You can find women at the center of every social development initiative in Africa, having been grossly marginalized and left behind by their male counterparts. As the African continent evolves, its Agenda 2063 commits to improving women’s political participation through a more inclusive process for good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.
It is a fact that no nation can develop without a thriving woman population and so the Africa we want and will be proud of is one where women have equal opportunities and platforms to participate, engage and influence policies at all levels without intimidation, hindrance, fear, but with full support.
According to Africa’s Barometer 2021, African countries are still far from achieving women’s equal and effective participation in political decision-making. Latest reports state that women constitute only 24 percent of the 12,113 parliamentarians in Africa, 25 per cent in the lower houses, and 20 per cent in the upper houses of parliament. While local government is often hailed as a training ground for women in politics, women constitute a mere 21 percent of councilors in 19 of the countries for which complete data could be obtained.
Despite the widespread adoption of and progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals, Africa continues to lag behind most of the world when it comes to socioeconomic development. In fact, a recent report by the Sustainable Development Goals Center for Africa — Africa 2030: Sustainable Development Goals Three-Year Reality Check”—reveals that minimal progress has been made and, in some instances, there is complete stagnation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further amplified pre-existing inequalities creating new constraints to women’s participation in decision-making.
As of 1 February 2021, over 3,5 million cases of COVID-19 had been recorded in Africa with 88,993 deaths. This accounts for approximately 3% of identified cases and 4% of deaths globally. There is limited sex disaggregated data available on cases and deaths due to COVID-19, as some countries disaggregate data, while others do not.
It is therefore pertinent to prioritize and promote initiatives that are systematically designed to promote and stimulate meaningful collaborations, coalitions and networks for improved women participation geared towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa and strategically close up the existing inequality gaps at all levels.
Based on the aforementioned, Engage, Educate and Empower Initiative (EEEI) through the Coalition of Women in Africa for Peace and Development (COWAP) launched an Annual African Women Summit aimed at harnessing the enormous capacity and goodwill of Women in Africa by bringing them under a coalition towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) centered around four thematic areas: Peace and justice, girl child education, ending hunger and ending poverty. COWAP seeks to localize the SDGs by illustratively understanding, elaborating, amplifying and establishing linkages and promoting partnerships and networks for women and girls to strive in the 21st Century at all levels in Africa.
Connected Development (CODE) has over the years supported COWAP in amplifying their work and providing institutional support for the smooth implementation of diverse initiatives launched by EEEI including the AWS.
Kigali Rwanda (The Land of Thousand Hills) hosted the 3rd edition of the African Women Summit at Marriott Hotel Kigali from the 12th to 14th May 2022 with over three hundred (300) delegates from eighteen (18) African countries (Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Benin Republic, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, South Africa, The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Canada, Namibia, Uganda, and Rwanda).
The event brought together dignitaries such as the First Lady of Nigeria; Her Excellency Aisha Buhari who was ably represented by Amb. Aishatu Aliyu Musa the Nigerian Ambassador to Rwanda, The Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the National Revenue Authority Sierra Leone; Dr. Mrs. Tuma Adama Gento-Kamara, The First Lady of Benue State; H.E Dr. Eunice Ortom Samuel, First lady of Bauchi State; H.E Hajiya Dr. Aisha Bala Mohammed, The Manager of Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) at African Development Bank; Marieme Esther Dassanou, Former African Union Youth Envoy; Aya Chebbi and members of the international community.
To provide programmatic support and project visibility support for the third edition held in Kigali, Rwanda from the 11th – 15th of May 2022, CODE sponsored me to represent the Chief Executive, Hamzat Lawal. Key outcomes from the third edition was the inauguration of a Technical Working Committee made up of (Mrs. Maneng Sunday Patricia- Founder, Girls Empowerment Leadership Association, Thea Weeks- Guest- Lecturer, Facilitator, Motivational Speaker, Dr Antonel Olckers- CEO of DNAbiotec (Pty) Ltd, Dr Louisa Akaiso- Founder WWWA- Women Who Win Africa, Dr.Mrs. Tuma Adama Gento-Kamara- Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Dr. Mrs Tonyo Michael-Olomu- Lecturer, Federal University Otuoke, Bayelsa, Aya Chebbi- Former African Union Youth Envoy, Founder & Chair of Nala Feminist, Emmaline Datey- Public Speaker, Entrepreneur, Business Coach, Corporate Trainer, Marieme Esther Dassanou- Manger, Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa(AFAWA), African Development Bank Group and Pharmacist Isaac Onoja- CEO of Minds and Emotions Center) to coordinate and plan towards the AWS 2023 edition. Key results emanating from the summit are strong collaborations and partnerships by women groups towards influencing diverse social actions and making their voices count.
Personal learnings from this trip for me was the revolution of Rwanda from the genocide that plagued their land with over 1,000,000million lives sacrificed for the peaceful revolution they now embrace. The story of Rwanda is for every African and their leaders to emulate and take queue from, especially as it pertains to development, reforms, peace and security. Wars and conflicts have their fair cost, and the price of peace is unquantifiable. Rwanda is a living chronicle of a reinvented system that rests on the shoulders of Peace and Unity.
As we plan ahead for the Annual Women Summit 2023, we anticipate that the initiative will garner public and donor support to provide the platform for more women to inspire, collaborate and network towards changing the narrative for improved women participation geared towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa.
Lucy James Abagi is a passionate and result-oriented Fundraiser, Development Programmer and Innovator. Over the last five years, she has gathered vast layers of experience in managing diverse development programs, bid writing, responding to diverse solicitations by international donor agencies and writing winning proposals.
Facebook – @LucyJamesAbagi