African women battle for equality

Decades ago, African women had reason to expect change following a much-heralded global conference that set ambitious targets to transform the lives of women across the world. Like their counterparts elsewhere, African women are taking stock of progress and asking to what extent promised reforms have been implemented. They are also examining why progress has been limited in many countries and are seeking ways to overcome the obstacles.

During the last 40 years there have been a number of signs of improvement, UN Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women Rachel Mayanja review of the Beijing conference, in New York. There have been moves to implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), a UN protocol, as well as the development of new policies and guidelines and creation of networks of gender experts, she said, citing just a few examples.

However, over the same 40 years since the first World Conference on Women in Mexico City, “men have gone to the moon and back, yet women are still at the same place they were — that is, trying to sensitize the world to the unwarranted and unacceptable marginalization of women, which deprives them of their human rights,” Ms. Mayanja told the delegates, who came from 165 countries.

In Africa specifically, women have made significant strides in the political arena over the past few years. The continental political body, the African Union (AU), took a major step by promoting gender parity in its top decision-making positions. In 2003 five women and five men were elected as AU commissioners. The following year, Ms. Gertrude Mongella was chosen to head the AU’s Pan-African Parliament, where women make up 25 per cent of members. Another AU body, the African Peer Review Mechanism, which oversees standards for good governance, is led by Ms. Marie-Angélique Savané.

African women have also successfully promoted agreements that advance their rights. In the last few years, 51 of the 53 AU member countries had ratified CEDAW, adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly and often described as the international bill of rights for women. And in 2003 activists succeeded in persuading their heads of state to adopt a protocol on the rights of women.

To Be Continue …….

UN Report >>