Empowering women and girls in rural areas to achieve the SDGs and Africa’s Agenda 2063
Date: Tuesday, March 13, 2018
The 62nd Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) priority theme, “Challenges and Opportunities in Achieving Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Rural Women and Girls” is critical to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa’s Agenda 2063. The theme adheres to Africa’s pre-CSW62 consultations held in Addis Ababa in February 2018. It strengthens the African Union’s Constitutive Act, which commits Africa to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, without which the continent’s development goals and aspirations cannot and will not be realized.
Women make up more than 50 per cent of Africa’s population and 80 per cent of them reside in rural areas. Over 60 per cent are employed in rural areas, in the agriculture sector. The CSW62 theme therefore provides a good opportunity to identify ways and means to empower women and girls living in rural areas, the backbone of African economies.
Rural communities are endowed with natural resources. However, women and girls living in rural areas face many challenges, most of which are directly linked to gender inequality and structural barriers, resulting in women’s unequal access to power and resources. The burden of care also falls solely on women and girls. Participants at CSW62 called on all players to address the limited access to quality social services, infrastructure, energy and labor- saving technology, and tackle other inequalities.
Africa will not realize its potential if women and girls living in rural Africa continue to face structural barriers and are denied the full enjoyment of human rights. This is often inadequately or insufficiently addressed in laws, policies, budgets, investments, and interventions at all levels across the continent.
“These barriers are compounded when women are excluded from leadership, and decision making leading to underrepresentation in local and national institutions and governance mechanisms, which leads to their diminished voice, agency and decision-making power. Other challenges facing African women living in rural areas include sexual and gender-based violence, high prevalence of maternal mortality, HIV and AIDs, child marriage, FGM, conflict and natural disasters. All these must be urgently addressed for Africa to realize its development aspirations,” commented Ms. Diana Ofwona, the UN Women Regional Director for West and Central Africa.