Wednesday, October 20, 2010



New York, Oct 15 2010 5:05PM

The African Union (AU) today launched the African Women’s Decade, with a

top United Nations official calling on the continent’s leaders to seize

the opportunity to eliminate a raft of ills, from exclusion from land

tenure, credit and inheritance to violence and genital mutilation.

“Empowering women is a moral imperative, a question of fundamental

rights,” Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro

<"">told an AU forum in

Nairobi, Kenya, in a keynote address. “It is also sound policy. This is

our chance to put principle into practice... Investing in women and girls

is one of the greatest investments we can make.

“Gender equality and women’s empowerment are not add-ons – they are

integral to development. Furthermore, they will have a multiplier effect

on sustainable growth, and provide resilience to future challenges. Let us

therefore work to empower Africa’s women and girls.”

She recited a litany of discrimination faced by women, especially those in

rural areas. They do most of the agricultural work, yet endure the worst

working conditions, with low pay and little or no social protection. They

produce most of the food, yet are often excluded from land tenure, credit

and business services. They are the primary users and custodians of local

natural resources, but seldom have a voice on the bodies that decide how

these resources are managed.

“They are the care-givers and managers of households, but rarely share

these responsibilities equally with men or have a say in major household

decisions,” Ms. Migiro declared. “We need to right these wrongs. We must

ensure that rural women can access the legal, financial and technological

tools they need to progress from subsistence agriculture to productive


She called for better income-generating opportunities and education for

women, noting that women make up over two thirds of the 800 million adults

in Africa who cannot read and write.

“This is denying women the chance to work, to prosper, to assert their

rights and take their place as equal participants in society,” she said.

“It also denies their countries an invaluable asset.”

More than half of Africans infected of HIV/AIDS are women, up to

three-quarters of those aged 15 to 24. “The statistics tell a shocking

story,” she added. “Young women are powerless in negotiating safer sex.

Let us empower them. Healthy women and girls means healthy societies,

healthy nations.”

Turning to violence against women, she called it “a topic that pains me –

that should pain us all… It is endemic in our societies. We must unite to

end it. It comes in many forms: domestic violence; the abuse of vulnerable

young girls; genital cutting; rape. Such crimes can never be rationalized

as culture or tradition. Wherever they occur they should be condemned.

They should be prosecuted. And most of all, they should be prevented.”

African leaders must take their commitments seriously, Ms. Migiro underlined.

“We need national and local action to make women’s rights a reality, to

end discriminatory traditional practices, and to end impunity for

gender-based violence,” she said. “Let us accept in our minds, and in our

laws, that women are rightful and equal partners – to be protected, to be

respected, and to be heard.”


For more details go to UN News Centre at

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