Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s video message to the second Women Leaders Forum for Africa’s Transformation, in Addis Ababa today:
Unfortunately, I could not join you in person today as I had originally hoped. It is my pleasure to greet you as you formally establish and operationalize the African Women Leaders Network. I want to convey my strong support to all of you for the important work you are doing and the successful deliberations you have just concluded.
I had the honour of participating in the inaugural forum of the African Women Leaders Network in New York last May, and I am proud of the great strides the Network has achieved in less than a year.
In December 2017, the first National African Women Leaders Network Chapter was launched in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, followed soon after by a similar step in Côte d’Ivoire. These national chapters are critical to deepening the roots and reach of this important initiative.
In July 2017, as one of its first activities, the Network also supported its members to engage with a high-level United Nations-African Union joint solidarity mission to Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which I had the honour of leading. This trip provided a unique advocacy platform for enhancing women’s participation in peace, security and development.
In Nigeria, we encouraged increased women's political participation ahead of the next elections, and met with the returned Chibok girls, witnessing their remarkable resilience and hope for the future. We demanded targeted assistance for these girls, who are often stigmatized and face mental health issues upon return to their communities.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we met with internally displaced populations in the east — mostly women and children — and heard of further displacements in the Kasaï Provinces, with acute risks of food insecurity and conflict-related sexual violence. The stories of these women and girls were heartbreaking, but we also saw their enormous capacity for strength and courage.
Meaningful women’s participation has proven crucial to the success of peace and security interventions, efforts to reduce poverty and accelerate development, and our work to make decision-making in all sectors more response. That is why increased women’s political participation is a clear objective of the African Women Leaders Network.
With more than 30 African countries planning elections in the next two years, the Network will be an important vehicle to share experiences of success, solidarity and encouragement for women candidates.
The Network also champions the inclusion of women, and particularly young women, for achieving both the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Africa’s Agenda 2063. We are committed to ensuring that these ambitious objectives are realized, including by implementing the United Nations-African Union Joint Framework for Peace and Security and the African Union-United Nations Framework for the implementation of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda.
Building peaceful and sustainable societies means responding to women’s unique needs and making the most of their wide-ranging contributions. It is especially important to address social and economic challenges that disproportionately affect women, including health, quality education, water and sanitation, jobs, access to finance and technology, poverty, hunger and climate change.
We must also address both old and emerging threats that target women and girls, from forced displacement and sexual and gender-based violence, to growing recruitment and abduction by terrorist and violent extremist groups. In Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, almost 1 of every 5 suicide bombers is a child, and three quarters of all child suicide bombers are girls. As Secretary General António Guterres has noted, violent extremist groups manipulate gender norms and identities, exploit and deepen inequalities, and target women and girls for violations and abuse. For this reason, women’s meaningful leadership and gender equality must be part of our response to counter these threats.
By bringing together women leaders from politics and the public sector, women living in rural areas, young women leaders from civil society and the private sector, the African Women Leadership Network will help ensure that African women leaders are directly involved in building more peaceful and stable societies.
Across the region, women are mobilizing to address the complex crisis and build lasting peace. Women’s efforts are crucial not just to sustainable peace, but to addressing climate change, unequal development and governance deficits. These efforts depend crucially on funding.
That is why financial inclusion is also a key priority of the African Women Leaders Network. Joint efforts led by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), the African Union Commission and my office’s support, will create a fund to bolster access to finances and enhance the role of women in the realization of Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals.
With existing funding mechanisms such as the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund, which provides flexible and rapid funding mainly to women’s organizations in crisis settings, there are additional opportunities for African Women Leaders Network members to apply for funding.
In addition, the new European Union-United Nations Spotlight Initiative aims to address all forms of violence against women and girls. I am encouraged that half of the very generous initial funding of €500 million will focus on eight African countries, and aim to address sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices, a thematic priority of the African Women Leaders Network Call to Action. I encourage other donors to join and build on these efforts, and hope that these funding instruments will continue to grow and catalyse the necessary investments to further advance this important agenda.
I look forward to seeing the African Women Leaders Network thriving and driving the implementation of both the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063. Thank you all for your commitment to our shared vision of peace, democracy, development and gender equality.