Statement: The African Renaissance and the Future Young Women and Girls Want: Our Commitments, Priorities and Recommendations

Statement by young women and girls at the African Union Summit on Agriculture and Food Security, January 21 – 31, 2014, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Date : 31 January 2014

1.0    We, the young women and girls from 14 African countries convened at the Young Women’s Forum from 20 to 31 January 2014 on the margins of the 22nd African Union Summit under the theme: Transforming Africa’s Agriculture for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods, through Harnessing Opportunities for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development,” and are heretofore defining the future we want.

2.0    We, the young women and girls of Africa, are at the epicentre of Africa’s development. We are key to Africa’s agriculture and food security. 

3.0    We note with sadness, anger and frustration that although young people comprise over half of the African population, we continue to face a number of challenges. These include: inadequate access to quality education; lack of vocational skills and training particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; high unemployment; lack of access to and control over land; lack of social and economic empowerment; lack of access to quality comprehensive sexual reproductive health (SRH) information and youth friendly services; high levels of violence against women and girls; discrimination and gender inequality limits our enjoyment of rights, such as the right to freedom of movement with regard to obtaining visas.

4.0    We are also concerned by the impact of environmental change, whether natural or human-made in all areas of our lives.

5.0    We recognize that our leaders have put in place various laws, policies and development frameworks that promote, protect and uphold the rights of young women and girls. We commend these efforts made by our leaders at international, regional and national levels.

6.0      We are, however, deeply concerned about the lack of implementation of these regional and international agreements. We are also concerned about the inadequate allocation of resources to effectively implement such commitments.

7.0      We commend our leaders for identifying agriculture and food security as the priority theme for the 2014 African Union Summit. This theme presents an opportunity for us, young women and girls of Africa, to contribute towards setting the agenda for achieving sustainable agriculture and food security.

8.0      We believe that if our potential is harnessed by including us in the decision-making process, as well as the outcomes of this agenda, sustainable agriculture and food security will be achieved.

9.0      We therefore call upon our leaders to address the issues that negatively affect our productivity such as violence against women and girls, sexual reproductive health rights violations, child and forced marriages, unemployment and environmental degradation. This can be done through enhanced access to education, youth friendly sexual reproductive health information and services, and productive resources such as land and credit and protection of the environment.

10.0    We call upon our leaders to help us realize our dream of an Africa where there is peace, climate justice, respect for human rights and gender equality. A continent free from corruption, free from violence against women and girls; where young women enjoy their right to education and are not at risk of being married off as child brides; where young women and girls are involved in the development process and its outcomes; where young Africans participate in developing Africa using Africa’s abundant resources, where everyone enjoys their right to own land, where the voices of young women are heard, where young women and girls participate in decision-making at all levels and where development will reach everyone regardless of whether they live in a rural or urban area.

11.0    We, the young people, are committed to advocating for the realization of our African dream by building awareness among our peers of their rights and supportive laws, policies and development frameworks, particularly land rights and sexual reproductive health rights as codified in the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol). We also commit to hold our leaders accountable to deliver on commitments made at national, regional and international levels. We, the young women and girls, will utilize our skills and knowledge to serve our continent by participating in the implementation and various development agendas of our countries and helping to preserve the environment.

12.0    We need firm commitments from our leaders to promote peace and security, and to protect land rights of all communities, particularly for young women and girls in conflict countries. Conflict further marginalizes and exposes women and girls who are often targeted and experience sexual and gender-based violence.

13.0    We reiterate our call to our leaders to commit to ensuring that we achieve the Future Young Women Want by prioritizing the following issues for immediate action, in the post-2015 development framework and long-term vision of the African Union Agenda for 2063:

Agriculture

  • Ensure that young women and girls have access to, and control over, land and productive assets.
  • Empower young women and girls financially, and ensure access to technology, credit, farm inputs, storage facilities, information and markets – locally, regionally and internationally.
  • Invest in young female farmers and entrepreneurs in agri-business by including them in community and national procurement processes;
  • Increase opportunities of young women and girls in agriculture and facilitate their access to start-up capital.
  • Set up sustainable grant schemes to ensure that young women and girls get involved in agriculture and are able to capitalize on new markets and value chains.
  • Support the effective participation of young women and girls in protecting the environment to achieve sustainable agriculture.

Health

  • Ensure the protection of the right to health of young women and girls, especially through access to quality and affordable health care and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services. Women and girls form the backbone of agriculture and their ill health negatively impacts production.
  • Implement the Abuja Declaration, including the commitment to allocate  15 per cent of national budgets to the health sector, and recognize that pregnancy-related deaths are the biggest cause of death among young women and girls of reproductive age – the age when they contribute the most to the national economy, including through agriculture.
  • Increase health infrastructure, trained health service providers; and ensure accessibility and availability of affordable quality health services such as consistent supply of drugs, means of communication, and ambulances, reducing the distance to the nearest clinic and improving feeder roads in rural areas.
  • Promote social protection programmes to support young women and girls affected living with HIV and AIDS and ensure their access to productive resources.

Education

  • Increase access to free quality education, including the transition to and completion of secondary, tertiary, vocational and non-formal education for all girls and boys, and create opportunities for lifelong learning. This should include scholarships, agricultural clubs, field schools and opportunities for out-of-school girls and boys to complete their education.
  • Strengthen the school curriculum to incorporate comprehensive sexuality education, financial literacy, agricultural training and entrepreneurship.
  • Invest in young women and girls’ education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to ensure their participation in research and innovative agricultural technology.
  • Integrate gender analysis in agricultural training programmes to produce evidence-based information on women’s contribution and participation in agriculture.
  • Provide equal access to vocational skills and apprenticeship programmes to ensure employment opportunities for all young people to successfully attain decent work, with particular focus on out-of-school girls and boys.
  • Address pre-existing stereotypes to end stigmatization of girls’ education by sensitizing parents and the community about the importance of girls’ education.
  • Promote education on positive cultural practices and indigenous knowledge related to agriculture and environmental protection.

Social and Economic Empowerment

  • Create opportunities for the participation of young women and girls in decision-making processes in politics, public and private sectors, parastatals and corporate boards.
  • Build young women’s and girls’ entrepreneurial skills to enable them participate in economic activities and opportunities, ensure the reduction of the digital divide, enhance their access to and control over information and communication technology (ICT) and enable them to manage their own companies.
  • Protect and uphold the rights of young women and girls so that they are not subjected to sexual and gender-based violence; take action to end child and forced marriages.

Climate Justice

  • Promote clean, natural energy such as solar power.
  • Enact, strengthen and enforce laws and policies to address the long-term impact of deforestation.
  • Enforce existing laws on pollution and toxic waste.
  • Strengthen response mechanisms and crisis management during natural disasters (drought, flooding, etc).

Policy Recommendation to the African Union Member States:  

  • Ensure that the AU Agenda 2063 and the post-2015 development framework commit to women’s rights, gender equality and investment in young women and girls.
  • Protect the rights of young women and girls as codified in the Maputo Protocol, and other regional and sub-regional Instruments such as SADC, ECOWAS, ICGLR, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), East African Community, COMESA, etc.
  • Prioritize the immediate signing, ratification and implementation of all regional and international human rights instruments that promote and protect the rights of women and girls.
  • Enact and enforce laws that prohibit all forms of violence against women and girls, including child and forced marriages, forced or unwanted sex –  whether the violence occurs in private or public spheres, or in times of peace, conflict or post-conflict situations.
  • End wars and promote peace and reconciliation to create opportunities for young women and girls as entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector.
  • Ensure implementation of policies and laws by allocating adequate resources for enforcement and stiffen laws on corruption so that resources are efficiently utilized for intended purposes.
  • Ensure enforcement of policies and laws that protect and replenish our natural resources, prevent land grabbing and externalization of national assets through networks of local and global actors and protect Africa’s resources for future generations.
  • Adequately fund and support women’s organizations and youth networks to enable them to effectively participate in development processes.

Conclusion

We, the young women and girls of Africa, express our appreciation to the World YWCA for convening the second Young Women’s Forum (2014). We are grateful to the African Union Commission’s efforts to include and recognize us in the Africa Agenda. We also appreciate GIMAC for the platform to voice our dreams of the “Future We Want.

We say Asante Sana, Obrigado, Shukran, Merci Beaucoup, Thank You, to the many partners who have supported our participation, especially: UN Women; Nike Foundation; Urgent Action Fund Africa; the Partnership for Maternal, New Born and Childhood Health; Christian AID; NORAD; and the David and Lucille Packard Foundation.

We extend our sincere gratitude for your commitment in supporting young women’s and girl’s leadership. As young women and girls, we are committed to moving this agenda forward with support from our leaders, the women’s movement and our partners.