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Accountability systems, disaggregated data and coordination needed to boost gender equality in Africa, say RECs

Aug 7, 2017

To help break barriers to gender equality in Africa, there is need for better coordination among regional and continental institutions, accompanied by robust accountability mechanisms to ensure that commitments to women’s empowerment and gender equality are met.

These are among the conclusions of a three-day policy meeting on gender mainstreaming in the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), that took place in Ghana’s capital Accra, with more than 30 representatives from the African Union Commission (AUC), five of Africa’s RECs, United Nations agencies, civil society and academia.

The Mainstreaming Gender in Regional Economic Communities in Africa: Documenting Existing Models for Accelerating Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 meeting was organised by the AUC and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

 “Let us strive to break all barriers that hinder the promotion, protection and empowerment of women and girls as we move steadily towards the struggle for greater heights,” said Ghana’s Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection Ms Otiko Afisah Djaba at the meeting’s opening on 2 August.

The AUC called for better coordination on gender mainstreaming, noting that its lack was hindering attainment of Africa’s development objectives, despite political will.

“Today we have the opportunity to adopt clear guidelines together, a sine qua non for success and to support this political will,” said Adoumtar Noubatour, Advisor at the AUC’s Gender and Women Development Department. “Hence the need to reflect on the establishment of an approach and a framework of exchange and dialogue to correct this.”

As a strategy for achieving gender equality, gender mainstreaming involves a process of incremental change in policies, strategies and activities, so that women and men influence, participate in, and benefit equitably from all development interventions.

“We acknowledge islands of excellences and successful gains have been achieved in gender equality as a result of gender mainstreaming in development policies and programmes and also gender specific interventions aiming at building women and girls’ capacities,” said UNDP Ghana Country Director Dominic Sam.  

“However, to-date, the degree of institutionalization of gender mainstreaming is adjudged to be low. The current situation across Africa is depicted by discrimination against women and girls which is prevailing in politics, economics and social life. This could be attributed to the fact that, our efforts remained fragmented; thus, not sustainable, and very few have been scaled up.”

Over the three days, the meeting participants discussed the challenges to, and opportunities for, better delivery of gender equality results at the regional and sub-regional levels in Africa; shared their experiences on these issues; and identified good practices that can be scaled up.

Many REC participants noted that while the relevant global, continental and sub-regional legal instruments and policies for gender mainstreaming existed, translating these into action and impact in their Member States remained a challenge, along with sustainable financing to train colleagues working in other sectors on how to mainstream gender in their programmes.

Other challenges collectively identified included little coordination among continental and regional institutions, a dearth of sex-aggregated data, and continuing harmful cultural practices and patriarchy. 

In addition to addressing the challenges, other ways proposed to move the gender agenda forward were to strengthen national statistical offices to collect disaggregated data, and establish an easily-accessible repository of tools and guidelines on gender mainstreaming, along with a regional observatory on gender equality to track progress.

“To ensure that no one is left behind, we must ensure that gender equality is deliberately included as a design feature in development planning, budgeting and implementation,” said Odette Kabaya, UNDP Africa Regional Programme Gender Advisor, at the meeting closing. 

The RECs represented at the dialogue were the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Other participants include representatives of Ghana’s Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The policy dialogue is part of the African Union Commission’s Building an Enabling Environment for Women’s Economic Empowerment and Political Participation in Africa project that receives technical support from the UNDP Regional Service Centre in Africa.