Lakshmi Puri’s remarks at TICAD V: “Women’s role in sustainable growth and development, peace and security in Africa”

Date: 03 Jun 2013

“Women’s role in sustainable growth and development, peace and security in Africa,” Remarks by Lakshmi Puri, Acting Head of UN Women and Assistant Secretary-General of the UN, during the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development, thematic session on “Driving Development through Gender Equality: Advancing Empowerment of Women” on 2 June, 2013, Tokyo, Japan.

Excellencies, Mr. Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan,
President Paul Kagame,
President Joyce Banda,
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf,
African Union Chairperson Ms. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma,
Panel Chair Ms. Helen Clark, Administator, UNDP,
Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director, UNFPA,

It is a privilege to participate in this panel along with the dynamic champion of gender equality and women’s empowerment in Japan’s foreign and development cooperation policy – Kishida-Sama gaimu daijin, and the three African visionaries and leaders who have blazed a trail in driving development through gender equality and women’s empowerment, and the committed women’s rights champions and leaders of UNDP and UNFPA.

UN Women is mandated and seeks to contribute to driving African development through gender equality and women’s empowerment. Our three regional centers and programme presence in close to 30 countries in Africa; our support to governments in setting and strengthening global, regional and national norms, laws, policies, strategies and actions; our knowledge hub, advocacy and coordination of UN system functions; and our very special partnership with civil society and women’s movements, as well as an emerging link up with the private sector; makes us a keen partner in this TICAD V enterprise.

As Africa celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Organization of African Unity, reignites pan-Africanism, and embarks on the African Renaissance, we need to ensure that the potential of every woman and girl in Africa is fully harnessed – now and into the future.

It is a pivotal time for Africa, a time of remarkable growth, opportunity and promise for development, democracy, social justice and peace. Women have been, and should be part of, realizing this trajectory of the great power of possibilities. It’s also a time of myriad, persisting and emerging challenges that affect, and should therefore involve, women in addressing them. These include widespread and extreme poverty and its feminization, heightened human insecurity, huge infrastructure deficits, jobs crisis especially for the burgeoning youth population, conflict and instability, gender inequality, discrimination and violence against women.

As TICAD V sets out to contribute to the maximization of opportunities and positives in the Africa story, and to address the challenges meaningfully in the new resurgent Africa, it rightly must use the great power of possibility that women and girls represent. I therefore applaud and congratulate Japan and Africa for making this the most women-friendly TICAD ever and putting gender equality and women’s empowerment front and centre of the African ownership and international partnership for the continents’ development for the next five years and beyond.

We particularly welcome that TICAD V has, in the draft Yokohama Declaration, committed to implementation of the African Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa and the African Women’s Decade. We expect these will not only inspire but also drive the objectives, development priorities, partnerships and action agendas of TICAD partners. This means that the Japanese Government and the private sector in their ODA, trade and investment, incorporate women’s rights, and economic empowerment perspectives, to complement African government, civil society and private sector programmes and agenda, and investment in gender equality and women’s empowerment.

It is also important to recognize that the gender equality and women’s empowerment strategy for TICAD must not only be based on a recognition of women as vulnerable and disproportionately affected by poverty, inadequate infrastructure, conflict, natural disasters and climate-change-related challenges, it must be premised on women as key and indispensable actors and leaders in accelerating economic growth, in achieving socially and environmentally sustainable and inclusive development, durable peace and security, as well as climate change and disaster-related resilience building.

Elements of the gender strategy or plan for TICAD V could include the following elements of mainstreaming and prioritizing gender equality and women’s empowerment in ODA allocation and targeting, design of cooperation programmes and investment and trade policies, in development plans and budgets, and through special measures and programmes and even in the public-private partnerships area, steps should be taken to promote the following:

1) Empowering rural women as critical agents for enhancing agricultural and rural development, food and nutrition security – through advancing their land rights and access to productive resources and essential services including finance and extension services, and through commercializing women’s agriculture and enhancing value addition with a link to remunerative and sustainable markets;
2) Addressing women’s participation and benefit from the rich mineral and mining sector and partnerships of Africa where women are marginalized at present;
3) Enhancing women’s role in trade – supply chain, finance, incentives, institutions for capacity- and entrepreneurship-building;
4) Promoting special access of women and girls through infrastructure projects, especially health, including sexual and reproductive health, education and skills development, sustainable energy, water and sanitation, transport, etc.;
5) Ensuring, as Africa urbanizes, that women and girls are part of and contribute to safe, sustainable and prosperous cities – an area in which Japan can share its experience;
6) Creating jobs, especially for the burgeoning youth population, and also decent jobs for women;
7) Designing and supporting special social protection programmes for women;
8) Developing and disseminating technologies and technical solutions and frugal innovation that directly supports women and girls’ empowerment and access to resources – reducing their time poverty and care burden; and
9) Supporting programmes for enhanced political participation and leadership of women at all levels and all public institutions and their role in peacemaking and peacebuilding as well as supporting programmes for prevention and response to violence against women.

These initiatives, approaches and actions would not only bring productivity and economic growth dividends but also social and environmental benefits. They would enhance the quality of democracy and governance and broaden its development impact. They would also be important benchmarks and enablers of the Africa sustainable and inclusive development project of TICAD V.

Finally, the TICAD partnership promises to engage in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and in the shaping of a post-2015 development framework. We have enough intergovernmental commitment at a global, regional and national level for a new generation of development goals. In this regard, I would like to make a strong plea to TICAD partners –Japan and Africa— that you champion a new generation, structurally-transformative, development goal on gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment, as H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has done as co-chair of the High-Level Panel on post-2015.

UN Women has developed the prototype of a gender equality and women’s empowerment goal, building on MDG 3 and Rio+20 outcome, with three target areas of:
1) enhancing security and ending violence against women,
2) enhancing capabilities, access to resources and economic and social empowerment, and
3) enhancing voice, participation and leadership in decision-making in all areas and institutions – public and private and at all levels.
Some illustrative indicators have also been presented to the panel.

This goal will enable African leaders and all stakeholders to really recognize the intrinsic value and realize the instrumental and transformative value of gender equality and women’s empowerment, and the agency of women and girls who have attained their full potential. It will also bring out the accountability required from all partners.

Thank you.