Gender equality is a priority

Gender equality is a priority

Date: August 20, 2013
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In her keynote address at the opening of the African Union gender meeting on Wednesday, Christine Musisi, Regional Director for UNWOMEN-Eastern and Southern Africa, challenged African governments to push for greater empowerment of women.

“I believe it is time for us to cease taking gender equality and women empowerment as a side issue”, said Musisi, adding that gender must become a central priority if African countries are to prosper. She attributed the slow economic and social welfare development of the continent to the gender gaps that persist.

With seven years of the African Women’s Decade remaining, Musisi reminded African states that investing in women is not only the right thing to do, but it the smart thing to do. “Empowered women are the missing link in our pursuit for prosperity, peace, unity and development”, Musisi stated.

The African Union Commission, the Women, Gender and Development Directorate (WGDD) in collaboration with the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition (SOAWR) and UNWOMEN agreed that all AU member states should ratify and domesticate the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. So far, 36 out of the 54 member states have ratified the Protocol.

Litha Musyimi-Organa Director of WGDD said gender ministers should work hand in hand with civil society and experts to deal with issues of gender. “Ministers have the political will but, there is need for people who have the expertise to be involved so that the ministries should come up with good themes, objectives and right usage of funds, said Musyimi.

Also speaking at the event, Malawi’s Minister of Gender, Children and Social Welfare Anita Kalinde vouched for the government’s total commitment to ensuring that women are able to exercise their rights.

She also assured delegates that Malawi has harmonised its policies and programmes to incorporate the provisions of the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women. These include the ratification of the SADC Gender and Development Protocol, the revision of the National Gender Policy and the launch of the Millennium Development Goals acceleration framework for gender equality and women empowerment.

While most SADC member states have signed and ratified regional and international instruments that seek to give women and girls more rights, there has been reluctance in translating these words into action by domesticating them into national constitutions. In spite of all these instruments and national laws, there remains a pervasive violation of women’s human rights.

“Our meeting should facilitate the implementation of the provisions of the protocol and give the women the much needed support for them to enjoy their rights”, urged Kalinde.

Members of the AU commission agreed saying the meeting would focus on urging member states to implement a multi-sector approach on using the Protocol across sectors at
the national level.

Mcpherson Maulana is a journalist for Radio Islam, a Media Centre of Excellence in Malawi. This article is part of Gender Link’s Opinion and Commentary Service special coverage of SADC HOS Summit in Malawi, offering fresh views on everyday news.

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Caption: Speaking at a parallel meeting aimed at ensuring a multi-sector approach to the AU Protocol, UNWOMEN’s Christine Musisi challenged African governments  to push for greater gender empowerment. Photo: Mcpherson Maulana




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