The development of the African Union Campaign and negotiation of an AU Convention on Ending Violence against Women and Girls; the full implementation of the African Union guidelines on the Gender Responsive Responses to COVID-19; the universal ratification, domestication and implementation of the Maputo Protocol on Women’s Rights; the approval to disseminate the AU Strategy on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment and the development of a 10 year continental AU Strategy and Action Plan on Women’s Financial and Economic Inclusion of the African Women’s Decade 2020-2030, are among the key outcomes of the Ministerial segment of the 5th Ordinary Session of the African Union Specialised Technical Committee on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (STC on GEWE).
Convened on 27 November 2020 during the 16 Days of Activism Campaign Against Gender-Based Violence under the facilitation of the African Union Commission’s Women, Gender and Development Directorate (AUC-WGDD), AU the Ministers in charge of Gender and Women’s Affairs considered and adopted far-reaching decisions that will protect and promote women’s rights on the continent including the approval to disseminate the revised AU Strategy on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, which was adopted by the AU Assembly in its mid-term Summit in Nouakchott in 2018.
The urgency to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its twin-pandemic on Violence Against Women and Girls were among the key issues addressed. With the implementation of measures to control the pandemic such as lockdowns, border closures and movement restrictions, deeply concerning reports have emerged on its effect on women such as the collapse of the informal daily wage economy largely predominated by women; the closure of small and medium enterprises and loss of means of sustenance for women; school closures that has seen an increase in teenage pregnancy, domestic violence, among others. The pandemic has deepened the pre-existing gender inequalities and exposed the deep-seated vulnerabilities of government systems. The STC on GEWE was therefore key to push on the need to implement the African Union guidelines on the Gender Responsive Responses to COVID-19 as tailor made preventive measures that mainstream gender equality and ensure women participate fully and effectively in COVID-19 responses and recovery plans in Africa.
Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) remains one of the critical impediments to women’s realization of their fundamental rights including the rights to life, human dignity, peace, justice, socio- economic and political development. To secure political commitment and amplify renewed state accountability to protect, promote and fulfil women and girls’ rights to be free from violence, the STC on GEWE considered in favour of the AU to kick-starting the process of negotiating an African Union Convention on Ending Violence Against Women and Girls. The Convention will complement existing binding and non-binding legal instruments on VAWG such as the Maputo Protocol on Women’s Rights and the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA).
Reflecting on the Women, Peace and Security Agenda of the AU, the Ministers took note of the outcomes of the first Africa Forum on Women, Peace and Security and supported the convening of a Peace Forum for Africa, led by Women and supported and attended by Africa Heads of State and Government to explore peaceful avenues for conflict resolution and enhance the role of women in advancing the achievement of sustainable peace in Africa.
African Union Member States have made collective and individual commitments to the advancement of the rights of women and girls in Africa
Following the adoption of the Declaration in February 2020 on 2020-2030 as the Decade of African Women’s Financial and Economic Inclusion, the AU-WGDD has since embarked on actualizing the realization of the goals for the decade and will develop a 10-year continental AU Strategy and Action Plan that identifies innovative and concrete actions for the AU to close the gender gap in financial inclusion and provide evidence-based solutions for women to control their own economic resources. Correlated, the AU Fund for African Women (FAW) is being converted into a Trust Fund for African Women (TFAW) and it will be part of the concrete solutions that will be made available for women to realize economic justice and financial inclusion. The new Decade follows the just concluded African Women’s Decade (2010-2020), which focused on Grassroots Approach to Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.
African Union Member States have made collective and individual commitments to the advancement of the rights of women and girls in Africa. While celebrating the gains made over the decade, the STC-GEWE deliberated on the status of ratification and implementation of the Maputo Protocol. The African Union member states committed to 2020 as the year for the Universal ratification, domestication and implementation of the Protocol. However, only 42 of the 55 Member States have since ratified the Protocol. Further, AU States are also obligated to report on the implementation progress of the Protocol, yet majority hardly report. As such the Ministers committed to rally more action at the national level to address the challenges of accountability and tracking of implementation of these commitments. They also adopted the Maputo Protocol Scorecard and Index (MPSI) as a monitoring and evaluation tool for the assessment of the implementation of the Maputo Protocol.
Among other key issues that were considered during the STC on GEWE were the establishment of 25 National Chapters of the African Women Leaders’ Network (AWLN) to mark the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
The meeting was opened by H.E Dr. Mèdessè Véronique Tognifodé Mewanou, Minister of Social Affairs and Microfinance of the Republic of Benin and Chairperson of the STC on GEWE who in her statement called for African governments to take measures to limit the traumatic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on women by, among other initiatives, extending income support to vulnerable people, improving access to health care, establishing and improving prevention services to respond to violence against women but also supporting the participation of women in leadership and decision-making processes in COVID-19 responses. Read the full statement here.
On her part, H.E Mrs. Filsan Abdi, Minister of Women, Children and Youth in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia underscored the critical importance of coming up with new and improved approaches to achieve Gender equality and empower all women and girls but also ensuring that adequate financing is available for the strategies and initiatives that are developed. Read the full statement here.
The President of Pan-African Women’s Organisation (PAWO), H.E Ms.Eunice Iipinge, noted that the key resolutions and a declaration adopted during the PAWO 10th Congress and its participation to the STC on GEWE demonstrates the commitment of the organization to continue leading the continental agenda for women and participating in all AU decision making platforms and events of AUC on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. She however noted that still more efforts need to be done including in terms of capacity building and resources allocation. Read the full statement here.
As 2020 marks the end of the African Women Decade, the Chairperson of the AU Commission, H.E Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat observed that the new African Women’s Decade on Financial and Economic Inclusion reflects the continent’s determination to strengthen efforts and promote the full emancipation of women. He also emphasized the commitment of AU to continue developing and implementing innovative tools, AU instruments and strategies to strengthen gender equality and empower women and girls in Africa. He also encouraged the 13 remaining AU Member States to ratify the Maputo Protocol. Read the full statement here.