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On the Road to An Inclusive Africa With Empowered Citizens: African Union prioritises Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment

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Despite positive achievements registered recently in decision-making, African women, as the largest proportion of our population; still remain vulnerable, at-risk and impoverished due to the challenges caused by social, economic, cultural and political marginalization, gender-based violence and discrimination against women, terrorism, conflict, and fundamentalism.

Africa is committed to resolve and end violence against women and girls, and improving access to, and control of, finances, land, education, health, information, services, science, technology and decision-making in political governance and business enterprises under Agenda 2063 and continental, regional and national gender architectures.

Agenda 2063 envisages a non-sexist Africa, an Africa where girls and boys can reach their full potential, where men and women contribute equally to the development of their societies. Aspiration 6 of Agenda 2063 envisions an  Africa whose development is people-driven, especially relying on the potential offered by its women and youth.

Agenda 2063 aspires for a continent in which  all forms of violence and discrimination (social, economic, political) against women and girls would have been eliminated and they would fully enjoy all their human rights by the year 2063. This means an end to all harmful social practices and barriers to accessing quality health and education for women and girls. In addition, achieving the goals of Agenda 2063 would see fully empowered women with equal access and opportunity in all spheres of life. This means that the African woman would have equal economic rights, including the rights to own and inherit property, sign a contract, as well as register and manage a business. Over 90% of rural women would have access to productive assets, including land, credit, inputs and financial services.

Gender Equality and Agenda 2063

As the blueprint and master plan for the Africa we want, Agenda 2063 puts gender equality at the forefront of the continent’s vision. Among the 7 Aspirations outlined in the Agenda, Aspiration 6 and its related Goal 17 specifically focus on achieving full gender equality to enable a people driven development for Africa. To this end, Agenda 2063 identifies two main priority areas: women’s and girls’ empowerment; and an end to violence and discrimination against women and girls. Mechanisms have been put in place to ensure adequate tracking and monitoring of the progress being made by the continent as a whole.

Five ten-year plans were established to ensure accountability and transparency. As outlined in the First Continental Report on the Implementation of Agenda 2063, for the initial 10 years (2013-2023), Goal 17 has been further divided into indicators and targets that encourage measurable results. For the scope of women’s and girls’ empowerment, this decade is focused on economic rights, and political participation and representation. On the other hand, under violence and discrimination against women and girls, efforts are concentrated on reducing levels of gender-based violence; reducing all harmful social norms and customary practices; and eliminating barriers to quality education, health and social services. As the continent moves onto achieving its goals for Agenda 2063, it will be important to monitor how targets and indicators for gender equality will evolve.

AU’s Gender Architecture and regional commitments for gender equality and their application

The African Union’s  Women, Gender and Youth Directorate (WGYD), has the mandate of promoting and mainstreaming gender equality within and throughout the Union and its Member States by leading, guiding, defending and coordinating the efforts on gender equality and development as well as promoting women’s empowerment across the continent.

The WGYD has designed programmes and delivered projects based on the policies and frameworks adopted by the Member States including the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa signed in 2004 which is a reporting framework on gender equality and women’s’ empowerment (GEWE) and reaffirms the Member States’ commitment to gender equality as enshrined in Article 4 (1) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union; and the 2003 Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), which provides a legal framework for ensuring civil and political, economic, social and cultural as well as environmental rights for all African women. These two frameworks have paved the way for other important regional commitments such as the inclusion of gender equality and women’s empowerment in Agenda 2063 and the development of the 2018-2028 African Union Strategy for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment,.

Rationale and benefits for gender mainstreaming in the African Union

Gender mainstreaming in the African Union is essential for a truly inclusive Africa where the voices and concerns of its 600 million women and girls, whorepresent about half of the population on the continent, are heard and welcomed at the decision-making tables. Gender equality has been, and continues to be important to the AU not just because it is part of its Constitutive Act, but also because it is a fundamental human right that is integral to the economic growth and social development of the continent as a whole. As the leader and representative of a united Africa, the Union has the responsibility to add a gendered dimension to its work and activities.

Indeed, increased gender equality encouraged through quality education, health care and employment amongst other things has positive ripple effects on communities from the local to the intra-continental level. When women can support and invest in themselves thanks to policies and legislations that ensure gender equality in the different spheres of life, families and economies prosper. However, the economic advantage of gender equality is not the only reason why this plea is important to the AU. In the spirit of Agenda 2063, attaining women’s empowerment is a key factor in creating an inclusive, prosperous and peaceful Africa.

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