Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 8 March 2018 (ECA) – The United Nations family in Ethiopia on Thursday marked International Women’s Day with a panel discussion on rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives.
Women from various UN agencies flocked to the event that saw two Ethiopian activists, who are transforming lives on the ground, Ms. Salem Kassahun of Salem’s Company and Ms. Azeb Kelemework, Executive Director of the Union of Ethiopian Women Charitable Associations, showcasing success stories of how they are helping unlock the potential of women in and outside Addis Ababa.
The discussion was held under the theme “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”.
Ms. Nwanne Vwede Obahor, the Regional Representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said a lot has happened over the years in terms of discussions on women’s issues; the enactment of policies in support of women and related issues.
“We now need to translate into action all our efforts on women’s empowerment,” she said, adding rural and urban women empowerment was key.
“OHCHR looks forward to working with you and other partners to ensure that the human rights of rural and urban women remain at the centre of legal frameworks, national and local policies, budget, as well as in investment strategies at all levels,” said Ms. Obahor.
She said the critical contributions of rural women in development, agriculture, subsistence farming and unpaid work, among others, must be recognized and “they must be included in decision-making processes at all levels of governments, and within rural organizations”.
“As we celebrate this 8 March, let us confidently demand the rights of all women,” said Ms. Obahor.
He sentiments were echoed by moderator Ms. Thoko Ruzvidzo, ECA’s Social Development Policy Division Director.
“It’s important that we walk the talk on gender equality,” she said, adding human rights were also women's rights.
“As we celebrate the 70 years of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let us remember that human rights are women’s rights, especially as this year we celebrate the women who are always in the background, the rural women,” said Ms. Ruzvidzo.
Ms. Ngone Diop, Senior Advisor in the African Centre for Gender, gave a presentation on rural and urban activists transforming African women’s lives.
She said it was important to celebrate the opportunities being availed by the unsung activists in their various communities across the continent.
“Our continent has done a lot in its efforts to try and empower women over the years but challenges remain, for example accessing power, key social infrastructure and education,” Ms. Diop said after taking the audience back to where the women’s movement started and strides taken over the years.
“So this year we are focusing on those playing their part in contributing towards the continent’s social transformation through their own way – the rural women.”
Mr. Selsah Pasali, also with the ACG, also gave a presentation on rural and urban activists transforming African women’s lives.
“Let us raise our awareness of the success and challenges of our fellow activists who are here today,” he said while applauding the work being done by the activists in transforming the lives of ordinary women across Africa despite the many hurdles they face every day.
“Let us also integrate their insights into our various areas of work and keep ourselves connected to fast changing reality on the ground.”
Ms. Kassahun, whose company employs marginalized women from within and outside Addis Ababa, offers training and employs them said; “The cycle of poverty in our communities can only be broken at a young age through education.”
She said her company was empowering women in Ethiopia through employment and enterprise, adding some of her mentees were supplying Ethiopian Airlines with baskets while others had flown the nest and were now running their own successful businesses.
Ms. Kelemework also showcased success stories from rural Ethiopian women during the panel discussion.
This year marks three important anniversaries for women and the world at large. The 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Human Rights Defenders Declaration adopted 20 years ago and first-ever Resolution by the UN General Assembly on Women’s Human Rights Defenders adopted five years ago.
“These anniversaries provide us with a unique opportunity to shine a light on the situation of rural women, to share your stories and deepen our engagement in the promotion of rural women’s rights,” said Ms. Obahor.
Panellists and the audience discussed challenges that face rural women, for instance, access to education; women’s access to and control of land; climate change and access to reproductive services.
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