African women meeting in Kigali have condemned what they termed lack of political commitment by most governments to ensure the development of women on the continent.
This was highlighted by several participants at the two-day Pre- Eighth African Governance Forum (AGF-VIII) on Gender Equality, Elections and the Management of Diversity in Africa.
Participants said that if governments were dedicated to gender promotion, no African woman would be suffering today.
“There is no commitment from many African governments; they have ratified the convention of gender equality and women empowerment but when it comes to implementation, resources are not allocated to empower women,” Dorothy Onny Akosua, the Director of women and children affairs in Ghana, said in interview with The New Times.
She urged African Heads of State to substantially increase the budget and resources for gender empowerment to facilitate women development in their respective countries.
She noted that in Ghana, women constitute 52 percent of the population but in parliament, they only make eight percent, saying that the small percentage affects them as they have fewer representatives to voice their concerns.
Zambia’s Emily Muntali Sikazwe noted that many African women remain unemployed, not because of inadequate skills, but due to their gender, adding that governments had undermined such issues.
She mentioned that in her country, over 50 percent of the population are women but they make up just 14 percent of lawmakers, which falls far short of the original target goal of 30 percent set by the Southern Africa Development Community, SADC.
“Only political will ensures gender equality, as Rwanda can demonstrate. Where there is no will, it will not happen. We need political commitments to ensure that both women and men participate equally in the development processes,” she said.
Some of the challenges facing African women that were highlighted, include low education back ground, low participation in political processes and decision making, poverty, lack of financial assistance to develop their businesses, heavy labour burdens among others.
Mieko Ikegame Chief UN Special Advisor on African Affairs, observed that countries had failed to realise gender equality due to their failure to respect the principles and instruments adopted to advocate for gender equality in the continent.
“We have many instruments and all the countries are committed to them, but the issue of implementation is still a challenge. Political will is the key to the development of peace and gender equality in Africa,” she said.
She added that Rwanda is among the few countries that have implemented the instruments, which is why it leads Africa in promotion of gender equality.
Addressing the participants, Aloisea Inyumba, the Minister of Gender and Family promotion, said that after realising the impact of women in national development, the government embarked on empowerment strategies to allow equal participation in all political, economic and social affairs.
“Women have been brought into the mainstream of our political, economic and social life and our government is determined to do that because we cannot talk about democracy without their involvement in national governance,” said the minister.
According to statistics, Rwandan women form 53 percent of the population and currently, in parliament, they occupy 56.25 percent seats making it a world leader in female parliamentary representation.
The minister added that the work accomplished by women in leadership has not only improved the standing of Rwandan women in the society, but the quality of life in the country generally as well.
“In Rwanda, barriers to gender and women empowerment have largely been removed, but attention must be paid to training and education for women and elected women officials in order to strengthen their capacity building and help consolidate their gains,” she said.
The forum is precursor to the AGF-VIII which will take place in 2012 in Johannesburg, South Africa.