Source: UN Women

The energy in the room was palpable, as the African Women Leaders Network, launched in June 2017, reconvened under the leadership of Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat today at the 72nd UN General Assembly, on 21 September 2017. The discussions focused on mobilizing support for women’s leadership in the transformation of Africa towards a peaceful, stable and prosperous continent. 

Introducing the high-level event, Ms. Minata Samate Cessouma, Commissioner for Political Affairs of the African Union, said, “Africa has already shown that it is working on women’s leadership. We are the only organization that has accomplished parity [in its leadership].” 

While acknowledging the incredible opportunity that the African Women Leaders Network presents to transform the face of African leadership, Ms. Cessouma also noted the enormous work ahead to fully realize the vision of the Network. 

The African Women Leaders Network was launched following a three-day “High-Level Women Leaders Forum for Africa’s Transformation” at the UN Headquarters from 31 May to 2 June, organized by the African Union Commission and UN Women, with the support of the Government of Germany. The forum brought together over 80 women leaders, who are now advocating for leadership of women throughout the African continent, with a focus on governance, peace and stability.

Today’s event covered a diverse range of issues, including peace and security, access to education for rural women and girls, and their economic and political empowerment. 

Bineta Diop, Special Envoy on Women, Peace, and Security for the African Union Commission indicated that Africa currently faces two obstacles—the first being the lack of effective mobilization of women, and the second being the mobilization of financial resources. “The women need to create networks and in these networks, they need to make sure that rural women have access,” she said. 

The topic of rural women’s empowerment, a priority theme for next year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women, resonated with women leaders across Africa. 

Amidst the talk of progress and power were also conversations about the challenges that are holding women back, including sexual violence, displacement and poverty. Sharing her experience from the recently concluded joint UN-AU missions to Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Nguka said: “In Nigeria, we particularly wanted to welcome, support and accompany the healing process of the Chibok girls who had been returned, while highlighting also the plight of the girls who have not yet returned.” 

“We discussed the importance of continuing to highlight the plight of the many other girls who have been captured and whom no one knows about, whose situation has not been publicized, as well as to encourage activities that will discourage the kinds of incidences that led to so many girls in their communities being abducted,” she added. 

The joint mission raised awareness on a number of gender inequality issues, including the importance of women’s participation in peace, governance and development processes. The visit allowed the high-level delegation to bring the voices and experiences of women to national and international decision-makers, including the members of the UN security Council during a joint briefing. 

Margot Wallstrom, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden and co-chair of the Security Council Informal Experts Group on Women, Peace and Security, concluded the event, emphasizing the role of women in peacebuilding: “If we want to build sustainable peace processes, we need to build on the experience of actual people…nothing should be discussed about women, without women.” 

Moderated by CBS Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk, other distinguished speakers at the event included Catherine Samba-Panza, former President of the Transition, Central African Republic; Otiko Afisa Djaba, Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection of Ghana; and Ambassador Patricia Flor, Director-General for International Order, United Nations and Arms Control at the German Federal Foreign Office.

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