Source: SwaziObserver
Pastor Joy Dlamini joined First Ladies from the COMESA region who urged member states to expand women's economic empowerment opportunities.

This would be in order to create conditions or an enabling environment that will make women progress and have access to new technologies, information, support systems, financial services and credit. Dlamini who was part of the country's delegation to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) also had an opportunity to present before her peers where she informed them about the Swaziland Women Economic Empowerment Trust (SWEET) and about Swazi Secrets, all of which are initiatives of Swazi women through Her Majesty the Indlovukazi.

Dlamini travelled with her husband Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini who was representing His Majesty King Mswati III at the Summit. The First Spouses, according to the COMESA website and the final communique released at the end of the Summit, expressed concern that women in the region continue to have limited access and control over productive resources such as land, finance, credit and related services.

They have also regretted that women continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS and gender- based violence.

This was contained in the final communique issued at the close of the eighth COMESA First Ladies Roundtable hosted by Roman Tesfaye, the First Lady of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. "Despite the severe odds they are up against and in addition to the reproductive role and household management responsibilities they shoulder, women continue to contribute substantially to household income and national economic growth through various engagements as producers, workers and consumers," Tesfaye said during the Roundtable discussion.

She added that empowering women and girls promotes economic growth, improves infant and child health, education, enhances women's skills as mothers and opens opportunities for women's economic and political engagement. The Roundtable, whose theme was: 'Economic Empowerment of Women: A key to inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development: was held on the sidelines of the 18th COMESA Summit of Heads of State and Governments.

The First Ladies pointed out that women earn significantly lower wages than men at all levels and hence industrialisation would bring with it the opportunity for the economic empowerment of women so they are not left behind in the industrial revolution of Africa and COMESA as a whole.

The Roundtable has noted efforts by member states to improve living standards of women such as the setting up of the women's economic empowerment fund, supporting girls' education and literacy and forming the social cash transfer programme, among other initiatives. They have called upon member countries to encourage women and girls to enroll in science and technology related fields and empower the youth, especially young girls.

Other First Ladies that participated at the eighth Roundtable were Getrude Mutharika of Malawi, Jeannette Kagame of Rwanda and Voahangy Rajaonarimampianina of Madagascar and three other ministers from Ethiopia and the Assistant Secretary General for Administration and Finance at COMESA Secretariat Ambassdor Nagla El-Hussainy.

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