South Africa goes to war against gender inequality in Africa as country takes over African Union Chairship in Addis

South Africa is going to war, not against any of its neighbors – Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland or Zimbabwe. Not even against the small Kingdom of Lesotho it totally surrounds, the Prime Minister there is already embroiled in a scandal and resigning after his wife was charged with killing his ex-wife just two days to his inauguration. But South Africa is going to war against oppressive policies and lack of political will that have kept women in Africa in squalor and hopelessness, shamelessly relegating many to the kitchen and raising children, even though women are most educated on the continent.

To some accounts, women constitute over half of the African continent, but occupy very few leadership positions in business, politics, IT, and elsewhere.

That is not only immoral, but it prevents African economies from growing fast, according to the World bank and the International Monetary Fund.

On Saturday, President Cyril Ramaphosa detailed a game-changer agenda in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, re-emphasizing that South Africa’s African Union chairship would be all about women and how to bridge the gender gap on the continent. The entire agenda looked like a war plan.

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers the keynote address at the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative (PICI) ahead of the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State & Government Summit, AU Conference Centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers the keynote address at the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative (PICI) ahead of the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State & Government Summit, AU Conference Centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Mr. Ramaphosa said South Africa’s agenda aims at accelerating the implementation of gender equality and women’s empowerment initiatives that are both sustainable and impactful.

The South African leader also commended the African Union for the official launch of the the African Women’s Leadership Fund led by the African Union Commission and the UN Economic Commission for Africa, describing the move as “indeed a positive development that must be welcomed”.

African leaders are meeting in Addis for the 33rd Ordinary Session of the African Union General Assembly.

According to Mr. Ramaphsosa, gender inequality persists with women and girls shoulder the global and continental burden of poverty while violence against women continues unabated.

Ramaphosa and faki 

“This increases during times of conflict. Women face barriers to accessing productive and economic resources because of the entrenched biases in financial, market, agricultural and legal systems. Discriminatory laws still abound,” he said.

He said the year 2020 will coincide with several important milestones in the continent and globally on gender equality including the Beijing +25 Review and the Generation Equality Forum and the conclusion of the Decade of African Women.

It is also the final year of the commitment made in Agenda 2063 of ensuring 50% of women’s representation in decision-making by 2020.

According to him, South Africa’s agenda will focus on three areas – women’s financial and economic inclusion, violence against women (gender-based violence) and accountability to Global Gender Commitments.

Mr.Ramaphosa said he was optimistic because “there are solid partnerships to deliver on the ambitions South Africa hopes to achieve during its chairship, while building on past successes and ongoing initiatives. This will also ensure the sustainability and scaling up of the areas tackled during our Chairship”

Ramaphosa and Kagame of Rwanda 
President Kagame of Rwanda and President Ramaphosa of South Africa

He said African Heads of States have the power to make catalytic change at national level that will have multiplier or positive ripple effects on the continent.

“For example to attain women’s financial inclusion and economic empowerment, we must look beyond “micro-finance solutions” and invest in solutions that target the full range of constraints that women face in growing their businesses. 

“Public and private procurements account for 30% of the GDP of many countries in the continent but the share of women owned-businesses is less than 1%, yet Agenda 2063 calls for the allocation of at least 25 per cent of public procurement to be for women-owned businesses.

“South Africa calls on Member States to actively participate in the Beijing + 25 celebrations such as the Gender Equality Forums, as well as global and regional sessions taking place,” he said.

Mr. Ramaphosa a 7-point Action Plan that will be accompanied by a detailed program to empower women in Africa.

Read details below

1.    We will invite Member States to declare the years 2020 – 2030 as the Decade of African Women’s Financial and Economic Inclusion – with goals and targets.

2.    We will ask all Member States commit to Preferential Public Procurement Legislation requiring 30% of all government procurement go to women owned businesses, and adopt an annual monitoring framework for the same.

3.    We will ask Heads of States commit to lead from the front, and redouble efforts to end gender-based violence.

4.    Member States through the AU will be asked to endorse holding an Africa Conference on Violence and Sexual Harassment, leading to an AU Convention on Violence Against Women.

5.    We will ask the Member States repeal all discriminatory laws by December 20206.    We will advocate for All AU Member States to commit to ratify the ILO Convention on Sexual Harassment by December 2020.

7.    We will encourage all AU Member States commit to gender parity in national cabinets and gender equal parliaments by 2030.

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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