The African Union (AU) today launched the African Women’s Decade, with a top United Nations official calling on the continent’s leaders to seize the opportunity to eliminate a raft of ills, from exclusion from land tenure, credit and inheritance to violence and genital mutilation.
“Empowering women is a moral imperative, a question of fundamental rights,” Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro told an AU forum in Nairobi, Kenya, in a keynote address. “It is also sound policy. This is our chance to put principle into practice… Investing in women and girls is one of the greatest investments we can make.
“Gender equality and women’s empowerment are not add-ons – they are integral to development. Furthermore, they will have a multiplier effect on sustainable growth, and provide resilience to future challenges. Let us therefore work to empower Africa’s women and girls.”
She recited a litany of discrimination faced by women, especially those in rural areas. They do most of the agricultural work, yet endure the worst working conditions, with low pay and little or no social protection. They produce most of the food, yet are often excluded from land tenure, credit and business services. They are the primary users and custodians of local natural resources, but seldom have a voice on the bodies that decide how these resources are managed.
“They are the care-givers and managers of households, but rarely share these responsibilities equally with men or have a say in major household decisions,” Ms. Migiro declared. “We need to right these wrongs. We must ensure that rural women can access the legal, financial and technological tools they need to progress from subsistence agriculture to productive agriculture.”
She called for better income-generating opportunities and education for women, noting that women make up over two thirds of the 800 million adults in Africa who cannot read and write. READ MORE
Image via Newham