Policy framework already exists to change the lot of African women

African women, like these South Sudanese refugees, often bear the hardships of wars started by men driven by power politics on the continent. /Geovien So/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
African women, like these South Sudanese refugees, often bear the hardships of wars started by men driven by power politics on the continent. /Geovien So/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Our continent faces many challenges ranging from poverty, underdevelopment, unemployment and gender social inequality.

This bleak landscape exists side by side with an abundance of wealth in vast oceanic resources, innumerable precious minerals in the inlands, and, for the most part, land that has never been farmed since the dawn of creation.

This is exacerbated by the fact that some of our countries still face deadly conflicts which take the lives of innocents and result in the displacement of civilian populations, mostly women and children.

Especially noteworthy is that these conflicts are often started by men who are too old to do the fighting themselves and, in most cases, too secure to be personally affected.

For us, this underscores the need to pose difficult but necessary questions about the:

  • formulation and practical implementation of policies for peace, governance frameworks that support and promote peace, economic development and greater social justice, with Africa's resources at the centre of the achievement of these goals;
  • pedigree of leadership that the continent needs to achieve peace, governance framework for peace, economic development and social justice;
  • affirmation of the "women's voice as a catalyst for change," and the issues we must place on the continent's agenda in order for each one of our countries to achieve the goals of peace, good governance and social justice, and;
  • overall coordinated role and African sisterhood solidarity we as women must discharge in this regard.

I am honoured to welcome you to the 2019 edition of the African Women in Dialogue (Afwid), on behalf of the trustees and the dedicated staff of the Zanele Mbeki Development Trust (ZMDT), who are permanently thinking of ways of improving the lives of African women throughout the continent and beyond.

The African Women in Dialogue platform belongs to all of us. The usual rules of protocol do not apply here. We are creating our own rules. In that vein, I want us to recognise the efforts of our volunteer-in-chief, our biggest cheerleader, and the woman who has never once taken her eye off the cause of women's empowerment, Zanele Mbeki.

This is probably one of the most important gatherings to take place in South Africa during this year. It has brought together over 1,000 women from all the five regions of the continent.

The Afwid platform aims to be as inclusive as possible. Our team at ZMDT, together with our outstanding regional coordinators, have reached into corners that are usually neglected; to find the voice of women across all social, political and economic strata.

Represented in this room are mainly rural women, young women, disabled women and other marginalised groups. We all have the same standing when we are interacting on this platform. There is no minister, no NGO worker: we all have the same voice.

We must come with a clear commitment to the realisation of the objective of an Africa free from hunger, wars, the waste and wanton theft of the resources meant for her children at the end of these gathering on Thursday.

To a large measure, we do not need to reinvent the wheel as much of the policy framework already exists in the form of the African Union's Agenda 2063 which was adopted by the continent's heads of state and governments at the AU's 24th ordinary assembly held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in January 2015, other policies of the AU and the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the outcomes of the Beijing Platform of Action.

Lastly, no view is wrong or incorrect. Please feel free to express yourself without self-censorship or fear that someone will shout you down. If we express differences of opinion, as I am sure we will, it is because we want to emerge with a view and a programme which resonates with the experiences of the large majority of women across the continent and to impact positively on their lives.

*This is part of Gumbi's speech at the opening of Afwid at Birchwood Hotel, Boksburg, on Monday.

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