African women bear brunt of global crises, warn delegates at UN conference

Isatou Njie Saidy, Vice-President of Gambia

4 March 2009 – The global economic, food and climate change crises have hit African women the hardest, a delegation of African and United Nations female officials attending a conference on gender equality cautioned today.

“When we look at the GDPs of all African countries, they are between five and seven per cent [in the recent past] … but this present crisis is going to erode all those gains that have been made,” Isatou Njie Saidy, Vice-President of Gambia, told journalists at UN Headquarters in New York.

She pointed to the reduction in remittances to developing countries, the drop-off in the tourism sector in Africa and a fall in direct foreign investment into the continent as clear examples of how the global economic crisis affects women in Africa.

“As a result of inequalities women will feel the pinch more than men,” said Ms. Saidy.

Women, who make up the majority of small-scale farmers in Africa, are disproportionately affected by the recent hikes in food prices, increased cost of fertilizer and other agricultural inputs, and limited access to fertile land and farming machinery.

Ms. Saidy said that with regards to climate change, “Africa is being punished for something it has not done. We are told that the emission rate for Africa is just 2 per cent of what is emitted in the entire world, but we are paying the price for it.

“Therefore, those who emit should definitely do something to help Africa,” she said, adding that climate change is affecting agriculture and that women are the ones suffering the increase in natural disasters most of the time.

The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) will hold a regional ministerial review in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in October to determine how much remains to be achieved to attain equality and the empowerment of women in Africa in the 15 years since the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.

Delegates attending the 1995 ‘Beijing + 15’ conference prepared a Platform for Action that aimed at achieving greater equality and opportunity for women worldwide.

“We have fought so hard for women’s empowerment, but now we are seeing that that the global economic, food and climate change crises are threatening to compromise our hard-fought gains,” said Thokozile Ruzvidzo, who heads the ECA African Centre for Gender and Social Development.

She underscored that the Beijing +15 review is a fundamental prerequisite for progress for African women in the development of their continent.

“We need to focus on how higher food prices and how climate are impacting the lives of women. We need solutions for these challenges and we need them quickly,” she stressed in a press release.

In addition to Gambia’s Vice-President, more than 15 African Ministers attended the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW) in New York today. Participants at the two-week session of Commission, which opened on Monday, are discussing the progress toward ensuring the respect for women’s rights across the world.


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