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As Make Every Woman count celebrated the launch of AWDReport2014, we caught  up with the founder and director Rainatou Sow and this is what she had to say about the report “The African Women’s Decade Report 2014, evaluates and monitor the progress, or lack thereof, being made to include and promote the rights of women at country and regional level during each year of the African Women’s Decade 2010-2020.”

1. You are the only organization that has been consistently and comprehensively monitoring the African Women’s Decade. What motivates you to do so? Why do you feel it’s critical?

Inspired by the launch of the African Women’s Decade (AWD) in 2010 and by the Beijing Platform for Action, an outcome of the 1995 Fourth United Nations World Conference on Women, which recommended the creation of mechanisms to monitor gender equality and the advancement of women, MEWC’s Annual Review of the AWD evaluates the progress, or lack thereof, being made to include and promote the rights of women at country, regional, and Pan-African levels.

The main goal of the African Women’s Decade Annual Monitoring is to enhance the implementation of African Union countries’ commitments related to gender equality and women’s empowerment and to support activities resulting in tangible positive change for African women at all levels.

The objective of MEWC’s AWD annual report is to hold African governments accountable to the commitments they made to gender equity in policy decisions in the context of the African Union’s African Women’s Decade.

Make Every Woman Count (MEWC) is not only a portal of information for women’s rights in African but also an engaged and committed community seeking to better gender parity. In order to achieve equality, we need to have a strong system of accountability in place to make sure that our governments turn their commitments into concrete actions. This is the purpose of the report – it measures progress and highlights issues that need to be dealt with. The African Women’s Decade is the framework and timeline in which we are working in.

2. What are some of the key findings in this year’s report?

For the first time, the African Women’s Decade 2014Report was launched for the first time in Africa at the AU 24TH Summit under the theme “Women’s Empowerment Year and Africa Development for the concretisation of Agenda 2063”. The year2014 was a significant year in terms of legislation to curb violence against women on the continent.The Moroccan Parliament also addressed violence against women with an important vote in January, amending a law that allowed rapists to marry their victims. Egypt also passed a law that criminalised sexual harassment, with offenders immediately being condemned following the amendment It was also an important year in terms of legislation changes for institutional support to facilitate healing for sexual violence survivors.Algeria adopted an executive decree recognising women who have been raped during the “dark decade” as victims of terrorism.In addition, later in the year, the Uganda’s parliament passes a resolution that acknowledges for the first time the need to provide gender-sensitive reparations to the women and men who suffered at the hands of the Lord’s Resistance Army during the 20-year insurgency in Northern Uganda, including crimes of sexual and gender-based violence.
The year 2014 was once again marked by a renew commitment from the AU by adopting “Women’s Empowerment Year and Africa’s Development for the Concretization of Agenda 2063” as the theme for its 24th Summit in January 2015.

3. How does it compare to previous years?

There has been some encouraging progress regarding gender equality in Africa over the years. Four years since the launch of the African Women’s Decade 2010-2020, African Women’s rights activists and organisations have a lot to be proud of. Thanks to their efforts, there have been some important strides in terms of legislation, education, and the presence of women in decision-making across the continent.

Some states have made considerable advancements in protecting women from sexual violence and encouraging women to participate in politics and election. Most have gender policies or some kind of national women’s mechanism, such as a Ministry of Gender or Ministry of Women’s Affairs. There are aspects of gender equality in many constitutions and some countries have passed other laws on different aspects of women’s rights. There has been some recent progress regarding women’s political in the recent years. However, while many African countries have made significant strides in reducing gender inequality, engrained social norms that promote discrimination against women are still very much present.
Cultural marginalisation severely limits women’s education opportunities, which results in high illiteracy levels and a lack of qualifications and skills. These factors block women’s participation in politics, decision-making and leadership positions.

4. Is there one take-away that you’d like to share with governments/AU/Public?

In order to improve women’s lives on the continent, African Governments and their development partners must urgently transform their promises into concrete actions and deliver effectively on gender equality and women’s rights. We need to ask African Governments to be accountable, and take their responsibility to keep their promises. We need to push African governments to work harder on women’s issues; those who have not ratified the various legal framework to ratify, those who have already ratified to put resources aside for implementation with concrete actions plans such as clear gender budgeting as well as allocating more funding for food security, human security, better education /health care for sustainable development.

We need to ensure that gains made in women’s political mobilisation, advocacy, and government representation actually reflect a substantial change in the lives of ordinary women, which is still far from a reality.

By placing women at the centre of it all, African women and girls will have an opportunity to flourish and become advocates and leaders. However, there is a need for African Governments to back up their commitments with actions. We need to empower African women and girls with the tools they need to become agents of change.

Moving forward, we need to acknowledge the importance of accountability and resources to build a framework and create actual implementation of the national, regional and international laws/policies that advance women’s rights and gender equality.

Read the full African Women’s Decade 2014 report

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 By: Rainatou sow

Founder and Executive director of Make Every Woman Count.

Connect with her here: info@makeeverywomancount.org– Twitter: @rainasow

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