By Yeabu Tholley, in New York
A roundtable discussion was convened by the African Union Commission on February 25th to discuss with Ministers for Gender and women’s affairs attending the 55th session of the CSW, as well as civil society representatives, the Commission’s plans for 2011 on the African Women’s Decade.
Ms.Litha Musyimi – Ogana, Director, Women, Gender and Development at the AU Commission, presented on the Fund for African Women. She explained that for the first three years of the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020), the Fund will be funding project proposals from the agreed priority themes of the Decade for each year.
2011: Health, Maternal Mortality and HIV/AIDS
The call for project proposals has been divided into:
• Maternal Mortality
The ceiling for each project proposal will be not less than $10,000 for a one year period as well as equipment for Safe Motherhood. The final call for proposals will be circulated after the revisions from this meeting are incorporated. The funds are to target scaling up of projects at the community level. Deadline for applications is by mid-April and each Member State is encouraged to submit up to 5 proposals, in partnership with civil society.
2012: Education, Science and Technology
2013: Fighting Poverty and Promoting Economic Empowerment and Entrepreneurship
Following the roundtable discussion, Ministers and other participants interacted with the Under-Secretary General for UN Women, Dr. Michelle Bachelet.
BACKGROUND TO THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE FUND FOR AFRICAN WOMEN:
In November 2004, African Heads of State and Government adopted the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA) which demonstrated a commitment to women’s empowerment. Article 11 of the Declaration calls for the establishment of an African Trust Fund for Women. Further to this, at their 8th Ordinary Session in January 2007, the AU Heads of State and Government adopted Decision AU.Dec.134/164 (VII) on the establishment of the African Women’s Trust Fund (AWTF) and requested the Commission to hold a Continental Conference of Experts from Member States to discuss the viability of the Trust Fund and report back, with the view of operationalizing the Fund.
The AU Commission organized the Continental Conference to discuss the possibility of establishing the Trust Fund and its viability, in Lilongwe, Republic of Malawi from 17 to 19 March 2008. The Conference, which was attended by Experts from Member States, made recommendations as contained in the Lilongwe Declaration reference number AU/CONF/EEAWCI/Decl. in which they stated that the establishment of the Trust Fund was viable and timely. The Declaration provides a road map for the rolling out of the Trust Fund.
The Commission presented the Lilongwe Declaration to the Permanent Representative Committee (PRC) and Executive Council in Sharma El Sheik, Egypt which endorsed the Lilongwe Declaration. The Executive Council reiterated the need to operationalize the Trust Fund as soon as possible but called on the Commission to request the African Development Bank (AfDB) to undertake a Feasibility Study on the Fund.
The Bank presented the results of the Feasibility Study to the Commission in September 2009, whose recommendations were adopted by Ministers of Gender and Women’s Affairs in November 2009 in Banjul, which also proposed that the name be changed from a Trust Fund to Fund for African Women. The Ministers’ recommendations were discussed by the Executive Council and adopted, making it possible for the Fund to be launched at the January 2010 Assembly.
In anticipation of the launching of the Fund, the Commission had already started mobilizing resources for the Fund, and looks forward to further support from other partners and contributions from Member States, whose 1% contribution provides continuous and sustainable financial resource in line with the Executive Council Decision EX.CL/Dec.539(XVI) on joint AU/NEPAD mobilization of resources. Additionally resources will be mobilized from the African private Sector, African Diaspora and African Philanthropists.
The Fund for African Women has five main objectives:
1. To mobilize financial resources to support development programmes and projects for women
2. To support women initiatives to fight poverty, close the gender gap and halt their marginalization
3. To share experiences and best practices on economic, political and social empowerment of women
4. To facilitate the dissemination of information on the activities of African Women
5. To strengthen the capacities of African women in leadership, management and entrepreneurship
The Fund will benefit women and development programmes in:
a. African Union Members States -70%
b. African Women Civil Society Organizations -30%
The Fund will identify key themes to focus on and will work with African women Grant organization and Revolving Funds, among others. A mechanism will be put in place to especially target marginalized African women organizations, particularly those that are small and community based.
Yeabu Tholley is from Sierra Leone, she is one of the FEMNET delegation at the 55th CSW in New York