Cape Town - This year’s World Economic Forum on Africa had seen an honourable starting point of mass gathering against gender-based violence outside the meeting venue in Cape Town, the heads of states call for “violence against women must stop now".
Head of Africa at WEF, Elsie Kanza said this was an honourable starting point for an international summit concerned with building a better future for our region.
“This week’s World Economic Forum on Africa was built around two ideas, Inclusion and Growth. It is also fundamental to the mission of my organisation. But it will be impossible to achieve for as long as we live in a society where half of the population are treated as a lesser form of humanity to the other half. I am talking about the half I belong to, women,” said Kanza.
On Wednesday, during the kicking off of the three-day event, a crowd, made up of mainly young people from various civil community organisations and students from universities and schools across the city, gathered outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), chanting struggle songs and holding posters on which was written "enough is enough" and "stop killing women and children".
The protests which came after the country has seen a number of violent crimes directed at women and children made headlines in recent weeks and left the country reeling continued until Friday.
“We know that when we give women equal chances we not only get stronger economies, we get stronger communities. Where women have equality, we see stronger, more resilient societies. And yet women across Africa are too often the victims of crime at the hands of their own communities and their own relatives. Worse, they are victims of acts that are not even considered crimes,” Kenza said.
She said that female genital mutilation, inter-family violence against women, all sorts of macabre widowhood practices were tacitly accepted in large parts of the region. Women in many parts of Africa were not allowed to inherit property, createing a huge economic imbalance, she said. Violence and abuse often start from a young age, when women are at their most vulnerable and the least protected, she added.
“The creativity and innovation employed to keep African women down is frankly amazing. Every year, the World Economic Forum publishes the planet’s most authoritative report on the state of global gender parity. It is hardly pleasant reading, globally, the journey towards parity has been getting longer for two years now,” said Kanza.
She said that the problem around the world related to the workplace and the corridors of power, not enough women were getting into leadership positions. This is starving businesses and governments of new talent and preventing much-needed reforms and policies from getting through.
According to Kanza, Africa’s challenge is more fundamental than women lacking value in society, they lack agency, voice and strength. Equal pay, better promotion prospects and leadership can only happen once they reach the starting line in life. There are positive signs, she said, social media has brought a new focus to injustices that have been allowed to go on for too long.
“There are heroes too, some states within countries are introducing family laws to tackle violence against women. Others across Africa are putting in place equal opportunities acts. In Ethiopia, half the Cabinet is now made up of women, including the Justice Ministry,” Kanza said, adding that this week at the WEF on Africa, 30 percent of participants were women.
“This is the highest proportion ever-more than even our annual meeting in Davos. Among the number of gender-related topics, we are focusing [on] people’s minds on is gender-based violence. Africa must end violence towards women now. It can only do this through systemic change that lifts women up and recognises their equal role in society," Kanza said.
"As we bring together leaders from business, government and civil society from all across Africa and even the world this week to plan how to build a sustainable, equitable, inclusive future for Africa there will be no greater priority than building a future where women have the security and freedom to live, work and prosper every bit as much as men.”