The 2019 Global Gender Summit attracted about 2 000 participants from across Africa and beyond, with a strong call to surge ahead on gender issues and move from commitment to action.
Africa’s only female President, Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia, said Ethiopia’s parliament is one of the only two on the continent with over 50 percent gender parity in seats. It also has women who currently hold key ministerial roles in defence and national security for the first time. Despite her own country’s huge advances, however, the work has just started, she said.
Zewde was speaking during the opening plenary of the Global Gender Summit, a biennial event organized by the multilateral development banks (MDBs) and the first to be held on the continent, bringing together leaders from government, development institutions, the private sector, civil society, and academia.
“There is good momentum for women and African women, but the work has just started. There is no template to follow; we (women) can deliver, but we can deliver differently,” Zewde said.
Speaking in the same vein, Rwandan President Paul Kagame described gender equality as “real common sense.” Rwanda leads the world in gender representation in parliament, with 61 percent of its parliamentarians being women — the highest in the world. In addition, half of all ministerial positions are held by women, just like in Ethiopia.
“We got it from the beginning that there is a lot of work to do and made investments to ensure that women are at the centre of development. We are making sure that narrowing this gender gap is everyone’s responsibility,” Kagame said.
Echoing their sentiments, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said the African Union’s Agenda 2063 was deliberate about gender parity.
“What we are telling our heads of states is to take the bull by the horns. This discrimination is political, economic, and social; it is politically incorrect [and] socially unjustifiable. Not to take (gender) into account is a real waste.”
In Africa, 70 percent of women are excluded financially. The continent has a 42-billion-dollar financing gap between men and women. And women, who are the majority of farmers, face a financing gap of close to 16 billion dollars.
“The challenges are not just about gender. They are about under-representation and lack of empowerment of women,” African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina said.
“A smarter world must invest in women and girls. Let’s be smart, and let’s be wise. Women are the best investment any society can make,’ he added.
The African Development Bank is doing its part to transform the financing landscape for women with the launch of the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA). AFAWA aims to mobilize three billion dollars of new lending by banks and financial institutions for women in Africa. G7 leaders approved a package totalling 251 million dollars in support of AFAWA during the summit in August 2019.
Welcoming the conference participants, Rwanda’s Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, Soline Nyirahabimana, said the Kigali Conference centre was set to glow orange in honour of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. The 16 days kick off on 25 November each year, which marks International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and runs until December 10th.
The 2019 Global Gender Summit is attended by the first ladies of Rwanda and Kenya, as well as representatives of the heads of state of Gabon, Mali, Senegal, Chad and the King of Morocco. Also in attendance are ministers of genders from Niger, Somalia, Senegal, South Sudan, Tunisia, and Libya.
The Summit runs from 25 to 27 November under the theme: ‘Unpacking constraints to gender equality.’
‘The African Development Bank believes in women. Women are bankable,” Adesina said.