Opening remarks by UNECA Takyiwaa Manuh

Expert segment of the African

Regional Conference on Beijing+20 Review

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

17 – 18 November 2014



Opening remarks by UNECA Takyiwaa Manuh, Director, Social Development Policy Division


Madame Fatou Lamine Faye, Minister of Education of the Gambia,

Mr John Ackon, Deputy Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection of Ghana,

Distinguished members of the Bureau of the Committee on Women and Development,

Distinguished Senior Officials and government officials present here today, 

African Union Special Envoys for Women, Peace and Security and Women’s Human Rights,

UN Women Representative for Ethiopia, ECA and AU

Representative of the UN Liaison team in Ethiopia

The Acting Director of the Women, Gender and Development Directorate of the AU,

Distinguished experts and resource persons

Representatives of the African RECS, CSO and VIPs in our midst,

Representatives of UN Agencies,

Ladies and gentlemen

On behalf of UNECA, I would like to warmly welcome all the delegates to this historic Conference, the 9th Africa Regional Conference on Women (Beijing plus 20).

I also bring you greetings from the Executive Director of UNECA, Dr. Carlos Lopes, who wishes you fruitful and rich discussions.

I would like to start by congratulating you for your strong commitment to gender equality in Africa, and for making time to join us to review progress made in the last twenty years of implementing the Beijing Platform for Action.

Ladies and gentlemen

The fact that 51 member States submitted national reports, shows the extent of this commitment to hold ourselves accountable in pushing forward the gender agenda.  This is an indication of a continent which has worked hard in the past twenty years to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment and that remains committed to the course.

Distinguished Delegates,

We have come a long way as a continent since the UN conferences held in Mexico City (1975), Copenhagen (1980), Nairobi (1985), and Beijing (1995) and its Platform for Action.

We have come a long way since the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), also described as the ‘international bill of rights for women’. The periodic CEDAW reports that are submitted demonstrate concrete follow-up actions undertaken by member States to ensure that barriers to the achievement of gender equality are eliminated.

We have continued on the gender equality journey since the Millennium Declaration that ushered the implementation of the MDGs. All of these frameworks and instruments are meant to reinforce each other and provide the basis for realizing equality between women and men.

Ladies and gentlemen

A lot has happened on our continent since the 8th African Regional Conference on Women in Banjul, The Gambia in 2009 and indeed since 1995 in Beijing.  The Africa region has been consistent in putting in place institutional mechanisms that promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, through the AU and RECs Continental and Sub regional frameworks and programmes to promote gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment.  To mention some of the regional level frameworks and mechanisms,

  1. The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights reinforced by the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa
    1. The Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA)
    2. The African Women’s Decade 2010-2020
    3. The Fund for African Women

Ladies and gentlemen

My task this morning will be incomplete if I fail to recognize the remarkable achievement that Africa has made with regards to women’s political participation, peace building, and providing for women’s economic empowerment. I know we will be celebrating these achievements at this conference but at the same time tasking ourselves to think “outside the box” in addressing persistent challenges and gaps.

Some of these persistent challenges and gaps include violence against women, inadequate investments in social protection, little or no recognition of women’s unpaid care work, bringing out the gender dimensions in climate change and limited financing for gender equality programmes. Also, recent events in West Africa clearly reveal the need for effective health systems to reduce the impact and burden of epidemics on populations especially on women. The impact of the Ebola crisis is felt across the continent as a whole not only in the affected countries. Highlighting these challenges reinforce the importance of devising and crafting critical recommendations on moving forward on the gender agenda in Africa.

Ladies and gentlemen

I would now like to draw your attention to a few pointers regarding the proceedings of this 9th Africa Regional Conference on Women (Beijing +20), so that as we engage in the next three days, we are mindful of the journey we traveled and the foundational issues that we need to build on as we move forward. 

Within the framework of assessing the progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Dakar Platform for Action, the ECA in 2009 led the Regional Fifteen Year Review of the Beijing Platform for Action (Beijing +15) and the results were shared at the Eighth African Regional Conference on Women held in Banjul in November 2009. The Regional report became part of the global review in February 2010, at the Committee on the Status of Women in New York.

Distinguished delegates,

The 9th Africa Review Conference is structured to be different from the previous ones. It should help Africa to build on the milestones and the momentum generated to adopt transformative measures and actions for greater change in the lives of women and girls. We are confident that such change can happen. We are all resolved to create the future we want, that is a future where women and girls are fully and truly empowered.

In this conference, we will review the Regional Report synthesized from the 51 national reports.  The conference will come up with concrete actions to move forward in 2015 and beyond taking into account the Common Africa Position on the post 2015 development goals.  I sincerely hope that the declaration that we will draft for the honourable ministers will be concrete, actionable and embody the spirit of ‘doing business un-usual’ as we continue our efforts to put African women first.  The Declaration should also be forward looking.

Ladies and gentlemen

At this stage, we would like to applaud the AU under the leadership of Dr. Dlamini-Zuma for selecting the theme for the 2015 Summit as “The Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”[1]. We encourage you to take advantage of these and other processes in the next months-the 2015 AU summit, the CSW 2015 etc,. in reasserting Africa’s position on the future we want, as it relates to gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am confident that this conference will be a great success. As we deliberate and discuss the Regional Report, we need to be mindful that this report will form part of the global report to be presented at the 59th session of CSW in New York next year.

As I conclude, I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to the Government and the people of Ethiopia for their hospitality and warm reception. I would also like to applaud the staff in the Social Development Policy Division, especially, staff in the African Center for Gender, for their commitment in working with you in these three days and beyond. 

We look forward to your concrete recommendations and actions on the way forward.