UNCSW58: Women’s Leadership a priority in the post-2015 agenda

published 14 March 2014 updated 17 March 2014

Over 100 women from the five sub-regions of Africa discussed achievements in increasing women in leadership and decision-making roles in public life at a side event on 13 March to the 58th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW58). The meeting also considered priorities for the new post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

The side event was co-hosted by the African Women’s Development and Communication Network ( FEMNET), the Forum for Women in Democracy ( FOWODE), and the Global Fund for Women.A number of participants were women Ministers and parliamentarians from African countries including Rwanda, Malawi and Uganda.

African Women Rising?

The topic at hand was women’s leadership and political participation. It also addressed what African governments need to focus on in the negotiations for a new sustainable development agenda beyond 2015, in order to ensure further increases in the numbers of African women in leadership and decision-making positions, particularly in politics. In most African parliaments, only around 30 per cent of the members of parliament (MPs) are women, with the celebratory exception of Rwanda, which currently leads the world with 64 per cent of women MPs.

The event opened with a video presentation by FEMNET ( Women Rising: Political Leadership in Africa), which highlighted the examples of the only two women heads of state in Africa at the time the film was made: President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia (elected in 2005) and Joyce Banda, who succeeded to the Presidency of Malawi in 2012. Since the film was made, Catherine Samba-Panza was appointed interim President of the Central African Republic in January 2013.

Other notable African women leaders include Aminatta Toure (appointed Prime Minister of Senegal in September 2013), former South African Vice-President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (appointed Executive Director  of UN Women in summer 2013), and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (elected Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union in 2012).

Show us the money

Much of the discussion at the event centred on the need to focus on the extent to which governments in Africa commit resources to implement quotas and other measures that have been enacted to increase women’s political participation. Panellist Florence Butegwa argued that African women’s organisations should ensure that they include the issue of financing for women’s rights and political participation as a priority issue in their advocacy for a stand-alone gender goal in the post-2015 framework. She emphasised the fact that a number of countries in Africa, such as Ethiopia, have reported steady financial growth of as much as five per cent in recent years; other countries, such as Kenya and Uganda, have recently discovered oil and other mineral reserves. Butegwa asked: where is that money going?

A participant from Tunisia told the gathering that perhaps it was time for African women to start making the argument that the promotion of women in public life in African countries can be an effective anti-corruption strategy. She claimed that a recent OECD report supports this stance, because it suggests that women are less corrupt than men when in public office.

Intense advocacy and lobbying

Elsewhere, the negotiations for the set of Agreed Conclusions that will be the main outcome document of UNCSW58 started on Wednesday, 12 March. Women’s organisations and other stakeholders that have went to New York to ensure their priorities are reflected in the document, including the labour delegation comprising EI, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Public Services International (PSI), and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), stepped up their advocacy and lobbying efforts as the first week of UNCSW58 came to a close.

For a summary of the labour delegation’s recommendations for the UNCSW58 Agreed Conclusions, please click here.