Feb 19th- 20th, Over 40 Africa womens’ rights organizations convened at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for a regional meeting with an aim to agree on priorities over issues that affect women and girls in rural areas across Africa.
The conference (#CSWAfrica) hosted by the Africa Womens’ Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) together with Africa’s steering committee and delegates purposed to set the agenda straight ahead of the UN Commission on Status of Women (CSW62) coming up next month.The theme; Securing Africa Rural Women Footprint at CSW62 and beyond, was in line with this years’ CSW priority theme- Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and empowerement of rural girls and women.
The strategic meeting mainly called upon African rural women to share their realities to influence policies that could lead to achieving gender equality.
It is important to note that rural women constitute one-fourth of worlds population. They are leaders,producers and service providers. Over years, their contribution has been found to be very vital to the well-being of families, communities, economies and the overall achievement of the Millenium Development Goals (MDG’s) and Agenda 2063.
Moreover, rural women account for a significant proportion of the agricultural labour force and produce the majority of food grown, especially in subsistance farming, and still perform most of the unpaid care work. Yet their rights and contributions have largely been overlooked.
Rural women continue to experience unequal opportunities in access to healthcare, sexual reproductive health needs, education, infrastructure, food security, nutrition, technology and general access to information. Sadly, they often bare the brunt of gender based violence, sexual exploitation, harmful cultures such Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), child and forced marriages and subsequently denied access to justice.
A good number of rural women face more difficulties than men in accessing public services, social protection, employment and markets due to cultural norms, security issues and the formidable lack of identification documents. Women without Identification cards cannot access health, education, pensions, application for property title or deeds and other social services in addition to their ability to vote!
Additionally, while women have equal property ownership and inheritance rights, gender disparities in land holdings persist worldwide.
Whereas governments have put in place various legislations and policies to protect the rights of rural women and girls, their realization still remains a pipe dream due to lack of awareness among these groups. Again, continued gender imbalances and partriachy jeopardize the realization of these existing laws and policies.
Such conferences provide a great platform for nations to deliberate towards the acceleration and implementation of the Beijing Declaration among other regional and global declarations geared towards the achievement of gender equality. CSW62 offers a perfect opportunity for building alliances to achieve gender equality and empower rural women and girls.