender Pre-Summit, Dr. Dlamini Zuma, retirated that, the year 2016, marks an important milestones in the continent as well as the global women’s development agenda. “ We should be the change we want to see… Women should be change agents …. to transform, not to conform.” Said the AUC Chairperson. She further challenged all African Women to strongly reflect on these three valuable words and encouraged them to device strategic mechanisms aimed at reinforcing and broadening the participation of women in all important positions at national, regional and international levels.
On the other hand, Chairperson Dlamini Zuma underscored the need to stregthen the Pan-African Women Organizations (PAWO) at the grassroots to drive the vision of integration in the Continent.
The AUC Chairperson regretted that despite all the efforts done so far by the AUC to stop conflicts and wars in Africa, various parts of the continent continue to be affected by conflict and insecurity, with women being disproportionately impacted. She called on all the Members States to work towards ensuring that the continent meets the target of silencing the guns by 2020. Dr. Dlamini Zuma recalled that the African Union has developed a list of legislative and policy instruments to help in advancing the agenda of Women in peace, and Security at various levels yet the protection of women in times of conflict and peace-progress notwithstanding is still poor. “It is time for a radical transformative campaign for change and implementation of all the legal frameworks already in place to enhance women’s empowerment particularly under Agenda 2063, concluded the AUC Chairperson. (See complete speech of the AUC Chairperson on the AU Website: au.int).
Ms. Bineta Diop, AU special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security, said the time is ripe for women to catalyze their efforts, reinvigorate their commitments and raise once more their voices, loud and clear to say that Africa needs action, that Africa must walk the talk so as to break the cycle of violence on women and deprivation that ultimately continues to hold Africa in poverty and instability. “This Year 2016 offers us another opportunity to put on the table the quest, I should say, the demand by African women for their rights to be recognized as Human rights, to be upheld and to resolutely take the path of implementation, a path to transformation. And Indeed Africa has defined the road to that transformation through Our Agenda 2063, an agenda for today and tomorrow, as solid future can only be achieved through wise investment today”……We, Women of Africa, must seize this opportunity as we all know that Africa will not achieve its Agenda without the women and youth of this continent”. She underlined (See complete speech of Mme Bineta Diop on the AU Website: au.int)
Mr. Lebohang Motlana Director of the UNDP Regional Service Centre for Africa recognized the importance of the ongoing gender Summit as it sets the pace and platform for discussing critical gender issues which also resonate with the United Nations ideals on Humans Rights. The UNDP Representative highlighted some of the supports of the UN to the AU such as observing democratic elections in various African countries, pointing out that, it is with democracy that certain virtues such as respect of women’s rights arises. He underscored the urgent need for policies to foster equal education, equal employment and wage opportunities to empower women in today’s societies ; “Women’s Rights are Humans Rights and Human Rights are women’s rights and this is non negotiable”, he concluded. (See complete Speech of the UNDP Director on the AU Website: au.int)
Dr. Khetsiwe Dlamini, UN Women Chief of Staff, noted that the “He for She Campaign” support will go a long way in mobilising coordinated interventions to achieve gender equality as it involves the participation of men while putting women in the lead towards the fight for equality. While emphasizing the unrecognized role played by women in the labour force as pertinent social investors who contribute to their countries’ GDP, Dr. Dlamini took this opportunity to urge women as well as men to fast track progress of gender equality through provision of finances to foster implementation of inclusive gender policies. The UN women Director reiterated the need to end all forms of violence against women.
Mrs. Ruth Ocheng, representative of the Gender is my Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) commended the African Union for declaring 2016 the year of Human Rights with particular focus on the rights of women and the adoption of the Agenda 2063. She emphasised that this will put the African Union in a position of driving Africa’s development agenda.