ECA unveils New Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Initiative

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Addis Ababa, 16 April 2014 (ECA) - The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) presented a new Continent-Wide Initiative on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at the Seventh Joint Annual Meeting of the Economic Commission for Africa Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and the African Union Conference of Ministers of Economy and Finance in Abuja, Nigeria, from 25 to 30 March 2014. The Ministers welcomed and enthusiastically endorsed the initiative.

The initiative will underpin ECA’s vision for Africa’s social and economic transformation by fostering a full recognition of the pivotal role and contribution of women in the socioeconomic sphere and by enhancing their full inclusion in decision making.

“This initiative is rooted in the recognition that sustained structural transformation of the continent cannot be achieved unless the positive interconnections between transformative socioeconomic development, gender equality and women’s empowerment are fully reflected in policy and programming,” said Thokozile Ruzvidzo, Coordinator of the ECA’s African Centre for Gender.

Activities will centre on three interlinked areas: (1) women’s economic empowerment, (2) human rights and (3) equitable social services.  The promotion of women’s entrepreneurship will take place chiefly in the agriculture and mining sectors.

The Ministers noted that both women’s reproductive and productive work is undervalued. As unpaid caregivers, women play a critical role in nurturing and developing Africa’s human capital. Women are also key actors in the productive sectors, including agriculture and the extractive industries. However, their significant contributions are not fully recognized or valued. Contributing to the lack of recognition is that women predominate in informal economies, where reliable statistics are harder to gather. Yet countries do not systematically collect time-use statistics to address the policy implications of unpaid care work and its socioeconomic trade off. The Ministers therefore underscored the need to institutionalize the systematic collection and analysis of gender-responsive data to inform policy.

At the ECA, this effort is being led by the African Centre for Gender, which supports member States to develop and implement gender-responsive policy through research and the development of cutting-edge tools. In respect of this initiative, the ACG will focus on undertaking empirical and secondary research about the status of women at household, local, national and international levels vis à vis social protection, sexual and reproductive health and rights, violence against women, women’s land rights and participation in decision making.

The initiative was presented by Ms. Takyiwaa Manuh, Director of ECA’s Social Development Policy division. Ms. Manuh highlighted the progress African States have made, while pointing out key areas for improvement. It is expected that the new initiative will also enhance the capacity of member States to achieve the goals of the various global and regional gender equality commitments to which they are signatories.

To make the best use of existing knowledge and resources ECA/ACG will work with partners in the private sector and with other UN agencies, including the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).


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