By *Elshaddai Mesfin
In late September 2015, the United Nations (UN) hosted a gathering for the celebration of 20 years since the adoption and implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. In the presence of high level officials, academicians, gender and women issues experts as well as representatives of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), it was stressed that governments and the world in general must commit to closing the gender gap by 2030 under the campaign “#Planet5050”, Step it up for Gender Equality in 2030. This is in support and spirit of Goal 5 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be attained by the same year.
Women are the other half of humanity, yet their voice is still missing from global politics and economy. Creating environments that are conducive for women to achieve their full potential is, according to UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, ‘a goal that Heads of State (HoS) have to ensure by making it a national priority. According to McKinsey Global Institute, in a “full potential” scenario in which women play an identical role in labor markets to that of men, “as much as $28 trillion, or 26 percent, could be added to global annual GDP by 2025.” Therefore, achieving equality for men and women by 2030 is not only a social and moral issue, but also one that is economically critical for a world whose economy is ever more stagnating.
The same logic also applies for having women at decision making levels; Africa has come a long way in this regards. The AU has named 2015 the Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063 and 2016: African Year of Human Rights with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women. Dr. Zuma is the first woman Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), President Ellen Johnson of Liberia is the first African Woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize; Amina Mohamed is one of the first African Woman to be proposed for the post of UN Secretary General; Rwanda has the highest number of women in Parliament (more than 50%) in the continent; South Africa has the highest parity rates when it comes to employment. Yet here comes the paradox. These leading women do not represent at all the overall African Women population who remain excluded from the politics and economy of their respective countries and continent. They are the exception. Even if they were to represent the rest, how audible would their voice be in the men dominated and dictated world of politics, economy and culture? As such, despite the pledges and commitments that were made, action and implementation are still missing.
This image is the same in peace and security. 15 years since UNSC 1325, women, globally, only represent less than 10% of negotiators in peace agreements despite the fact that peace agreements where women are present are likely to be sustainable by 23%. 10 years since the adoption of Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, Africa remains the continent where much more is needed for women. In a continent devastated by conflicts, women are the first victims as refugees, IDPs, and rape victims. In Africa, South Sudan is the worst place to be women in a conflict zone next to the Democratic Republic of Congo with high rates of rape.
The protocols, charters and legislations and even the campaigns that enable women to reach their full potential are there. African leaders pledged their support for the newly established HeforShe campaign for instance. This is one that argues that gender is not only about women but also about men, men supporting women. But what is missing as Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has put it is the “unbending political will”, one that is to make the issue of women equality a “national priority”. In a three step plan developed by the UN, governments are to not only promote and campaign for #Planet5050 but also invest in women equality. Governments have to put in place clear budgets targeting the advancement of women in society through the creation of the foundations of the needed conducive environments. This means investing in social campaigns that are to eliminate discriminations and prejudices of women and thus propel by 2030 parity at all decision making levels.
But is gender equality a national priority for our African governments? Is it a national priority for the African citizenry? One can be skeptic about the prospects. Gender parity is unlikely to be a priority at a time where issues such as: fighting the waves of extremism especially in the Horn and West Africa Region, handling the migration crisis, dealing with the regression of democracy with the new pattern of third termism, and the need to find ways to support the ever growing African Peace Keeping Missions are pressing. Maybe #Planet5050 is an ambitious goal for the continent? At the pace we now have, it is unlikely that Africa will achieve gender equality in the next 15 years.
* Elshaddai Mesfin Haileyesus (email@example.com ) is a research intern in the Research, Policy Analysis and Dialogue (RAPD) Department the Africa Peace and Security Programme (APSP), a joint programme of the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) and the African Union (AU). All views expressed in the AfSol blog are solely the views of the authors and do not represent the views of the IPSS or APSP. For more information on AfSol Blog, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org