African Leaders call for Increased Women Political Participation to foster economic integration in the COMESA Region.
“Without us, you will not go far” African Leaders call for increased women political participation to foster economic integration in the COMESA region.
“It is not enough to just open the door to the rooms of Power. We have to get inside and re-arrange the Furniture” Ambassador Gertrude Mongella –Tanzanian politician. Such was the conviction when doors opened to a two days’ dialogue on enhancing women’s political participation and economic integration in Africa held in Lusaka Zambia from 27th-28th June 2022. The workshop organized by the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), in collaboration with the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) Gender and Social Affairs Division drew activists and delegates from selected COMESA Member States, Institutions, Secretariat and COMESA Youth Advisory Panel (COMYAP), East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA), African Union, UN Women, private sector, civil society organizations (CSOs), women’s rights organizations (WROs) and young women leaders. The aim of this dialogue was to explore and consolidate practical actions towards unlocking much-needed resources for increasing women’s leadership in political, social, and economic decision-making. The countries represented at the Dialogue include: D.R. Congo, Eswatini, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia.
Participants acknowledged the legal reforms and commitments made at the COMESA and Africa wide level aimed at advancing the gender justice agenda. Best practices were cited by delegates including Rwanda’s interventions attaining 61% female parliamentary representation, and 40% of land titles owned by women increasing women’s financial access. Delegates further acknowledged the inextricable nexus between women’s economic empowerment and women’s political decision-making power.
Delegates however highlighted the persistent patriarchal structures and systems, coupled with dominant and normalized cultural and societal norms and the limited enforcement of laws and frameworks which continue to perpetuate women’s discrimination and exclusion from political and economic decision-making spaces. Addressing these issues requires multifaceted approaches including establishment of systems and resources to support women’s meaningful participation in trade and politics, increasing intra-regional and Intra-African Trade and empowering women micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), entrepreneurs, and young people. This requires taking practical actions, holding each other to account, youth engagement, community advocacy and awareness on the opportunities that exist including use of digital technologies to support women in business to enable them access markets in the COMESA region and under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The participants committed to continue harnessing the power of partnerships to further the women’s leadership agenda in Africa, advocate for laws and policies as well as legal reforms that advance women’s economic and decision-making power, creating platforms for intergenerational learning and mentorship amongst women political leaders, young women, and young men, advocating for comprehensive and meaningful support for African women’s active participation in digital economy and most important, popularize the 50 million African Women Speak Digital Platform, (accessed through the www.womenconnect.org or 50MAWSP app) among women, youth and various stakeholders to make it a household name and enable women to use the platform to access information, capacity strengthening services, finance, mentorship and markets and holding Governments accountable for the implementation of constitutional commitments, national, regional, and global legal, policy and strategic frameworks on gender equality and women’s economic and political participation.
“Investing in women is smart economics, and investing in girls, catching them upstream, is even smarter economics”-Ngonzi Okonjo Iweala-Director General World Trade Organisation