[Dateline: Addis Ababa | Author: ECA/iSeek]
Gender equality and women’s empowerment are very essential for achieving sustainable and inclusive development, said Under-Secretary-General Abdoulie Janneh, who heads the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). USG Janneh was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Sixth African Development Forum (ADF VI) on Wednesday, 19 November at the ECA conference centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
He talked about the Regional Commissions’ continuous efforts to work closely with African governments, the African Development Bank (AfDB), bilateral partners and other UN agencies to enhance the capacity of Member States policy makers to develop gender responsive policies and programmes.
The ECA Executive Secretary said the theme of this year’s meeting: “Action on gender equality, women's empowerment and ending violence against women in Africa,” was very relevant and timely in the context of up-scaling efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the 2015 target date.
“It will also provide and enable us to lend support to the recently launched multi-year campaign of the UN Secretary-General to intensify action to end violence against women and girls,” he stated. The Secretary-General’s campaign, UNiTE to End Violence against Women, was launched in February this year and will run until 2015.
The Forum was jointly organized by the ECA, African Development Bank and the African Union Commission (AUC). It brings together economic actors from various international organizations, UN agencies, and African Union Member States and other world dignitaries.
Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro addressed the Forum, giving remarks on gender equality and the elimination of violence against women.
Addressing the Forum, AfDB President Donald Kaberuka, focused on the global financial crises and its impact on Africa, particularly women and children. Over the past 24 months, Africa has gone from crises to crises - including food, energy, economic and financial crises, he said.
The AfDB, Mr. Kaberuka said, has greatly supported women’s education and businesses, and has ensured that all its operations have a gender perspective. “We have put in place a modern facility to assist countries emerging from conflicts, ensure education of the girl child as well as mother care,” he added.
AUC chairperson, Jean Ping, said the ADF VI provided the opportunity to review progress made at national, sub-regional and regional levels in order to define priority actions and mechanisms needed to build new strategic alliances and strengthen partnerships to move the equality agenda forward.
“I recognize that gender inequality has continued to marginalize our women and girls, thus, exposing them to harmful cultural and traditional practices which are detrimental to their well-being and progress”, noted Mr. Ping.
The AU Commission Chairperson stressed the African Union’s commitment to redressing gender inequalities in all its ramifications. The AU Heads of States and Government, Mr. Ping said, have been at the forefront of championing gender equality and women’s empowerment and have adopted landmark provisions and statutes as reflected in the AU Constitutive Act.
Other keynote speakers at the ADF VI opening ceremony were: the Danish Minister for Development Cooperation, Mrs. Ulla Tornaes and the President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Mr. Ato Girma Woldegiorgis, who chaired the opening session.
Mrs. Tornaes told participants that financing of gender equality is crucial in the promotion of women’s equality and the eradication of poverty. “It is against this backdrop that the Danish Government launched the MDG3 Global Call to Action to generate stronger political and financial support for gender equality and women’s empowerment”, she said. The MDG3 Torch, recalled Mrs. Tornaes, was handed over to some distinguished personalities including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as torch bearer, during the MDG high-level meeting on 25 September 2008, in New York.
On his part, President Girma Woldegiorgis, said the ADF represents a significant opportunity to focus collective efforts on addressing what he described as “one of the biggest and most crucial challenges of our time: achieving gender equality, women’s empowerment and ending violence against women”. Development cannot be realised without the full participation of women “who make up at least half of the population of every country,” he noted.
Participants will discuss various gender related issues and will highlight major achievements in empowering women as well as the development of effective tools to accelerate progress towards ending violence against women. The Forum ends on Friday 21 November 2008.
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