Four-year plan to advance African women

Posted: 4 March 2004

The UN Development programme has launched an ambitious four-year programme to advance gender issues and promote the role of women in development in Africa.

Some of the senior positions in Africa are held by women. Five of the 10 commissioners of the African Union are women, and females hold a significant percentage of government posts in Rwanda, South Africa, Cape Verde, Gambia, Mali and Zimbabwe. But less than 15 per cent of economic managers in Africa are women, the UNDP says, while just 10 per cent of parliamentarians and 8 per cent of government ministers on the continent are female.

A Woman trader sells her wares in Lagos, Nigeria.© Bruce Paton/Panos Pictures

The Programme was developed at a three-day workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa (15-17 February), and attended by more than 120 representatives from 22 sub-Saharan African countries. The high level workshop, organized by UNDP's Regional Bureau for Africa (RBA), brought together a unique coalition, including international organisations, governments, women's community action groups, NGOs, donor agencies, foundations and the private sector.

"UNDP support to gender mainstreaming goes back more than a decade," points out Abdoulie Janneh, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director, Regional Bureau for Africa. "In response to some of our efforts, many countries have reviewed and changed discriminatory laws against women. Subsequently some countries have created ministries for women's affairs. We continue to promote gender mainstreaming in all countries where we work," he concludes.

At the end of the three-day workshop, delegates agreed to a comprehensive strategy to promote women's role in development, building on UNDP's three-pronged regional gender programme: Women and economic empowerment; their roles in good governance and peace building; and the linkages among women, HIV/AIDS and poverty.

"The separation of these themes has led to the terrifying statistics of the pandemic, the wars that have fueled its spread and the debt burden that now cripples development efforts throughout the sub-Saharan region," notes Athman Kakiva, UNDP South Africa Acting Resident Representative.

The new strategy also encourages governments to make gender development an integral part of their development goals, while legislative reform is also urged to help women participate in business and international trade.

"The people who are participating here know that we mean business and that the outcome of UNDP's gender programme will take us forward in terms of the goals envisaged in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially the advancement of the status of women and the creation of world we can be proud to hand over to future generations," concluded Ms Baleka Mbete, Member of South Africa's National Parliament.

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United Nations Development Programme