Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Africa
Within its mandate for advocacy and coordination of UN System and international support for peace, security, human rights and inclusive development in Africa, the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA) places a special emphasis on gender equality and the empowerment of women.
Over the years, African Governments, regional and sub-regional organizations have made significant commitments towards gender equality and women’s empowerment, including through:
- the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (2003) , and
- the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (2004) .
"Women must be at the centre of all our efforts.[...] But women and girls cannot wait. Neither can Africa and the wider world.[...] I [...] strongly call on you, when it comes to women's rights, to make a deep and lasting difference to the lives of African Women and girls by 2020."
Following the adoption of the African Union Gender Policy in 2009, African leaders launched the African Women’s Decade 2010-2020 and the Fund for African Women to accelerate the implementation of all commitments on gender equality and women’s empowerment on the continent. These continental frameworks complement important global frameworks, to which many African Governments are signatories, including:
- the Dakar Platform for Action (1994) ,
- the Beijing Platform for Action (1995) ,
- the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979), and
- UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security , among others.
A Cross-cutting Pillar of Agenda 2063
At the 24th Summit of the African Union , held on 23-31 January 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, African Heads of State and Government adopted Agenda 2063 , the continent’s 50-year structural transformation and development agenda. The Agenda’s sixth Aspiration is:
“An Africa where development is people-driven, unleashing the potential of women and youth”.
Inter alia, it calls for Africa to work towards full gender equality and the empowerment of women in all spheres of life.
In further recognition of the important role of women and girls in driving the achievement of Agenda 2063’s wide-ranging economic, environmental, socio-cultural, political, scientific and technological goals, the Summit declared 2015 “The Year of Women's Empowerment and Development towards Africa's Agenda 2063."
In keeping with Africa’s gender equality and women’s empowerment agenda, and as part of its advocacy activities, the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA):
- Convenes events that aim to amplify the voices and priority concerns of African women and girls in major intergovernmental processes such as the Commission on the Status of Women and the International Conference on Population and Development;
- Collaborates with key partners including Governments, the African Union, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), UN entities, civil society organizations and the private sector to promote and support Africa’s efforts towards gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.
In addition to high-level events and engagements, OSAA promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment in Africa throughout its substantive work. The Office prepares several annual reports of the Secretary-General that each includes a focus on gender and women’s issues, including those on:
Note: the three links below point to the United Nations Bibliographic Information System (UNBISnet), a database from which documents can be sorted based on various criteria and accessed in all available languages.
- “New Partnership for Africa’s Development: progress in implementation and international support,” which includes a dedicated section on “Gender mainstreaming, empowerment of women”,
- “Causes of Conflict and the Promotion of Durable Peace and Sustainable Development in Africa,” which includes a sub-section on “women’s empowerment and gender equality for peace, security and sustainable development”, and
- “United Nations System support for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development,” which includes a focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment as a “Cross-Cutting Issue”.
Furthermore, acting as the secretariat for the United Nations Monitoring Mechanism, OSAA monitors and reports on progress in the implementation of all major commitments made towards Africa’s development, including those relating to gender equality and women’s empowerment.
With regard to coordination, OSAA participates in relevant inter-agency coordination mechanisms, including in the Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality and in the Regional Coordination Mechanism’s sub-cluster on Gender and Development.
OSAA also participates in major meetings convened by the African Union and RECs on gender equality and women’s empowerment in peace, security and development, including in meetings of the Gender is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) .
>> Learn more about recent events and activities on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Did you know?
- In 11 African countries, women hold close to one-third of the seats in parliaments, more than in Europe. (Source: African Development Bank, 2015)
- While African women work 50% longer hours than men, the pay gap between men and women is very wide. Only 15% of formal-sector firms have a woman as the managing director, while 32% have some degree of female ownership. (Source: African Development Bank, 2015)
- African women are highly entrepreneurial, they own a third of all businesses across Africa.
- As of 2015, African countries constitute a third of the countries with national action plans designed to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. (Source: United Nations)
- Rwanda had the highest number of women parliamentarians worldwide. Women there have won 63.8 % of seats in the lower house. (Source: UN Women Fact Sheets)
High-level Meeting on Women and Youth Entrepreneurship in Africa: The impact of entrepreneurial education on development (13 June 2016)
The event will analyse the development of entrepreneurship in Africa, showcase concrete examples of “impactful” women and youth entrepreneurs on the continent, and encourage the exchange of ideas on how enterprises with a strong social foundations can accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063. [Photo © Jiro Ose]
A Major Goal of the African Union
Article 4(L) of the Constitutive Act specifically provides that the African Union “shall function in accordance with the promotion of gender equality.
The African Gender Parity Principle adopted at the Inaugural Summit of Heads of States and Governments of the African Union held in Durban, South Africa in 2002, represents the most advanced global commitment to equal representation between men and women in decision-making.
- The African Union Commission Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security convened a Consultative Meeting to Review the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 by Member States and Regional Economic Communities (15 December 2015). The meeting benefitted from the support of, among others, the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa.