African Union gender equality ministers adopt common position on the post-2015 development agenda


During the Africa Regional Preparatory and Consultative Meetings ahead of the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) next month, African ministers and senior officials discussed the priority theme, “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for Women and Girls”, and adopted an outcome message with strong recommendations. 

Organized by UN Women, with the African Union Commission (AUC) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the preparatory meetings were held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 6-8 February 2014. Their main objective was to build African solidarity and consensus prior to CSW and to develop a strategy for influencing how gender equality and women’s empowerment are dealt with in the post-2015 development agenda. 

“We have now a once-in-a-generation opportunity to position gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment at the centre of the future global agenda,” said Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri in her opening remarks. “The present Africa Preparatory Consultation, therefore, is a critical stepping stone towards a successful CSW58 that will deliver on these accounts. It is galvanizing gender equality ministers and senior government officials to ensure that the session reflects the concerns of women and girls from the region, and that the evidence, lessons learned and good practices, as we know them, are fed into the global process in March.”

Participants adopted a strong outcome message with recommendations for a proactive and progressive position at CSW58, giving unequivocal support for a transformative stand-alone goal to achieve gender equality, women's rights and women's empowerment in the post-2015 development agenda. They said this goal should be comprehensive and include concrete targets and indicators. They further called for the mainstreaming of gender equality perspectives across all goals.

Their key recommendations were grouped into four clusters, addressing women's economic empowerment, social transformation, governance, peace and security, and institutional frameworks. 

Recommendations in the economic sphere call for strengthening women’s role in trade and their increased access, control and ownership of land and productive resources. They identify information and communications technology as a tool for economic and political empowerment and access to information, markets, networking and increased opportunities which should be mainstreamed in order “to leapfrog the gender digital divide”.

“Studies are indicating that the gender gap costs Africa up to 255 billion US dollars per year. We need to understand that it is not a favour to women but it’s their right. And, it is not only a right, but it is the right and smart thing to do,” said Ngone Diop, Chief of Gender at UNECA, during the meeting.

In addressing the need for social transformation, the recommendations say ending violence against women and girls is a glaring omission in the MDG framework and must be addressed in any new framework. Participants also were in agreement that the new development framework must provide for women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as well as access to sexual and reproductive health services. They equally agreed that ending female genital mutilation, child, early and forced marriage and early pregnancies is essential for the health, education and empowerment of the girl child. 

Regarding the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 2015, the recommendations conclude with a pledge to intensify efforts towards full and accelerated implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action through renewed political commitment, extensive social mobilization and mobilization of new investments in gender equality.

In addition to the outcome document, AU Ministers of gender equality and women's affairs adopted a Ministerial declaration that voices support for a stand-alone gender goal and advocates for a sixth pillar to be included in the African Common Position on the post-2015 development agenda. This pillar would have gender-specific priority areas, and would also be mainstreamed across all other pillars.