Gender inequality: African women converge on Marrakesh, Morrocco, to set agenda




To ensure full implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as adopted in the United Nations by world leaders, women from walks of life are gathering in Marrakesh, Morocco for the 3rd edition of the Africa Women Conference (AWC), convened by the Helpline Foundation for the Needy Abuja, with the theme: Building A Coalition To End Gender Inequality In Africa.  CHIZOBA OGBECHE examines the conference as viable option for achieving SDGs.

The Africa Women Conference (AWC), is convened by the Helpline Foundation for the Needy Abuja, an NGO with ECOSOC consultative status with the United Nations, in collaboration with the Echoes Africa Initiatives New York.

The third edition of the AWC is organized in partnership with the International Centre for Diplomacy, Morocco, in Marrakesh, Morocco, with the theme: Building A Coalition To End Gender Inequality In Africa. The AWC Morocco 2019 is designed to equip participants with practical tools to help themselves and their organizations be profitably positioned to advance the sustainable development goals.

According to the organisers, “Participants will also have the opportunity to engage actively with top-level professionals, business leaders, political leaders, scholars and other conference participants.

“The annual AWC is one of the most important annual gatherings of experts, institutions, corporate organizations and individuals promoting the growth, stability and development of African women.

“The aim of this conference is to set agendas and viable options through which stake holders in the African polity can channel the various resources available to African women towards the sustainable development of the continent,” the organisers have said.

According to USAID reports, the Kingdom of Morocco has made significant progress in the advancement of women’s rights since the ascension to the throne of His Royal Majesty, King Mohammed VI in 1999.

In 2011, Morocco’s constitution reform included several tenders aimed at changing the status quo of a restrictive gender role for women and improving the social, economic and political participation of women in the polity.

The Moroccan government has continued to show increasing willingness towards bridging the gender gap that has existed for centuries and these efforts have evidentially yielded results as there is a higher rate of women’s socio-economic and political inclusion in Morocco.

Background

The inaugural edition of the AWC held in New York on the eve of the UN NGO CSW62 in March 2018 and witnessed an impressive turn out of UN CSW 62 delegates, diplomats, entrepreneurs, politicians, philanthropies, NGOs and businesses with vast interests in the African polity.

“The choice of New York as location for the inaugural AWC was strategic as it afforded delegates the opportunity to actively participate in deliberations on the Convention on the Status of Women at the UN and this has placed the burden of fostering progressive and impactful collaborations among African women on the AWC,” the organiser said.

The Africa Women Conference is committed to implementing the SDG 17, which is to revitalize global partnerships for sustainable development hence we provide a platform through which African women working for the growth of the continent are brought together to achieve this.

Inspired by the SDG 17, targeted at eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, the annual AWC is packed full with intellectual and mentorship discussions, as the breakout sessions are handled by experienced panelists who focus on best options through which women can play active roles in ensuring Africa achieves each of the SDGs by the year 2030.

From the conceptualization of the AWC in March 2017, to its inauguration in New York in March 2018, to the 2nd edition in Namibia in November 2018, the Africa Women Conference has recorded commendable progress in achieving its aims and objectives. Though still very far from resting on its oars, records show that the efforts put towards bringing women together from across the African continent for its development, if further intensified, will yield the much desired result.

Delegates from the previous two editions have collaborated with each other on various projects, the organisers have said.

The AWC rotates the hosting of its annual conference across Africa in an effort to further its advocacy for women inclusion and engage with stakeholders in each country.

Platform for action plan adoption

Addressing journalists at a pre-conference media parley, Thursday in Marrakesh, the co-convener of the conference, Dr Jumia Ahmadu, said the SDG could be fast-tracked through active involvement and inclusion of women in the implementation process, adding that the AWC would provide the needed platform for African women to deliberate and adopt action plans that will deliver rapid growth and development in Africa.

She said women have a critical role to play in ensuring that the continent achieves each of the 17 SDGs by the year 2030 hence the need to unite African women in implementing the SDG goals.

“The AWC was borne out of the realization that the 2030 target set for the Sustainable Development Goals as adopted by the United Nations in 2015 cannot be achieved without the commitment, inclusion and collective action of women at the national, regional and global level,” she said.

Ahmadu disclosed that renowned speakers from the continent have been selected to speak on diverse economic issues bordering on women and to revitalize the global partnerships for sustainable development.

On the objectives of the conference, Ahmadu said the conference will bring women of African descent together to network and learn fresh ideas that could help increase their influence and productivity in their different fields of endeavour.

She said panel discussions would be on topics including: Inclusive Governance and Women Participation in Politics in Africa; Policy Options to Accelerate Bridging the Gender Gap in Africa; and the Role of Women in Eradicating Gender Inequality in Africa.

Others are: Building Sustainable Partnerships for the Socio-Economic Growth of Women in Africa; and Public Private Partnerships on Eradicating Gender Inequality in Africa

The Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, is expected to deliver the keynote address. The Minister of State for FCT Dr. Ramatu Tijjani, an inductee of the AWC Hall of Fame, is also among dignitaries expected to attend the conference.

AWC Leadership Development Centre

The AWC Leadership Development Centre for Women and Girls (LDCWG) was also inaugurated with a brief ceremony in Abuja, Nigeria, on September 30, 2019.

The LDCWG was conceptualized based on reviews of contributions made by delegates and panelists during the previous conferences.

The AWC Leadership Development Centre for Women and Girls is an Initiative of the Africa Women Conference to raise female community leaders in every African society who understand the importance and are committed to ensuring the sustainable development of their communities.

The Leadership Development Centre equips young women and girls with skills required to take up leadership roles through personal and career growth.

The AWC Leadership Development Centre for Women and Girls provides a platform for highly skilled International resource persons who are driving change across various fields to provide training and mentorship for African Women and Girls who are living in under-resourced communities thereby enabling them to aspire for excellence and leadership while helping them realize their full potentials.

The Centre achieves this by running a full circle of practical and theoretical impartation which begins with a workshop that enables mentors meet physically with their mentees via group and individual trainings.

During the workshop, resource persons work with the mentees to develop individual work plans that will be implemented over a six-month period in the mentees’ communities. Both parties remain in touch via online and physical platforms during this period.

After six months, the mentees performances are evaluated through a peer review mechanism, the best performing leaders in various sectors are then selected and supported with resources to help them do more for their communities.

Speaking during the inauguration of centre, Dr Ahmadu said it was geared towards raising female leaders in the communities as it would equip young women and girls with skills required to take up leadership roles.

“The AWC Leadership Development Center for Women and Girls will provide a platform for highly skilled international resource persons, who are driving changes across various fields, to provide training and membership for African women and girls living in under-resourced communities thereby enabling them to aspire to excellence and leadership while helping them realise their full potential,” Ahmadu said.

The centre, she said, would achieve this by running a full circle of practical and theoretical impartation, which begins with a workshop, that enables mentors meet physically with their mentees via group and individual training.

According to her, “During the workshop, resource persons will work with the mentees to develop individual work plans that will be implemented over a six-month period in the mentees’ communities.

“After six months the mentees performances are evaluated through a peer review mechanism, the best performing leaders in various sectors are then selected and empowered to do more for their communities.”

Ahmadu, who further revealed that beneficiaries would be drawn from various communities in Africa, and called for support from corporate organisations and individuals towards the realisation of the centre’s vision.

Business Development exhibition

The convener further disclosed that the AWC business summit provides a platform through which business owners, organizations, individuals, governments and investors will pitch their products and services to participants with the aim of securing patronage, partnerships and joint ventures.

She said, “This international summit aimed at creating an impact by bringing together relevant stakeholders in various sectors of the economy towards converting their convergence to profit.”

AWC Awards

The annual AWC is expected to close with an exclusive Gala during which awards are presented to outstanding individuals and corporations making impact in the lives of African Women.

Minister backs conference

The Minister of State for FCT Dr. Ramatu Tijjani pledged to support the Africa Women Conference (AWC) and other groups working to enhance the economic well-being of women and the less privileged.

Tijjani gave the assurance in Abuja when the co-convener of Africa Women Conference (AWC) and founder, Helpline Foundation for the Needy, Abuja, Dr. Jumai Ahmadu led a delegation of other women on a courtesy visit to her office

The minister assured the AWC of her support through various productive dialogues for the sustainable growth of the African woman.

She called on women in positions of authority to support the cause of the AWC, noting that the initiative is designed to benefit every African woman including those of colour outside the continent.

Dr. Tijjani, who is also an inductee of the Africa Women Conference Hall of Fame, commended the role played by Helpline Foundation in promoting entrepreneurial skills of rural women in Nigeria.

She noted that the Foundation has consistently embarked on programmes for women and children with the singular aim of building a bond that would ease their individual socio-economic burdens.

She promised to identify with the vision and mission of the foundation and any other group that will further enhance the economic growth of women and the less privileged in the society.

“I am particularly honoured to be associated with you and your foundation and I hope that together, we will fight this good fight for women to the finish,” she affirmed.

She revealed that an award model will be initiated by the FCT Administration to recognize hard working members of staff and also encourage others on the path of diligence and commitment to duty.

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