Launch of UN WOMEN East and Southern Africa Regional Governance and Leadership Reference Group


The UN Women East and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO) launched its Governance and Leadership Reference Group on 3 June 2021 virtually. It is comprised of a diverse team of 11 high-level technical experts in gender and governance with relevant thematic experience in line with UN Women’s strategic priorities. The Reference Group members are from the following countries in the region: Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Malawi, Somalia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. In line with the principle of leaving no one behind, the Reference Group includes representation from youth and persons living with disabilities.

 In her opening remarks Ms Zebib Kavuma, the UN Women ESARO Deputy Regional Director, indicated that UN Women considers thematic regional reference groups as an important constituency to provide dynamic ideas, policy perspectives, quality assurance, advisory services, and other relevant support for the organization. She highlighted that it has been 25 years since Beijing and nine years left to achieve the SDGs, but we are still far from the goal of gender parity in political representation. Ms. Kavuma informed the Reference Group that UN Women ESARO is in the process of developing its next Strategic Plan (2021-2025) and has developed an Election Strategy that looks at the whole electoral cycle, and the Reference Group will be called upon to partner with UN Women to take this work forward. She emphasized the need for innovation to move from policy to strategy, and from strategy to impact.

The Regional Reference Group is a voluntary group that will support the Governance Unit to review and input into UN Women ESARO’s key strategic area of leadership and governance and with perspectives on advocacy to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the region with a focus on increased and impactful representation of women.

In this first meeting, the group members discussed and agreed upon the term of reference and how they will contribute to gender equality and improving the lives of women and girls in the region. The Regional Reference Group will meet on a quarterly basis and convene ad hoc meetings when needed to respond to emerging issues in the region.

The Regional Governance Advisor, Jebbeh Forster shared the governance and women’s political participation profile of East and Southern Africa Region (ESAR) and UN Women ESARO’s Strategic Plan and Annual Work Plan for 2021. This enhanced the Reference Group’s understanding and strategic focus of the work of UN Women and enabled them to give feedback, and proffer advice on the utility and relevance of the work currently underway.

The Reference Group members will continue to engage with the documents and to work with the Governance Unit on work related to the development of UN Women’s new strategic note. Some critical issues discussed also pertained to the fact that Africa as a region has some of the best performers in the world in terms of women’s political representation (with four out of the five best performers coming from the ESAR region). At the same time some of the lowest performing countries are from the region.

The Reference Group will focus on strategies to share the good practices in the region and also on increasing women’s representation beyond affirmative action quotas to parity.