Intergenerational dialogue opens on the role of women in the African renaissance

By Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, May 21, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa has stressed the need for a candid intergenerational dialogue about what the pioneers of African feminism and the gender agenda are bequeathing to young women today so as to be able to take the vision forward in the next fifty years.

Mr. Carlos Lopes was speaking at the Inter-generational dialogue organized on the margins of the ongoing series of events around the 50th anniversary of the African Union. The meeting was organized by the 'Gender is My Agenda Campaign' (GIMAC), which is a network of organizations coordinated by Femmes Africa Solidarite – FAS.

Mr. Lopes stressed that the celebration of fifty years of Pan Africanism would be incomplete without paying glowing tribute to the role played by our 'foremothers' and 'foresisters' in the liberation struggle. He informed the meeting that the Pan African Women's Organization (PAWO), established in 1962, one year before the OAU, was an important part of the unification process as it brought African women freedom fighters of together on the need for peace and unity. They also contributed to the debate that shaped the OAU.

“The pioneers of this organization, such as Ms. Jeanne Martin Cisse of Guinea, as well as great African women such as Mrs. Gertrude Mongella of Tanzania, Ms. Maria Ruth Neto of Angola and others, who contributed to the struggle not only for Africa's liberation, continue to advocate for the total empowerment of the African women,” These women will be honored in the ongoing celebrations,” he said.

He highlighted the achievements made in fostering women's participation in decision making, stating that Rwanda exceeded 50% of parliamentarians; Seychelles, Senegal and South Africa exceeded 40%, while Mozambique, Tanzania, Burundi and Algeria exceed 30%. “We see an increase in the number of women in ministerial portfolios, the latest case being the new government in Kenya,” he added.

On women's economic empowerment, many women remain in the informal sector and in most instances the lower margins of the informal sector, securing livelihoods and struggling for protection, said Mr. Lopes; and added that where women have gone into business, studies have shown that they do extremely well.

He cited Ethiopia's first women's commercial bank (ENAT) created in 2012 with the view to empower Ethiopian women in business. The bank is intended to provide to provide financial services to women - with the widest possible reach. He added that similar institutions are in place in Tanzania and in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “These efforts aim to reduce the credit crunch and to foster women's entrepreneurship,” said the Executive Secretary.