Helen Clark: Keynote Address at Launch of Africa Regional Human Development Report 2016

It is a great pleasure to be here in Nairobi to launch the Africa Regional Human Development Report (HDR) which was written by UNDP, and has been generously supported by Japan and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).

The theme of this report is “Accelerating Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Africa”. Its recommendations are highly relevant to achieving the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Gender equality is the sole focus of one of the seventeen SDGs, and is critical to progress across the rest of Agenda 2030.

The importance of gender equality

Agenda 2063 aims to achieve “full gender equality in all spheres of life”; to remove “all forms of gender discrimination in the social, cultural, economic, and political spheres”; and to “achieve gender parity by 2020 in public and private institutions”. If gender gaps can be closed in labor markets, education, health, and other areas, then poverty and hunger eradication can be achieved. Gender equality will be positive for the prospects of both girls and boys.

The African Union has declared 2016 as the Year of Human Rights with a focus on Women’s Rights. This follows its declaration of 2015 as the Year for Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Agenda 2063. Africa’s commitment to gender equality and the realization of women’s rights is thus very clear. The need to move now from defining strategy to concrete actions on gender equality was one of the conclusions of this year’s AU Summit in Kigali. This UNDP Africa Human Development Report aims to support that.

Key Messages from the Africa HDR

This new report looks at how to address persistent gender gaps across the economic, social, environmental, and political spheres.

Its key messages are that:

� giving greater attention to gender equality will support faster and more inclusive human development and economic growth for Africa;

� policies and programmes which leave out or disenfranchise women are counterproductive for development;

� accelerating gender equality must be seen as a core function of government. It requires efforts across national and local government, civil society, and the private sector; and

� addressing gender equality in an holistic way will advance both the UN’s 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063.

The report calls for:

1. law and policy reforms to advance women’s empowerment;

2. increasing the participation and leadership of women in decision-making across society;

3. bringing together all relevant parts of government to address gender inequality across sectors; and

4. access for women to the ownership and management of assets.

The report also calls for the implementation of UNDP’s Gender Equality Seal certification across public and private institutions in Africa, to achieve gender equality and lift organizational performance. This initiative recognizes public and private sector organizations which are meeting high standards in promoting gender equality in the workplace and addressing gender equality gaps.

UNDP’s commitment to and support for accelerating gender equality in Africa

UNDP is committed to playing its part in accelerating gender equality and women’s empowerment in Africa and around the world, and we build gender equality into our programming. For example:

In the Islamic Republic of the Gambia in 2014 and 2015, we supported the training of 180 members of Forest Committees and Joint Forest Park Management on nursery management and agroforestry practices. The aim was to regenerate forest cover, minimize soil erosion, build resilience to climate change, and create work. The majority of those benefiting from this project are women.

In Guinea, UNDP provided technical and financial support to the establishment in 2013 of the “case de veille”, an early warning system against electoral violence. During the presidential election in 2015, 2,000 women participated in this system as monitors. UNDP financed equipment and operational costs, and trained monitors in co-operation with the Goree Institute in Senegal. The “case de veille” system helped settle over 1,800 cases of potential violence. It also supported an increase in women’s political participation as voters, candidates, and members of electoral management bodies.

In Malawi, through UNDP’s technical and financial support to the Malawi Innovation Challenge Fund (MICF), 75,000 women farmers were trained and integrated into the supply chains of companies participating in the project.

In Uganda, UNDP, with financing from the Global Environment Facility, worked with the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning, and Development to promote community-led management in dryland areas where women – as primary food producers and wood and water collectors – are most vulnerable to the effects of drought and land degradation. From 2010 to 2015, wood saving stoves were distributed to 12,000 households – a move which saves women much time in collecting firewood. These efforts, along with other sustainable land management techniques supported by the project, have also resulted in a total of 700,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide sequestered so far.

Conclusion

UNDP will continue to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment across all areas of its work. This is a key component of our contribution to supporting countries to achieve both the 2030 Agenda and Africa’s Agenda 2063. Keeping gender equality and women’s empowerment at the center of development efforts is one of the best ways of accelerating progress across these bold agendas. That is the focus of this new report.

The African Union is a major champion of gender equality and women’s empowerment. UNDP is committed to working with the AU and its Member States to ensure that the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063 are transformational for women and men, and girls and boys, across the continent.

Source: United Nations Development Programme