On July 31st, Africa celebrates the 59th Pan African Women’s Day, which was established to recognize and affirm the role of women organizing for the political freedom of Africa and advancing the social and economic status of women on the continent. In the words of the AU Commission Chairperson, “Pan African Women’s Day is a day to celebrate and acknowledge the Foremothers of Africa who gallantly fought for the liberation and development of the continent”.
We celebrate this day by taking note of the contributions of Ethiopia to Pan Africanism, and recognize our women ancestors who have heroically spearheaded the fight for independence in our nation Ethiopia, as well as our continent, Africa.
Ethiopia’s commitment and measures taken so far to ensure the protection of women’s rights and gender equality are guaranteed in alignment with other nations in our continent who are making great strides to this effect.
This year’s celebrations come at a time where our world is highly challenged with the weight of an unprecedented pandemic. Covid-19 compounded with pre-existing patriarchal norms has adversely affected the wellbeing of women and girls and threatens to backtrack gains made in the fight for advancing gender equality. Studies show the multidimensional impacts of COVID-19 on Women and Girls in terms of the rise in sexual and domestic violence, early marriage, harmful traditional practices, and an increased burden of unpaid care and domestic work have had an imperative impact on the agenda of gender equality and women empowerment. On the other hand, women and girls in the region have continued to face multifaceted harms in areas of conflict and instability. The chaos and displacement created by conflict expose women and girls to various forms of exploitation, human trafficking, as well as sexual and gender-based violence triggering mental and physical trauma.
As we celebrate this pan African Women’s Day, we call on all actors to join hands in solidarity to build back better in terms of reassessing and retaking the losses in the struggle for gender equality caused by the pandemic. We need policy-level interventions and implementation of laws that safeguard so that gains in gender equality will not be lost in future cases. We call for policy measures that recognize, reduce and redistribute unpaid care and domestic work. We highlight gendered impacts of conflict, and call for sustained peace across the continent, that women and girls, as a part of the society, may live and prosper without fear.
We, civil societies working on women’s rights and gender equality, reiterate our commitment to our collective agenda 2063, and the implementation of Maputo protocol and other commitments entered by our governments to contribute to our collective stride of our continent towards gender equality. More commitment is still needed from member states to realize the implementation of these legal and policy documents. The promises made by member states to ensure women and girls fully benefit from these commitments so that their contribution is fully counted on the development of the continent.
Only by advancing women’s rights, ending sexual and gender-based violence, continuing the work on providing health care and social support to women, and improving their participation in political, economic, and social affairs, can we ensure their emancipation and liberate our continent from discriminating a group of the society that constitutes half of the population.
African women are striving and taking leadership in all spheres of the political, economic, and social sectors by standing up against longstanding and new upcoming violations and inequalities, to be heard, for their voices to count, and contribute to the development of the continent. Despite the pandemic, opportunities have been presented for the Pan-African women’s movement to galvanize through partnerships and adapting to a shift in movement-building within the digital space. Together; we are surely on the track of building Africa where Gender equality is realized.
“THE SEEDS OF SUCCESS IN EVERY NATION ON EARTH ARE BEST PLANTED IN WOMEN AND CHILDREN.”
MME. JOYCE BANDA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF MALAWI
List of Co-Signed Civil Society Organizations:
- Civil Society Support Programme 2 (CSSP-2)
- Community Transformation Ethiopia (CTE)
- Consortium for Christian Relief and Development Associations (CCRDA)
- Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA)
- Family Service Association (FSA)
- Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE)
- Hadya Youth Association (HYA)
- Mujejegowa Loka Women’s Development Association (MLWDA)
- Network of Ethiopian Women’s Associations (NEWA)
- Oxfam in Ethiopia
- Saved to Save organization (S2S
- Strategic initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA)
- Women Can Do It (WCDI)
- Vision Ethiopian Congress for Democracy (VECOD)