The Official opening ceremony of the 8th Gender Pre-Summit , Tuesday 19 January, brought together over four hundred delegates from across the continent and abroad in the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Nelson Mandela plenary hall at the New AU Conference Center was full to capacity with women leaders in all the socio-economic and political sectors who gathered to exchange views on the theme: 2016 African Year of Human Rights with Particular Focus on the rights of Women.
The objective of the meeting is to bring together the voices of key actors dealing with gender equality and women’s empowerment, to update and discuss critical developments related to the empowerment and rights of women, so as to influence and shape the discussions and decisions of the policy makers during the 26th African Union (AU) Summit.
Addressing the delegates at the official opening Chairperson, Dr. Dlamini Zuma, retirated that, the year 2016, marks an important milestones in the continent as well as the global women’s development agenda. “We should be the change we want to see… Women should be change agents …. to transform, not to conform,” said the AU Chairperson. She further challenged all African Women to strongly reflect on these three valuable words and encouraged them to device strategic mechanisms aimed at reinforcing and broadening the participation of women in all important positions at national, regional and international levels.
On the other hand, Chairperson Dlamini Zuma underscored the need to stregthen the Pan-African Women Organizations (PAWO) at the grassroots to drive the vision of integration in the Continent.
She regretted, that despite all the efforts done so far by the AU to stop conflicts and wars in Africa, various parts of the continent continue to be affected by conflict and insecurity, with women being disproportionately impacted. She called on all the Members States to work towards ensuring that the continent meets the target of silencing the guns by 2020. Dr. Dlamini Zuma recalled that the African Union has developed a list of legislative and policy instruments to help in advancing the agenda of Women in peace, and Security at various levels yet the protection of women in times of conflict and peace-progress notwithstanding is still poor. “It is time for a radical transformative campaign for change and implementation of all the legal frameworks already in place to enhance women’s empowerment particularly under Agenda 2063, concluded the AU Chairperson.
Bineta Diop, AU special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security, said the time is ripe for women to catalyze their efforts, reinvigorate their commitments and raise once more their voices, loud and clear to say that Africa needs action, that Africa must walk the talk so as to break the cycle of violence on women and deprivation that ultimately continues to hold Africa in poverty and instability. “This Year 2016 offers us another opportunity to put on the table the quest, I should say, the demand by African women for their rights to be recognised as Human rights, to be upheld and to resolutely take the path of implementation, a path to transformation. And Indeed Africa has defined the road to that transformation through Our Agenda 2063, an agenda for today and tomorrow, as solid future can only be achieved through wise investment today.We, Women of Africa, must seize this opportunity as we all know that Africa will not achieve its Agenda without the women and youth of this continent,” she underlined.
Ruth Ocheng, representative of the Gender is my Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) commended the African Union for declaring 2016 the year of Human Rights with particular focus on the rights of women and the adoption of the Agenda 2063. She emphasised that this will put the African Union in a position of driving Africa’s development agenda.