African Union’s efforts to promote women empowerment

Women empowerment is one of the core objectives envisaged by the Non-Aligned Movement as part of overall development. NAM Member States have expressed their resolve to take appropriate measures at the national, regional and international levels to improve the quality of life and achieve gender equality and empowerment of women and to foster economic and social contribution of women to the well-being of the family and society.

African Union, which represents the largest collective voice of African countries- most of which are NAM Member States too, has expressed its firm resolve to achieve gender equality and promote women’s empowerment. The initiatives on gender mainstreaming are to further accelerate progress towards realizing Aspiration 6 of Agenda 2063 and Goal 5 of the SDGs. Aspiration 6 of Agenda 2063 calls for developing an Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children. Aspiration 6 states that the African woman will be fully empowered in all spheres, with equal social, political and economic rights, including the rights to own and inherit property, sign contracts, register and manage businesses. Rural women will have access to productive assets: land, credit, inputs and financial services. Goal 5 of the SDG pertains to gender equality and aims to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against women in the public and private spheres and to undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources and access to ownership of property.

An important initiative of AU towards realization of the goal of gender equality was the adoption of Declaration on 2015 Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development Towards Agenda 2063 which contained commitments to enhancing women’s contribution and benefits from formal agriculture/agribusiness value chains, enhancing women’s access to health, pushing forward women’s economic empowerment, enhancing the Agenda on Women Peace and Security, enhancing women’s participation in governance, enhancing women and girls’ access to education, science and technology, mutual accountability to actions and results and strengthening the AU Commission to support delivery on these commitments.

In March 2019, African Union Commission unveiled its first continental strategy for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. The official presentation of the strategy was preceded by its solemn launch by H.E Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, during the opening of the 32nd AU Summit of Heads of State and Government on February 10, 2019 at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa. The strategy is closely informed by all existing legal and policy frameworks and is built around the four pillars of 1) maximizing Outcomes, Opportunities and Tech E Dividends; 2) Dignity, Security and Resilience; 3) Effective Laws, Policies and Institutions and 4) Leadership, Voice and Visibility.

The policy recognizes that violence against women and related harmful traditional practices are symptomatic of the accepted social norms in many countries and communities. Making social protection, public services and sustainable infrastructure investments gender-sensitive and responsive requires that the underlying causes of women and girl’s vulnerability and exclusion are comprehensively assessed and addressed in the strategy. This strategy, closely aligned with Agenda 2063, constitutes the Union’s roadmap to operationalizing existing legal and policy frameworks guiding Africa’s commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment. It is the result of extensive consultations with key stakeholders and secondary data review of agreed best practices and innovations in the field. Seizing the current global focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment, the strategy is expected to provide greater traction towards the transformation of the goals and objectives of Aspiration 6 of Agenda 2063 and Goal 5 of the SDGs into actionable and achievable outcomes for women and girls on the continent.

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