Posts from December, 2014

Beijing+20 Review Meetings in Addis Ababa

by Edom Tsegaye

Edom is a former VGIF UN intern from Ethiopia. Upon completion of her studies in the USA, she returned home to Addis Ababa, where she is part of a short term pilot program representing VGIF at meetings within Ethiopia, and potentially regionally, that relate to VGIF’s work in order for us to have a better sense of the issues most important to our African grantees.

Just days prior to the High Level Beijing+20 meeting held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from November 17- 19, a three day series of review meetings was organized by the African Women's Development and Communication Network (FEMNET). Fortunately, I attended two-thirds of the review meetings and, most importantly, contributed to the outcome document, which was forwarded to decision-makers at the regional level. Using VGIF’s CSW 59 statement, I added grantees’ voices to the conversation. These voices were particularly relevant in Civil Society discussions, which focused on including women's and girls’ issues in the outcome document. In my opinion, the document should also incorporate new and emerging issues that may not have been addressed at the last conference 5 years ago. 

Over 150 African women and girls from 34 countries across the continent attended the review meetings. Their intention was to call on African governments to re-dedicate themselves to upholding national, regional and international laws and policies that advance women's rights and gender equality, especially regarding universal human rights standards already agreed upon in international treaties and conventions. They also called on African governments to protect those rights in the face of social, moral and cultural arguments when violation of those rights negatively impacts women and girls.

In advance of the November meeting, all 51 Member States submitted reports emphasizing their achievements over the last five years. Striking updates include: Botswana, Namibia and Rwanda have attained universal access to antiretroviral therapy.
52 out of 54 countries have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Somalia and Sudan are the only countries in Africa that have not ratified.
24 out of 28 African countries where female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is practiced now have laws in place to help combat it.

Cross-cutting regional trends

It became clear at the review meetings that there are several challenges that exist regionally which impede the advancement of women’s rights, including:

Lack of disaggregated data and reports;
Structural factors that sustain gender inequality remain a major challenge;
Women have representation without access to meaningful participation;
Budgetary deficits exist;
Policies and laws exist with limited reporting on results;
Countries are not in compliance with international and regional instruments;
Contemporary threats are not adequately accounted for in planning and implementing policies and programs.

Interesting facts about the Beijing Platform for Action’s (BPfA’s) Critical Areas of Concern

19% of girls under 18 in developing countries become pregnant.
In 2013, 32,000 people a day fled from their homes seeking protection from violent conflict.
Only 28% of teenage girls in Sub-Saharan Africa are enrolled in secondary education.
In 2013, women writers, directors, executive producers, editors and cinematographers made up only 16% of the industry.

What is the way forward?

During the Beijing +20 Regional Conference, African sisters and brothers came together to claim the Africa they want. Next, the plan is to shape Africa's development for the next 50 years through Africa agenda 2063.

You can read a full analysis of the 12 BPfA Critical Areas of Concern here.