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Upholding women’s social and economic rights critical for Africa’s development, says Commissioner Tumusiime

By African Union Commission (AUC)

The Women and Environment Forum opened today with a strong call for improvement of women's economic and social rights to enable them attain their full potential. `

The forum which is a prelude to the commemoration of the Africa Environment and Wangari Maathai Day which will take place on March 3, with the theme, 'Strengthening Women's Right over Natural Resources.'

The forum, organized by the African Union, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), will; raise awareness on sustainable environmental management; draw attention to the increasing environmental problems faced by Africa which are being exacerbated by climate change, desertification and demographic changes and encourage the development of appropriate policies and strategies at national and regional levels and to enhance environmental sustainability.

Opening the forum, H.E Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, reiterated that inclusive growth could not be achieved without deliberate and serious attempts at continental, regional and national levels to address the challenges of improving women's economic and social rights, especially in areas of tenure security to land and other natural resources.

“It holds the key to the advancement of the women and by extension, the entire African continent. To attain the laudable goals of the Agenda 2063, it is indispensable that women's rights are strengthened and consolidated in all domains,” she said.

The opening of the forum had a high level panel comprising AUC's Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture acting Director, Dr. Janet Edeme, Ms. Thokozile Ruzuido, Coordinator for the African Centre for Gender (UNECA), Ms. Letty Chiwara UN WOMEN Representative to AU and ECA and Mr. Edward Kilawe Forestry Officer representing Mr. Bukar Tijani the FAO Regional Representative for Africa. Also present was Kenyan Ambassador to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the African Union (AU), H.E Catherine Mwangi, who commended the forum for honoring Prof. Maathai and for working to promote the rights of women.

The two-day meeting is expected to come up with policy recommendations for strengthening the rights of women over natural resources and to encourage the development of appropriate policies and strategies at national and regional levels to enhance environmental sustainability.

Africa Environment Day was designated in 2002, by the AU Council of Ministers at their meeting in Durban, South Africa based on the recognition of the numerous environmental challenges confronting the African continent. Over the years these challenges have been further aggravated by loss of biological diversity, climate change, desertification and increased pollution and unsafe disposal of wastes and chemicals.

In January 2012, the African Union adopted a decision calling for joint celebrations of the African Environment Day and Wangari Maathai Day. The celebration of the Wangari Maathai Day is in recognition of the work and life of the late Prof. Wangari Maathai who dedicated her life to promoting environmental conservation and sustainable development in Africa.