SOURCE: The New Times

Every year on July 31, the Pan African Women's Day is celebrated by the African Union. It is the anniversary of the foundation of the Pan-African Women's Organization in Tanzania in 1962, one year before the Organisation of African Unity, which is now referred to as the Africa Union was launched.

This day is an occasion that has been observed since 1962 but unfortunately remains unfamiliar to many. Its commemoration is aimed to promote its significance by adopting a more sophisticated approach. The theme this year is ‘Empowered Women, Empowered Africa.’

The African Women’s Day celebration was the initiative of Aoua Keita, a Malian activist, and politician, who saw that July 31 was declared International African Women’s Day in 1974. It is a memorable date because 12 years earlier in 1962, women from all over the African continent met for the first time in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and created the Pan-African Women’s Organisation, the very first women’s organization in Africa.

The celebration is set aside for gender equality and women empowerment, yet acknowledging the foremothers of Africa who grappled for the liberation and advancement of the continent. The organization intended to enhance the conditions of women in Africa and to promote their emancipation.

The day is also marked to recognize and affirm the role of women in organizing and achieving the political freedom of Africa and progressing the social and economic status of women on the continent.

The African Union states that Africa’s Women’s Day offers a national, continental, and global opportunity to recall and affirm the significant role of African women in the evolution of a strong Pan-African identity, with shared values, objectives, and vision for the future. 

The day recognizes women as key contributors toward achieving Africa’s inclusive growth and sustainable development agenda anchored in the AU vision of an integrated prosperous and peaceful Africa.

From its first celebration to today, several legal advances have been adopted to protect African women, these include; The Maputo Protocol adopted in 2003 by the African Union, the Solemn Declaration for Gender Equality in Africa adopted in 2004, and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopted in 2016.

Even though there is progress, the promotion of African women’s rights still encounters several challenges. These are still subject to numerous discriminations linked to socio-cultural considerations, and national laws. Women are still under-represented in governments and parliaments in Africa, according to the Africa women experts’ website. 

The majority of women from rural areas and marginalized communities are affected by structural factors that hinder their meaningful participation in economic and political sectors, which further widens the inequality gaps in this age, thus the need for gender equality. This is proposed to propel everyone to ensure that these struggles are addressed.

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) states that food insecurity is a major challenge in most African households, women bear the brunt of this challenge because they are the sole providers of food. Another challenge is the violence against women and girls, which surged during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Women from rural areas are being affected by the climate crisis, while those in most urban centers are affected by the economic policies that do not put into consideration the informal sector. It is imperative to curb issues of financial and economic justice for African women,” WILPF adds.

WILPF Africa recommends interventions like the implementation of economic and social policies that support women’s economic empowerment, increased opportunities for women’s voices, creation of enabling environments for women to exercise leadership and decision-making, and strengthening the role of the private sector in the economic empowerment of women.

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