The forum, which brings together delegates from all over the world, will also see the African Union (AU) embark on a massive campaign to thematically empower 530 grassroots initiatives by women by the year 2020.
The AU Director for Women, Gender and Development Litha Musyimi-Ogana explained that the initiatives targeted each of the union’s member states and were aimed at bringing gender parity.
“One of the most creative ways about this African Women’s Decade is the methodology that will guide and guarantee support to at least 53 projects per year in line with the theme of the decade- ‘Grassroots approach to gender equality,” she said.
Ms Musyimi-Ogana further argued that women empowerment was critical to the thematic development of the African continent.
“By the end of the decade, the fund for the African women created by the AU Assembly of Heads of State will have supported a significant number of projects at the local level,” she said.
The six-day conference was opened officially by Kenya’s Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka who called on women to fully involve themselves in political affairs and governance issues.
Musyoka said the time for women to participate only as bystanders, cheerleaders or passive observers is long gone and urged the Women, Gender and Development Directorate to support women’s participation in political and electoral processes in countries scheduled to hold elections.
The Minister for Gender, Children and Social Development, Naomi Shaban added that the entire African continent needed to put in place concrete measures to promote gender equality. She argued that Africa would not develop rapidly if it continued ignoring women’s issues.
“All the AU organs need to fulfil their obligations to accelerate political and substantive ways of gender mainstreaming. In fact, we need to make a paradigm shift from women empowerment to gender equality,” she argued.
The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Kenya Aeneas Chuma lauded African countries for the effort they had made so far in trying to address women empowerment. He, however, noted that there was still room for improvement especially on cultural drawbacks.
The conference aims at reviewing the progress made towards gender equality, women’s empowerment and to articulate concrete actions to be taken to accelerate momentum in implementation and attainment of goals articulated in various declarations, conventions and protocols.
The African Women’s Decade was spearheaded by the African Union’s Women and Gender Development Directorate.
It was adopted in October 2009 by the AU heads of state, giving member countries until 2020 to achieve 50-50 representation of women and men in politics and decision-making positions.
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