By Antoinette Sendolo
The 24th Gender is My Agenda Campaign pre-summit consultative meeting on gender mainstreaming recently ended at the Sipopo Conference Center in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea with over 25 African Gender Ministers in attendance.
The consultative meeting which was held under the theme putting women at the Center of Africa’s Growth in Agriculture, Food Security and Agribusiness was intended to discuss issues regarding women, food security and Agriculture and as well as violence against women in conflict in order to make recommendations to the 23rd African Union Summit.
Speaking at the opening of the summit, the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations Development Programme Equatorial Guinea, Mr Leo Heileman said it is important for women and girls to be prioritized when it comes to agriculture in Africa because women play a major role in food security. He said most women are small holder farmers and they contribute about 80% to food production in Africa.
Mr. Heileman said women empowerment is paramount to food security therefore they need to have technical skills in order to improve agriculture and food security in Africa. He added that women are the backbone of agriculture in Africa so they need to be supported if food security must be achieved in Africa.
He added that women and girls’ involvement in agriculture will help reduce the high rate of poverty in Africa which has exposed women and girls to all forms of violence.
The UNDP resident coordinator in Equatorial Guinea asserted that his organization is working to reduce the rate of infantile and maternal deaths in Africa noting that 6% of malnourished people in the world are women and girls due to the lack of food security.
Also speaking was the head of women famers in Burkina Faso, Madame Compaore Ouedraogo who disclosed that women and girls involved in agriculture are faced with so many challenges naming violence against women as a major problem for them.
She said most women are violated while on their way to their farms because they have to walk long distances with their children especially young girls. She also described the access to land as a challenge noting that most women do not have access to land.
Madam Ouedraogo said women are finding it difficult to showcase their products because of the lack of good road networks, storage facilities, and modern machines in most African countries something she said makes the process of realizing food security much more challenging.
She however called on African leaders to provide legal access to land for women and girls in agriculture and they should also be provided technical trainings in order to help them become self sufficient.
At the same time, the African Union Agenda 2063 was presented at the pre-AU summit and it talks about the Africa we want in the next 50 years is defined by the solemn declaration which is focused on Africa’s identity, social and economic development and African’s space in the development. The African Union Agenda 2063 vision is to continue the processes that have been going on in transforming Africa.
The Agenda 2063 is geared towards strengthening the development process of Africa and learning lessons from the past in order to improve Africa in fifty years to come. This Agenda specifically highlights the need for women and girls’ empowerment in Agriculture and also promote women’s rights in Africa.
However, there was a lengthy debate on the issue of the over 200 girls who were abducted in the Northern part of Nigeria as part of the emerging conflicts on the African continent and the women who sounded disappointed have agreed to stage a serious match in the capital of Nigeria in order to get the attention of the government to ensure that the girls are returned stressing that the girls have spent a little over 67 days since then.
The women said they are disappointed in the manner in which the Nigerian government is taking the issue of the abducted girls something they described as a blow to the women and girls of Africa and as such, the situation needs to be addressed with urgency.
Meanwhile, the chairperson of the African Union, H.E Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma after hearing the plights of women and girls at the Pre-AU summit has instructed that handwork be sent to the Museum and women in agriculture should use modern machines to do their works by 2063.
She said there is a need for women to be provided quality training on Agriculture and also on their rights to access land. The AU chairperson also noted that Africa is rich but yet Africans are poor because they are not using the resources they have to get what they want.
Madam Zuma then called on Africans to change the way their minds and the way they see things and try to be more practical if Africa must have the change she wants.
She however appreciated the women and girls of Africa for coming up to speak on issues affecting them in Agriculture and other forms of violence against them and encouraged them to be consistent in their advocacy and be prepared to hold their various leaders for the implementation of those international human rights documents they are signatory to.
The Gender is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) is a women’s platform of over 55 women’s organisations from civil society across the continent of Africa. GIMAC aims at creating space for civil society organizations to formulate and promote gender equality agenda in Africa and it is coordinated by Femmes Africa Solidarities (FAS).