Africa needs to walk the talk on women empowerment and gender equality

Addis Ababa, 19 November 2014 (ECA) - Africa has to come up with a more transformative framework, which will accelerate the desired change in the lives of women and girls, with a focus on investing in women’s education, health, property rights, access to and control over financial resources, knowledge and information.

During his opening speech at the Ministerial segment of the Regional Conference on the review of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) 20 years into its launch, Mr. Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said that time for token references on women empowerment and gender equality was over. “Nobody should have been given the chance to get away with it in the first place. But, unfortunately it was tolerated for quite a long time. We have a chance to make a real difference. Building on the lot that has been achieved, let us recharge our batteries to continue the fight.”

M. Lopes added that with support from the African Union Commission the ECA was implementing a continent-wide initiative for gender equality and women’s empowerment, which had been endorsed by the AUC-ECA Joint Conference of Ministers of Finance and Economic Development in Abuja in early this year.  

The new initiative builds on the three interlinked components of economic empowerment, women’s human rights and the social sector. The focus of interventions will support Africa’s structural agenda particularly women’s socio-economic bargaining power and their participation in structural transformation, informed by in-depth research, data and analysis.   

“It is clear that we have unfinished business that requires us to build on the gains registered over the last 20 years,” Mr. Lopes said. We cannot build dynamic African countries, if women and girls, who form the majority of the population, remain marginalized or excluded. Despite some of the strides made with regards to gender equality and the empowerment of women, we still have a long way to go. Africa can and must do better.”

Addressing the participants through a video link, AUC Chairperson, Dr. Nkozasana Dlamini-Zuma said that despite the progress made over the last 20 years in the struggle for gender equality, Africa needs to gear up for more action. “Looking ahead, the next 20-50 years will crucial in our efforts to build an integrated, non sexist and prosperous Africa.”

Ms. Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, the African Development Bank (AfDB) special envoy on gender said that Africa had reached a juncture where decisive action needs to be taken for the transformative agenda initiated by the AU starts having a real impact. “We need to ensure that we hit the tipping point where growth becomes inclusive. We do not want to be passive on-lookers but rather active participants in the change currently taking place.”
She also quoted AfDB President Donald Kaberuka and said: “Gender is not an annex.”

Since its adoption nearly 20 years, the BPfA - one of the most bold and progressive normative frameworks ever adopted to hasten the advancement of women and achieve gender equality – has helped African countries make progress in areas such as gender parity in school enrolment, health, women representation in decision-making processes, etc.

However and despite economic growth and encouraging social improvements, Africa is still lagging behind in meeting its development goals. Decisive action needs to be taken to propel strong transformation of the continent’s economic realities.

Opening Remarks by Carlos Lopes, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ECA

Issued by:
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