Outcome Statement – Women LEAD Africa: A Dialogue on Enhancing Women in Political Participation and Fostering Economic Integration within COMESA Region.

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, successfully convened a two-day dialogue on enhancing women’s political participation and economic integration within the COMESA region.

The Women LEAD Africa dialogue brought together representatives 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. The COMESA Gender Policy (2016) advocates for equal and full participation of women in all aspects of COMESA activities and other operations taking place in the region.

The Women LEAD Africa dialogue was an initiative under the “Enhancing Inclusion of Women in Political Participation in Africa” (WPP) project and the COMESA Medium Term Strategic Plan (MTSP) 2021 – 2025 priority to increase women’s representation and meaningful participation in politics and socio-economic decision-making under Pillar Four on Fostering Gender Equality and Social Integration. It was premised on a call for accountability for the full implementation of constitutional gender-responsive policies and practices within COMESA Member States and sought to harness efforts by Member States, civil society, and the private sector in advancing the domestication and implementation of national, regional and global legal, policy and strategic frameworks on gender equality.

This Outcome Statement outlines the collective outcomes and way forward for follow-through on the Dialogue conversations held on 27th and 28th June 2022 in Lusaka, Zambia.


We, the participants of the “Women LEAD Africa Dialogue on Enhancing Women in Political Participation and Fostering Economic Integration within COMESA Region,” representing COMESA Member States, Institutions, Secretariat and COMESA Youth Advisory Panel (COMYAP), EALA, AU, UN Women, the private sector, CSOs, WROs and young women leaders adopt this Outcome Document as a collective set of actionable outcomes towards increasing women’s meaningful political participation in the COMESA region.

We Acknowledge and Affirm that:

  • Patriarchal structures and systems, coupled with vast cultural and societal norms, have and continue to perpetuate women’s discrimination and exclusion from political and economic decision-making spaces in Africa and in the COMESA region. This is rooted in history and the politics of women’s very existence in our African communities. It reflects in the lived experiences of women and girls across the continent and the COMESA region.
  • Premised on constitutional commitments to national, regional and global frameworks on gender equality, laggard progress has been made in increasing women’s political participation and representation in most African countries. Lessons can be learnt from countries such as Rwanda (61% female parliamentary representation, women are more organized and harmful gender insensitive laws repealed, women access to finance enhanced and 40% of land titles female owned).
  • African women and girls have continued to demonstrate leadership anchored on solidarity with and among women.
  • Written laws and frameworks have not always resulted in the transformative change we hope to see. There is a critical need to change our approach where only having laws and policies has not worked effectively to equal representation of women and men in decision-making positions. For instance, in Kenya, not all legal amendments have led to effective actions on gender parity and increased women’s political participation. In many countries and institutions tokenism and celebratory roles for women remain prevalent. There is need to initiate the necessary structural and systemic changes including shift of the mindset to gender equality for sustainability of various efforts of women’s rights organizations and other actors.
  • There is an inextricable nexus between women’s economic empowerment and women’s political and decision-making power. There is need for systems and resources to support women’s meaningful participation in trade and politics, increasing intra-regional and Intra-African Trade and empowering women 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 Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
  • We all have a role to play in holding each other accountable for the full implementation of constitutional gender-responsive policies and practices within the COMESA region.

We Recommend:

  • The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and other regional bodies to spearhead and support mechanisms and accountability for countries, all stakeholders, and partners advancing women’s economic empowerment, and in recognition of commitments made to the COMESA Treaty and COMESA Gender Policy (2016).
  • Economic justice through frameworks such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the COMESA Free Trade Area, and the Tripartite Free Trade Area of COMESA, East Africa Community (EAC) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), and the COMESA, EAC and ECOWAS digital platform for women in business be leveraged as tools for the advancement of women’s financial inclusion and economic empowerment through access to markets. Women’s economic and social emancipation is the first step to enhancing women’s meaningful political participation.
  • Cooperating partners should support initiatives such as the COMESA, EAC and ECOWAS digital platform for women entrepreneurs, the womenconnect.org or 50 Million African Women Speak Platform (50MAWSP – app ) to enable women entrepreneurs to access business information and related services and participate effectively in regional FTAs and African Continental Free Trade Area.

We Need to:

  • Collectively re-define our agenda on women’s economic and political empowerment premised on comprehensive gender and feminist analyses and utilizing available tools such as the Gender Barometer and country gender profiles for knowledge building to inform our evidence-based advocacy.
  • Demonstrate the relevance of gender in our national, regional and continental trade, SME development, industrialization, trade infrastructure development, leadership and other development agendas.
  • Action our laws and policies, holding our leaders accountable and responding to the needs, priorities and aspirations of women, girls, men, and boys on the continent.
  • Facilitate knowledge sharing on women’s meaningful participation in politics and essential economic decision-making in the public and private sectors. This means conscientization on the practical and ideological barriers that impede women’s participation, challenging social and cultural norms and building a critical mass of women to meaningfully engage in African decision-making platforms.
  • Adequately resource and invest in strengthening women’s capacities to engage in economic activity and enhance their political participation.
  • Increase women’s access to information and business services leveraging on technological advancements to ease women’s meaningful participation in economic and political spaces.
  • Engage various stakeholders at regional and national level to popularize initiatives aimed at enhancing women’s participation in intra-regional and intra-Africa trade such as the 50 million African Women Speak Digital Platform (accessed through womenconnect.org or 50MAWSP app), the COMESA Simplified Trade Regime (STR), and Charter on the Minimum Standards on the Treatment of Small Scale Cross Border Traders.

We Collectively and Individually Commit to:

  • Build on 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.
  • Create platforms for intergenerational learning and mentorship amongst women political leaders, young women, and young men.
  • Advocate for comprehensive and meaningful support for African women’s active participation in digital economy.
  • Popularize the 50 million African Women Speak Digital Platform, (accessed through the 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 building services, finance, mentorship and markets.
  • Popularize gender concerns in the private sector development including the importance of women’s leadership.
  • Hold our 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.

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