, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 11 – The African Women\’s Decade Conference kicked off in Nairobi on Monday with fresh calls to the continent\’s governments to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women in order to promote their socio-economic progression.
The conference which brings together delegates from all over the world will also see the African Union (AU) embark on a massive campaign to thematically empower 530 grassroots initiatives by women by the year 2020.
The AU Director for Women, Gender and Development Litha Musyimi-Ogana explained that the initiatives targeted each of the union\’s member states and were aimed at bringing gender parity.
"One of the most creative ways about this African Women\’s Decade is the methodology (that) will guide and guarantee support to at least 53 projects per year in line with the theme of the decade- \’Grassroots approach to gender equality," she said.
Ms Musyimi-Ogana further argued that women empowerment was critical to the thematic development of the African continent.
"By the end of the decade, the fund for the African women created by the AU Assembly of Heads of State will have supported a significant number of projects at the local level," she said.
Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka who opened the conference challenged Kenyan women to set the pace for their African counterparts and bring economic prosperity to their nation.
"Women in this country decided to take everything head-on particularly the fight against poverty. This is because they realised that our country was getting divided between the haves and have-nots and our women don\’t want to be the have-nots," he said.
The Minister for Gender, Children and Social Development Naomi Shaban added that the entire African continent needed to put in place concrete measures to promote gender equality. She argued that Africa would not develop rapidly if it continued ignoring women\’s issues.
"All the Au organs need to fulfil their obligations to accelerate political and substantive ways of gender mainstreaming. In fact, we need to make a paradigm shift from women empowerment to gender equality," she argued.
The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Kenya Aeneas Chuma lauded African countries for the effort they had made so far in trying to address women empowerment. He however noted that there was still room for improvement especially on cultural drawbacks.
"Despite these significant achievements, the African review of the Beijing platform for action in the Gambia in 2009 highlighted critical gaps and areas of concern in terms of meeting commitments on women empowerment," he said.
He further urged African leaders to execute any plans they had on enhancing gender equality: "The core is now to move towards the strengthening the implementation and effective monitoring of the commitments that are in place."
Mr Kalonzo also urged Kenyan women to take up any positions that the new Constitution had created for them.
This conference runs until Friday and it will provide an avenue for the launch of the AU policy which will be a key reference document in actualising the decade\’s goals.