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AfDB Gender Forum Stresses Women’s Empowerment in Tunis

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The first edition of the African Development Bank’s Gender Forum was held in Tunis on May 10, 2013, with women stressing the need to integrate institutional recognition, leadership, resource mobilization, capacity building and expertise development, “if we want to effectively change the state of gender equality in Africa.”

Addressing a gathering of over 150 women in a plenary session, attended by women ministers, civil society organizations, directors, experts and task managers, the Bank’s First Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, Emmanuel M’bi Ebot, noted that gender equality requires hard work and unwavering determination of all actors. He also outlined how the Bank is striving to promote gender equality, affirming that 67 per cent of Bank-financed projects in 2012 were found to have mainstreamed action on gender promotion in a satisfactory manner; with agriculture and water supply and sanitation projects doing particularly well. Nonetheless, he explained, there are significant opportunities to improve gender mainstreaming especially in the areas of governance, infrastructure and the private sector.

In this regard, the COO described promotion of gender equality as a mighty agenda that the Bank’s Ten-year Strategy (2013-2022) fully embraces as an important step towards making growth more inclusive. “A viable inclusive growth and economic transformation can happen rapidly if appropriate measures are taken to effectively mainstream gender promotion and empowering women,” he told journalists afterwards.

Ginette-Ursule Yoman, Division Manager of the AfDB’s Gender and Social Development Monitoring Division, presented a study reporting the legal status and rights of women, human development, market and domestic work, voice, participation and civil life. She also emphasized the low level of women’s participation in politics in most African countries, and called on other countries to join Rwanda where 56 per cent of women serve in parliament.

The panel discussions also highlighted the need to elaborate sustainable policies to translate the international commitments into laws and actions; the necessity to identify effective incentives for successful implementation of sustainable reforms; and the effectiveness of governments and gender machineries to assume their roles and serve the purpose for which they are created.

The panelists stressed the need for countries to mainstream international commitments in national by-laws to achieve sustainable solutions to gender issues which have been lying there for far too long. “Various sustainable policies have been discussed over and over and changing the state of gender equality remains a challenge,” said Lorna Rutto, 2011 laureate of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award for Sub-Saharan Africa, stressing that: “There should be change of behaviour.” She also said, “If we promote women’s life, it contributes to promoting economic development.”

In this regard, while thanking the Bank for the theme, Tunisia’s Minister of Women and Family, Sihem Badi, asserted that in addition to education only the by-laws and their effective application would bring sustainable solutions to gender equality in Africa and in Tunisia in particular.

While Mariama Sarr, the Minister for Gender and Children in Senegal, advocated for policy dialogue and resource mobilization with a focus on institutional support, Ghana’s Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur, explained that the systems inherited did not have gender components and that the current gender machineries do focus on economic and political stabilities. In her view, there is a need to cultivate expertise in gender, focusing on best practices in Africa.

For her part, Everjoice Win, Associate Director of Oxfam Zimbabwe, highlighted the power to lead, resource mobilization, leadership and confidence, as well as strong relationships with women’s movements “as the source of power and change we want.”

Diana Rivington, former gender equality expert for the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), also shared her experience. She echoed other panelists, emphasizing the need for planning, financial resources and developing expertise.

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