Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the launch of the New York Group of Friends of the African Women Leaders Network, in New York today:
It is my great pleasure to be with you this evening to launch the New York Group of Friends of the African Women Leaders Network.
This is an important milestone for the Network. It signifies a real example of partnership between and across regions, institutions and civil society.
It is a step forward in closing the gap between the reality of African women — which can be one of marginalization — and their aspiration to be fully included at all levels of decision-making and in all political processes. It is a step forward in making African women equal partners in initiatives that directly affect them, and for their voices to be amplified within and beyond their communities, their workplaces and their countries.
I was with you last June when the Network was launched and I recall the dynamism and excitement in the room. There was a real sense that when strong, powerful women leaders — young and old, from all backgrounds — come together beyond political divides or ideologies, we can move mountains. Since then, the momentum has continued to grow.
The Democratic Republic of Congo and Côte D’Ivoire have launched local chapters of the African Women Leaders Network, and African Women Leaders Network membership has grown from the original 80 founding members to more than 100.
These members are truly impressive, including Catherine Samba Panza, Fatima Askira, Leila Zerrougui, Leymah Gbowee and others, many of whom have taken up new leadership roles on the continent and beyond.
We are currently working with the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) to consider launching an African Women's fund to support women’s leadership in Africa for peace and development.
The United Nations is committed to the African Women Leaders Network, which is supported by Germany and led by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) and the African Union through the Office of the African Union Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security.
I commend Ghana and Germany for spearheading this process to create a cross-regional New York Group of Friends of the African Women Leaders Network and to the more than 30 Member States who are founding members.
The critical role of women in leadership has been recognized at the highest levels. The United Nations and the African Union have begun the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063 — which, at their core, address the critical role of women. The Security Council has also recognized the need to increase women’s representation at all levels of decision-making for the prevention and resolution of conflict. Prevention is a priority for the Secretary-General and women’s meaningful participation is essential to our success in this area.
A critical step is to ensure that women and girls — half the world's population — receive the investment, opportunities, access and protection they require. We have a responsibility to make gender equality a reality and we need to support women-driven initiatives, like the African Women Leaders Network, with our advocacy and resources.
Last July, I was part of a joint United Nations-African Union solidarity mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria, accompanied by United Nations Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, and the African Union Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security, Bineta Diop. We saw there the resilience of women and girls in the most challenging of circumstances, and the extraordinary strength that they possess when they raise voices in unity.
In Nigeria, I met with a group of women leaders from the north-east of the country. I was especially moved by the story of one young woman named Fatima, who is working with internally displaced women in a nearby camp to help overcome the sexual exploitation they face by the men managing food distribution in their vulnerable community. By bringing women into the distribution process, Fatima is helping to improve food security while protecting women from exploitation and violence. Fatima represents the precise spirit, ambition, creative thinking and leadership that the African Women Leaders Network can and must foster.
What we are building here is a movement — a movement for gender equality, a movement for peace, a movement for economic livelihoods, a movement for humanity.
Thank you for being a part of it. Let’s keep the momentum going.