Africa Strategy Rolled up

Africa Representatives meet to operationalize UN Women Africa Strategy

Date: Thursday, May 31, 2018

The senior management of UN Women Africa met in Kenya in May to discuss operationalization of the Africa Strategy which seeks to address gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls on the continent. This was the first time that all the UN Women country representatives and regional directors in Africa were meeting to have discussions and create a common approach towards finding solutions to the many problems facing women and girls on the continent.

 “We are looking at big game changers, for women’s economic empowerment in Africa, particularly with agriculture as an in-road. Looking at climate resilient or climate smart agriculture. On Child Marriage, when we look at statutory laws in Africa, all of them state the age of consent as 18 however when you look at customary and religious laws they are as low as 10 or when a girl sees her first period. So, understanding and harmonization of the laws are very critical. We are optimistic that after four years we are going to see an end in child marriage. There is a lot happening in Trafficking of Persons that has not seen a gender angle. IOM works a lot in trafficking and forced migration but many of the studies are gender blind, UN Women wants to bring out the gender angle. The third issue is that of the Women’s Movement, we recognize the movement is very pertinent and instrumental to the creation of UN Women” Reiterated Izeduwa Derex-Briggs.

The discussions centered around ending child marriage and FGM, womens movements, and trafficking of persons and forced migration. In addition, intra-regional knowledge sharing to improve learning and strengthen programming- and collaboration; and increased clarity on the impact of the UN reforms and the policy on zero tolerance to sexual harassment among others were discussed.

Oulimata Sarr shares shares her experience during one of the sessions of the leadership retreat. Photo: UN Women/ Faith Bwibo
Oulimata Sarr shares shares her experience during one of the sessions of the leadership retreat. Photo: UN Women/ Faith Bwibo

“Human trafficking has the face of a woman because the person who pays the highest price in trafficking is the woman or the girl. While other sister agencies are dealing with trafficking very capably they are not bringing the gender dimension forcibly into the discussion and into the discourse. And this is where we’re coming in. What us three regions are working on is not only bringing a joint programme with the three regions but also with other agencies, namely the International Organisation for Migration and the UN Office for Drugs and Crime”, commented Mohamed Naciri, regional director for North Africa, when asked about the prevalent issue of human trafficking.

Emphasis was placed on the need to address gaps and overlaps at the regional level and endorse a phased approach to revamp the UN development system at the regional level.

‘It is crucial for us to contextualize and align the strategy to our national priorities and use it as an entry point for interagency programs to ensure implementation of the SDGs and the AU vision 2063’., commented Diana Ofwona, regional director WACARO.

The meeting deliberations steered towards promotion of women to leadership and political processes, policies and enactment of laws, cultural practices, gender norms and stereotypes that can help promote women and girls to reach their potential.

Efforts to address these including collaboration with opinion makers and shapers including traditional leaders, hence the conference of traditional leaders on ending harmful practices in partnership with UNICEF & UNFPA which is planned for June 2018. In addition, a meeting to be led by Queen Mother of Baganda to include customary leaders, in preparation for a bigger meeting in August at the African Union.

The ROAS is leading in trafficking and forceful migration of persons, looking at Peace and Security, conflict and receiving countries, as well as the demand for illegal labour that is driving the population the Arab states through North African countries.

WACARO is leading on Women’s movement and is therefore looking into Civil Society Advisory Groups (CSAGs) including the African Women Leadership Network, Women economic empowerment, violence against women, among other sub issues.  Another crucial area of discussion was the role of the youth and how UN Women can better involve the youth in its programming. With the upcoming Africa Youth Conference planned in October, it is hoped that UN Women will create a platform through which the voices of the youth can be heard.

The use of technology for economic empowerment, working with non-traditional partners, private sectors and governments as platforms in which UN Women can actively get involved in to encourage women and girls to use technology to bring change to their communities.