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MEWC - Mid-Term Review of the African Women's Decade 2010-2020

Rainatou2013 FIRE Africa Award Winner Make Every Woman Count (MEWC) is a virtual information hub that promotes African women’s participation in all aspects of development discourse. It’s an African woman-led organisation that serves as a mobilising, networking, information, advocacy and training platform for African women by building African women and girls’ leadership capacities to influence policy and decision-making.



During the 27th African Union Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, MEWC launched its Mid-Term Review of the African Women's Decade 2010-2020. The review presents information and data gathered over the last five years to give an overview of the progress - or lack of progress - being made in every country in Africa in relation to formal commitments made to improve the rights of women at national and regional level. In this guest post, Rainatou Sow, MEWC's Executive Director, gives an overview of the African women's decade and explains how the mid-term review was developed.

AWD  - An Opportunity for Sharing Effective Strategies

Inspired by the launch of the African Women’s Decade (AWD) in 2010 and by the Beijing Platform for Action, an outcome of the 1995 Fourth United Nations World Conference on Women, which recommended the creation of mechanisms to monitor gender equality and the advancement of women, MEWC’s Annual Review of the AWD evaluates the progress, or lack thereof, being made to include and promote the rights of women at country, regional, and Pan-African levels.

The main goal of the African Women’s Decade (AWD) is to enhance the implementation of African Union countries’ commitments related to gender equality and women’s empowerment and to support activities resulting in tangible positive change for African women at all levels.

The decade emphasises a grassroots approach to development and leaders have encouraged women and those that advocate for them to take ownership of the decade and seize it as an opportunity for sharing effective strategies. In spite of these laudable goals, MEWC identified an information vacuum following the initial launch of the AWD and could not find any evidence that progress, or lack thereof, towards the decade’s goals was going to be assessed systematically.

Concerned that the critical issues confronting African women were quickly returning to the shadows, MEWC embraced the principles of the AWD and stepped up to the challenge of tracking results and demanding that long overdue attention to gender parity in Africa not become derailed.

Stepping up to the Challenge

This was achieved by presenting each country on the continent with its background and an overview of progress and developments made within different areas during each year of the African Women’s Decade 2010-2020.

For the Mid-Term report, MEWC has tried as much as possible to gather information/data over the last five years since the launch of the decade to give an idea of the progress, or lack of progress being made in every country in Africa in relation to formal commitments made to improve the rights of women at national and regional level.

As we are now halfway into the African Women’s Decade, it is time to ask ourselves; ‘Where are we now in terms of women’s rights on the continent?’.

Top down and Bottom up Approach

Just few years ago in December 2008, a proposal for an Africa Women’s Decade (2010-2020) was initiated by the African Union (AU) Ministers for Gender and Women Affairs at their meeting held in Maseru, Lesotho. The idea was adopted in February 2009 by the AU at the 12th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In October 2010, the AU launched the African Women’s Decade in Nairobi, Kenya with the themes of having both a "grassroots approach to gender equality and women's empowerment”. Delegates from around the world attended the launch. The aim of the African Women’s Decade is to advance gender equality by accelerating the implementation of Dakar, Beijing and AU Assembly Decisions on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE), through dual top down and bottom up approaches, which is inclusive of grassroots participation.

The launch of the African Women’s Decade has been a unique turning point for advancing women’s rights on the continent. Though there have been many efforts in the past to bring gender issues to the table, it is worth noting that never before has there been such momentum around the issue of gender equality in Africa. Since the start of the Decade in 2010, we have witnessed an unprecedented move by AU members States for the advancement of women’s rights. Many decisions have been taken to guarantee the rights of women and girls; the African Union has been playing a leading role in this shift. The AU has demonstrated its commitment to gender equality by adopting important decisions which form the basis of the AU Gender architecture such as the Constitutive Act, the AU Protocol on Women’s Rights, the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa, the Africa Women’s Decade, and the Fund for African Women. The AU declared in January 2015 “Year of Women’s Empowerment and Africa’s Development for the Concretization of Agenda 2063” as the theme for its 24th Summit. The year 2016 was once again marked by a renew commitment from the AU, when they adopted the 26th AU Summit as the “Year of Human Rights with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women.

Making Progress

Some states have made considerable advancements in protecting women from sexual violence and encouraging women to participate in politics and election. Most have gender policies or some kind of national women’s mechanism, such as a Ministry of Gender or Ministry of Women’s Affairs. There are aspects of gender equality in many constitutions and some countries have passed other laws on different aspects of women’s rights. All these initiatives have created a favourable environment for the advancement of women’s right at national, regional and continental level.

Halfway into the Decade, women’s groups and civil societies organisations (CSO) have a lot to show for their efforts. Over these years, women have taken to the streets to protest against a variety of issues affecting them; from advocating for new policies, combatting rising food prices, to the lack of female political and economic participation through to demands for peace negotiations. By such actions, women have continuously demonstrated their commitment and their willingness to see their country change for the better.

Breaking the Glass Ceiling

The last few years, since the launch of the Decade, have proven promising for African women's status within public bodies. Women are breaking the political glass ceiling in many countries and finding their way into roles traditionally occupied by men. According to the 2012 data from the Inter- Parliamentary Union, women now occupy 20.2% of parliamentary seats in Sub-Saharan Africa, which is slightly higher than the world average of 19.5%.

At the dawn of the African Women’s decade, Joyce Banda was appointed as the first Malawian woman president in 2012, followed by Catherine Samba-Panza in 2014 joining Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia to make three female heads of state in Africa, while Gambian Fatou Bensouda was elected as the first female International Criminal Court prosecutor. One of the biggest highlights since the launch of the Decade was the appointment of the first female Chairperson of the AU Commission, Dr Dlamini-Zuma. As of October 2015, out of the 54 Member States of the AU, only 37 countries have ratified the Maputo Protocol; Sierra Leone being the last country to have ratified on 30 October 2015. Prior to this ratification, the last ratification was that of Cameroon on 13 September 2012.

Increasing Monitoring, Reporting and Accountability

According to the UNDP “2015 Millennium Development Goals Report”, the maternal mortality ratio in sub-Saharan Africa has fallen by 49% over the last few years.

Both States and Non-States Actors must ensure that women’s rights are fully implemented so that laws passed actually have a tangible impact on the lives of the people. There must be a strong system of monitoring, reporting and accountability to ensure that Governments turn their commitments into concrete actions. Moving forward, it is paramount that we acknowledge the importance of accountability and resources to build a framework and create actual implementation of the national, regional and international laws and policies that advance women’s rights and gender equality.

The Halfway Point

This report, the 5th published by Make Every Woman Count sets out to objectively report the progress, or lack of progress, being made in every country in Africa in relation to formal commitments they have made to improve the rights of women and their fullest participation in all aspects of life. Our aim is to monitor and hold organisations to account. This report marks the half-way point in the Decade. It must be hoped that by 2020, the report will clearly be able to indicate that the protocols and statutes signed have made even more impact on the wellbeing, safety and full participation of women in every walk of life.

Read the full  Mid-Term Review of the African Women's Decade 2010-2020 here.


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