‘Women’s rights key to unlocking Africa’s future’

Addis Ababa – African Union Commission (AUC) chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, addressing delegates at an event commemorating International Women’s Day, said the AUC celebrated “the determination of women around the world to fight for equal rights and the opportunity to have their voices heard”.

There is “indeed a great deal to celebrate today, in terms of the progress we have made in pushing for the Gender Agenda in Africa,” she said at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Tuesday.

African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma File photo: Yoan Valat. Credit: EPA

Noting that 2016 marked the 105th year in which the world celebrates International Women’s Day, Dlamini-Zuma said that it was a day in which “the economic, political and social achievements of women” should be celebrated.

She remarked that the AU’s theme for International Women’s Day was “Agenda 2063: A Pledge for Gender Equality”.

This theme she said, tied in with the United Nations and International Women’s Day “Planet 50–50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality” and “Pledge for Parity”, as well as recent calls during the 8th Gender Pre-Summit and the AU 26th Summit to accelerate the pace of implementation of actions in support of the continent’s gender agenda.

In addition she said, the theme complemented the AU’s commitment to 2016, which it had earmarked the “African Union Year of Human Rights with a specific focus on the Rights of Women”.

Celebrating the milestones of movement for change in favour of women’s rights in Africa, Dlamini-Zuma spoke of how access to education for girls had increased, and many governments across the continent were “taking steps to protect women and girls from violence, including by adopting new laws”.

These new laws included “legislation to promote women’s rights, including access to land”.

Dlamini-Zuma expressed delight at how more women were also “exercising leadership in politics and business”.

“We have witnessed a transformation of women’s participation in public life,” she said.

She noted how 15 African States ranked in the top thirty-seven amongst world classification for women’s participation in national parliaments, with more than 30 percent of women being involved in their countries’ parliaments.

These countries were Rwanda, Seychelles, Senegal, South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Angola, Burundi, Uganda, Algeria, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Cameroon, and Sudan.

Acknowledging the huge role women played in society, she said: “Great strides have been made to redress the gender imbalances, however, a lot more still needs to be done by both African women and men of goodwill to dismantle the gender barriers and ensure that African women’s potential is realised.”

Dlamini-Zuma said the fight was far from over as there were “persistent gender inequalities that hinder women from fully enjoying their human rights”.

Women, she emphasised, “are key contributors to global economies and play a critical role in the development of their societies”.

She drove home the point that “without the equal and effective participation of women in all spheres of socio-political and economic life, the vision of Agenda 2063 might not be realised”.

She concluded by calling on each African country to “implement at least two high-impact actions in 2016 that support gender equality and women’s empowerment in furtherance of Agenda 2063” and play a role in unlocking the continent’s vast wealth by ensuring women’s rights were upheld in their respective constitutions.