[14th October 2010]


African women have been and continue to be key players in the global women’s movement. They have actively been involved in all UN conferences and helped shape the debate on women’s empowerment and gender equality for over the past 30 years starting with the First World Conference on Women (FWCW) held in Mexico City, Mexico (1975), followed by the Second World Conference on Women (SWCW) held in the Copenhagen, Denmark (1980), then the Third World Conference on Women (TWCW) held in Nairobi, Kenya (1985) and lastly the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China in 1995. While these conferences have contributed to the progressive strengthening of the legal, economic, social and political dimensions of women, the role of African women has been indispensable.

Since the Beijing Conference, the African continent has distinguished itself as a champion of gender equality through the adoption of various commitments and protocol which include:

  1. The Declaration on Promotion of Gender Equality as a major goal of the African Union (AU)- Article 4(L) of the Constitutive Act on Gender Equality which specifically provides that the African Union “shall function in accordance with the promotion of gender equality”, thereby making the promotion of gender equality one of the goals of the AU
  2. The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa
  3. The Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA)
  4. Policy Framework for Post Conflict Reconstruction and Development adopted by the Heads of State and Government in 2006.

The African Women’s Decade 2010-2020

At their Extra-Ordinary Meeting of Ministers of Gender and Women Affairs in Maseru, Lesotho in December 2008, the AU Ministers for Women Affairs and Gender called on Heads of States to declare 2010 as a Decade for African women to give them platform to further raise awareness on gender based issues. The Ministers’ proposal was adopted by the decision of the Assembly EX.CL/Dec. 487 (XIV) which declared 2010-2020 as an African Women’s Decade.

The African Women's Decade to be launched on October 15, in Nairobi which is the World Rural Women's Day, is a mechanism to accelerate the implementation and attainment of the goals stated in the various, declarations, protocols and conventions the AU has adopted. The Decade would coincide with the time that the women’s movement worldwide is marking significant landmarks on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

This year, the world is reviewing thirty years of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Again Women (CEDAW), fifteen years of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA), ten years of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, six years of the adoption of the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA), and five years since the coming into force of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.

The launch if the Decade is thus a pointer to the fact that as far as women’s rights in Africa are concerned, we have reached a stage where implementation has to be given greater attention.

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