The year of women’s empowerment and development: What it means and represents

By Michelle Ndiaye Ntab*

The 24th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) is currently taking place at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The year 2015 was declared as the year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063.

The journey towards gender equality has revealed major successes that have had huge implications on society as a whole. It especially contributed towards a better understanding of the role and place of women in nation building, education and to decision-making positions.

As a goal, gender equality as a public policy concept has never been more prominent and mainstreamed in legislation and programmes. The number of world summit processes to advance a global agenda like the summits on information society, sustainable development, climate change, and aid effectiveness illustrate this. None of these has reached the reach gender mainstreaming has acquired since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and its Platform for Action in 1995. Today, there is almost no strategy document on global development and economic agenda without a component on gender mainstreaming and indicators to measure success in this area.

We have won the advocacy battle, by conquering a little more territory to achieve moral progress by being gender conscious. For Africa the slogan of the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, “Gender equality as the goal – gender mainstreaming as the strategy” is a testimony of what needs to be done. As far as we know, this year’s theme will be overshadowed by other issues on the agenda of the Heads of States. However, this choice of theme is a good opportunity to remind those who still have doubt about gender mainstreaming, that there will be no development of the continent without the other half of its population playing an equal role toward society’s common advancement goals.

See you in 20 years time!

*Michelle Ndiaye Ntab is Director of the Africa Peace and Security Programme (APSP) and Tana Forum Head of Secretariat at the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS). All views expressed in the AfSol blog are solely the views of the authors and do not in any represent the views of the IPSS or APSP. For more information on AfSol Blog, please contact

12 thoughts on “The year of women’s empowerment and development: What it means and represents

  1. But why must discussions on women be tied to something else (and tied to something that is perceived to have broader societal implications) i.e Women and Development, Women and Climate Change. Women make up 50% of the population everywhere in the world. And women face unique and particular challenges everywhere in the world.Challenges that have long-term, societal implications and therefore need to be addressed at the institutional level. Progressiveness would be: 2015 the year of women. Or better yet 2015: the year we address patriarchy. And perhaps then too, we address the ingrained (but no less insidious) patriarchy that exists in the institutions we rely on to address gender inequality.


  2. Nice article Michelle!

    As an unapologetic advocate for 100% gender equality in Africa, I was overjoyed when this theme was pronounced last year. It is sad that we have a host of other challenging issues before the AUC, that would hamper a full discussion around women’s empowerment and development.

    One thing to note however, is that most Africans treat the pursuit of gender equality separate from other issues like Peace and Security, Health, Democracy, Economic Development and Governance. We often forget that gender inequality takes us two steps backwards, whenever we attempt to make progress on any of the aforementioned issues.

    For progress, we must begin to see the importance and significant impact of gender equality on all spheres of African life. Once we get this perspective right, I strongly believe that everything will fall into place 🙂


  3. I think an approach where facts and experiences are used to reflect how gender mainstreaming affects literary every dimension of a woman’s life as well as that of othes is very useful. A good example is looking at something like access to water and how it can radically affect all other areas such as education access, economic situation, health and so on. Gender Empowerment assessment has the potential of enhancing the understanding of the leaders on how crucial it is as a public policy issue


  4. I find the AU Agenda very appropriate as women’s empowerment will definitely lead to development, so linking it to development can never be wrong. More so, women can bring in creativity into the discussion of security in Africa.


  5. 2015 the year to strengthen already existing efforts towards gender equality, advoacy, mainstreaming is still very key. The battle was one and what left is our institution be provided strenthening resurces that replicate gender mainstrming efforts. Dr. Joyce Banda former President of Republic of Malawi presentated an issue of girls empowerment for 2015 at very important meeting recently where a pool of resources will be disbursed towards this agenda. UN Resolution 2015 on Women Peace and Security is very key throughout institutional interventions. In Malawi how I wish we create our downscaled National Plan of Action on Women Peace and Security.


  6. “If society will not admit to woman’s free development, then society must be remodelled”. ~ Elizabeth Blackwell
    Women are still disproportionately represented in Africa, empowerment are important in their own right, not just as a means to achieve an end and development is not just about offering the opportunity of a livelihood and access to basic social services: it is also concerned with creating an environment where people can realise their rights and participate meaningfully in society. Full development cannot be achieved unless women and the resources they represent are integrated into the development process. Investment in gender equality and women’s empowerment is vital for improving economic, social and political conditions in developing countries within the framework of sustainable development. A focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment in developing countries especially is a means to enhance the total effectiveness of development. The knowledge, insights and experience of both women and men are required if development is to be both effective and the 2015 is a year that affirms the inclusion of women in international policy discussion and development as the will be a rebirth to the development of Africa and her people as well as provide a sustainable solution to the challenges and conflicts Africa faces.


  7. “2015: The Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development” is a critical theme for achieving Africa’s development goal. There is need to strengthen the gender component in development at the global, regional and national levels. Although strategy documents on global development and economic agenda are never without the component on gender mainstreaming and indicators to measure success, the biggest challenge is that accountability; implementation and action on the ground remain lacking or are weak. Similarly, grass root women are neglected. There is need for political recognition of women in development at a time when they play a great role in the international, regional and national development, peace and security. Womens’ voices and experiences should be heard. There is need to strengthen policy framework on women in development and grant them their place and space in development as they are a powerful driving force in development given their demographic numerical strength.


  8. Development systems are now strongly in favor of women. Men are now the one’s being pushed and abandoned on the sidelines yet it helps no body in a long run in as far as peace and security are concerned. Why not rather talk about gender sensitivity and equity?


  9. I find the AU Agenda quite apposite to the whole discourse of women emancipation in Africa. As a fact, development in Africa can only be enhanced and sustained only when the womenfolk, who constitute the majority of the population, are empowered. Towards achieving this enviable goal, patriarchy, the major impediment to women emancipation in Africa, must to be intellectually engaged and challenged. But will the turning point agree to turn?


  10. I couldn’t agree more with Prince Amadichukwu. For development to be sustainably optimized, all individuals (women as men) must be regarded and treated as “resources” on which development is dependent. Hence, Governments and other stakeholders should regard the different factions of society as avenues for investment so that they can in turn contribute the best they can offer. If today gender equality is put to the fore and often targets women as the need population, it is because previous public policy and socio-cultural practices greatly under-utilized their potentials. (S)he who is involved and utilized in development finds himself/herself being developed as well.

    In spite of efforts in high places to empower women, some key stumbling blocks remain. One of such is the inadequate solidarity among the women folk themselves. Women make up about 50% of global population but very few women believe in and support other fellow women through empowerment endeavours, especially of a political nature. Where women have massively thrived in politics and governance, it has been largely as a result of necessities presented in the aftermath of violent conflicts. While women strive for more opportunities, they must also fully exploit the existing ones.

    Another stumbling block is the methodology employed by some development practitioners in presenting the gender equality concept. Often they leave our cultural/ community leaders and even the women folk thinking it is a matter of competition rather than collaboration. In general, gender mainstreaming towards equality is making important strides forward in Africa. Good thing the AU is deliberating on it twenty years before the landmark evaluation point, as it leaves time for more informed actions.


  11. Iwu Hyacinth Nnaoma
    Much is said about women emancipation in Africa. But there is need to identify how many that seek emancipation are really held down.We should also through a rigorous study verify the feelings of other womenfolks who feel that the nature of a woman should be cherished and preserved. Therefore generalization or extrapolation of new ideas on gender parity should be handled with caution.


  12. ““If society will not admit to woman’s free development, then society must be remodelled”. ~ Elizabeth Blackwell

    But here is the real problem: Society vs. woman, as if the latter were not integral part of the former. This is the kind of male-centered rationale we need to get rid off. Time has come for the latter to “admit” that her time is now to “remodel” her society from within. Otherwise, as Ewe-mina people remind us, “Gnatola ma no kpon sia, eyenabe adelan to kpo mi sena [Until the lion has his or her own storyteller, the hunter will always have the best part of the story].


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