Women’s empowerment in Africa targeted at UN-backed conference

17 November 2009 – A week-long United Nations-backed conference on achieving the equality and empowerment of women in Africa has opened in Banjul, The Gambia, with calls for an urgent revamping of current practices on the continent.

“It is high time for Africa to depart from this unproductive rule of doing business as usual,” UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Deputy Executive Secretary Lalla Ben Barka told the Eighth Regional Conference on Women (Beijing +15), which began yesterday and is being attended by over 600 participants from 43 countries.

“Indeed, the time to revisit our habits and actions is NOW because women are still bearing the brunt of all types of shortcomings, crises, wars and conflicts,” she added.

Beijing +15 refers to the UN Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995, when world leaders committed themselves to the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and declared that their full participation in all spheres of society, including the decision-making and access to power, are fundamental for development and peace.

Men have a role in ensuring women’s participation, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in The Gambia Chinwe Dike stressed, referring to the plank in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action that urges men to participate fully in all actions towards equality. “Women’s well-being often cannot improve without including men because gender is relational,” she said.

The conference was also briefed on the restructuring of the ECA’s Committee of Women and Development (CWD), which will serve as an advisory forum of experts and policy makers providing guidance to the Commission’s work on gender equality, empowerment and advancement. The Committee is composed of senior experts from ECA’s member States.


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