Introductory Remarks by UNDP Regional Director for Africa Abdoulaye Mar Dieye at the New Launch Ceremony of the 2016 Africa Human Development Report

Nov 15, 2016


Africa Human Development Report

“Accelerating Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Africa”

New York Launch Ceremony

Permanent Observer Mission of the African Union to the United Nations

New York, Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Introductory Remarks

Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, Director, UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa

His Excellency, Permanent Representative of Botswana to the United Nations and Chair of the African Group for the Month,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,  

Gender equality is not a new development priority for the countries of Africa. Indeed, its importance has long been recognized. In 2004, the Heads of State and Government of the African Union issued a Solemn Declaration that included a commitment to make gender equality a priority. The gender issue has been of central concern to the continent’s leaders every year since then. In 2016, the African Union declared that this year would be the year of human rights, with special emphasis on women’s rights, while 2015 was the year of women’s empowerment in the development process. This speaks to the sustained attention that these leaders give to the issue.

The 2016 UNDP Human Development Report for the African Region, on the theme of “Accelerating Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Africa,” reflects this commitment to keeping the gender issue very high on Africa’s development agenda.

As the Report shows, progress has been made. Women now enjoy increased visibility in African politics and are beginning to change their country’s policy agenda. Fourteen African countries now exceed the target of 30 per cent representation of women in national parliaments, as advocated in the Beijing Action Plan. The rate of women’s participation in the economy is increasing. And last, we have achieved total parity in primary school enrolment.  

However, we have not yet achieved gender equality. Significant constraints still exist, slowing progress toward unlocking the potential of the gender dimension. These constraints are due, in large part, to the inhibiting nature of by certain socio-cultural norms and practices. All societies, in developed and developing countries alike, have, to a certain extent, created stereotypes that influence everyday relationships between men and women – at home, at school, within the community, and in the workplace. Africa is not immune to those stereotypes. We must deconstruct these norms. We must break through the social silence and the institutional silence that, together, perpetuate systemic violence against women. For example, early marriage robs our girls of the valuable opportunity to complete their secondary education and has a disastrous impact on maternal health. Genital mutilation robs them of their dignity. Social constraints related to access to land and the management of economic and environmental assets, as well as limited access to financial capital, destroy women’s potential to contribute to development.

These constraints contribute to the difficulty of reducing the gender gap. In terms of the labour market alone, that gap has cost sub-Saharan Africa an average of $US95 billion dollars annually, or 6 percent of its GDP, according to the UNDP Report.

Reducing the gender gap means more than achieving human rights for women. It is a categorical imperative for Africa’s development and emergence.

The UNDP Reports proposes an action plan to accelerate gender equality. The plan includes (i) adopting gender equality as a strategic lens through which to view all development planning and implementation, including macroeconomic policies (specifically budget and fiscal policies); (ii) reversing harmful social norms that restrict women from achieving their full economic, political, and social potential; (iii) establishing a rigorous system of data collection and analysis to monitor and implement gender policies; (iv) implementing certification standards (gender equality seal) in public and private companies; and, (v) creating special investment windows for women in national and regional development banks. 

My colleague, Angela Lusigi, development strategy advisor to the UNDP Office for Africa and the main author of this document, will present the Report.  

This Report is innovative and seminal in that, while focusing on the issue of gender - but looking beyond this issue -, it reminds us that we cannot develop and implement effective economic policy without taking the specific political economy into account. We must thus consider its laws, institutions, habits, customs, and power relationships. And when we work symbiotically in the areas of economic policy and political economy, we will find the path to human and sustainable development that is also fair and balanced.  

To my mind, this is the most important insight of this report. It was written with generous financial support from the Government of Japan and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), the technical contribution of the African Union Commission, UN Women, and a consultative committee of independent experts, technical guidance from Ayodele Odusola, our Chief Economist, and the strategic contribution of Selim Jahan, Director of the UNDP Human Development Report Office.

I would like to acknowledge them here and extend them our deepest gratitude.

Thank you, I would now like to invite Ms. Lusigi to present the Report.

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