Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Africa

Graphic representing an African woman in the shape of the continent

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:

"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."

-- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his remarks at 24th African Union Summit

Following the adoption of the African Union Gender Policy PDF 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:

A Cross-cutting Pillar of Agenda 2063

At the 24th Summit of the African Union External link, held on 23-31 January 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, African Heads of State and Government adopted Agenda 2063 PDF, 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.

Logo of the 2015 Year of Women's Empowerment and Development towards Africa's Agenda 2063

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."

OSAA’s Contribution

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):

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.

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) External link.

>> 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)

A Major Goal of the African Union

Article 4(L) of the Constitutive Act PDF 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.

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