World, Africa

African women demand empowerment, equality

Women from Africa’s 54 countries attend conference in Canada demanding their rights

Andrew Wasike   | 06.06.2019
African women demand empowerment, equality file photo

VANCOUVER, Canada 

Women from Africa’s 54 countries are among the more than 8,000 delegates attending the Women Deliver 2019 Conference in Vancouver, Canada demanding their rights.

Led by President Sahle-Work Zewde, the first woman to lead Ethiopia, they spoke countless times about the importance of gender equity among other rights of girls and women at the summit -- the world’s largest conference on gender equality and the health, rights and wellbeing of girls and women.

The conference began Monday and ends Thursday.

“My country, Somalia, has been ranked the world’s fifth worst place for women and girls to live. Only 5% of our girls are able to be enrolled in schools. We are here to push our government to empower us. We want old cultural practices that harm young girls [such as female circumcision] scrapped. We want women to vote. We want them to work among others,” said Miriam Farah, speaking to Anadolu Agency.

“We want the number of literate Somalian women to rise from 24% as per figures from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to 50% and above. We want to scrap child labor and forced marriages,” she said.

Like Farah, Frida Anyona from Kenya and Ekow Abeiku from Ghana called for women’s empowerment on different levels with a focus on education.

“In my country, Kenya, young girls have been attacked recently, with a string of girls being killed by their boyfriends and lovers. Our president, Uhuru Kenyatta, is here in Canada. If our authorities remain silent, then we will pass the message to Kenyatta by force. We want our girls protected,” said Frida.

Esther Mwaura-Muiru from the Grassroots Organizations Operating Together in Sisterhood in Kenya (GROOTS Kenya) called on the government to eradicate poverty among women by empowering them and offering more work opportunities and to push for a two-thirds gender bill that Kenya’s parliament has refused to enact.

The bill will see to it that two-thirds of the members of parliament in Kenya are women.

She called on Kenya to emulate South Africa, which made history recently by naming a new Cabinet in which half of its ministers are women.

Delegates from Senegal, Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda and South Africa also shared a common message with Anadolu Agency. They want any kind of violence against women to end, be it at home or outside the home.

Jean Kabura from Burundi said she came to the summit to see whether the issue of women’s inheritance would be tackled.

“In my country, women always face discrimination when it comes to inheritance rights. We just want a changed Burundi because we are mostly farmers and land is vital to us,” Kabura said.

Despite adopting a new Constitution in 2005, Burundi has no legislation prohibiting discriminatory inheritance practices.

Delegates from most African nations also spoke on women’s political participation in their countries as well as harmful cultural practices.

President Kenyatta, who was among the world leaders present Wednesday, launched the Nairobi Call to Action on the education of girls and women in conflict and post-conflict situations in Africa.

“The Nairobi Call to Action underscores the imperative to focus specific attention on the vulnerabilities, disruption and disempowerment that crisis and conflict situations create for women and girls,” Kenyatta said.

“As part of my commitment, I shall present the Nairobi Call to Action at the next African Union Ordinary Session for endorsement, and it is my hope that it will be included in the country reporting on gender equality commitments in Africa.”

The president of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, and Ethiopian President Zewde also supported the call.

“There must be enough dynamism and activism. Women must keenly participate in political party processes of empowering women to be in decision-making positions,” said Akufo-Addo.

Zewde said her appointment as president was proof that women are as capable in leadership as men.

“When you are a pioneer in something, it is your duty to ensure the door remains open for others to come through,” she said.

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