Helen Clark: Speech at the National Launch of the Africa Regional Human Development Report 2016

Nov 2, 2016

Accelerating Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Africa is vital to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union’s visionary Agenda 2063. Credit: UNDP

It is a great pleasure to be here in Malabo for the local launch of UNDP’s latest Africa Regional Human Development Report. This follows the report’s global launch in Nairobi during TICAD VI in August, and national launches in Addis Ababa, Antananarivo, Kampala, and Pretoria since then. We are most grateful to Japan and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) for the funding support they gave for the report.

The report’s theme is “Accelerating Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Africa”, and its recommendations are highly relevant to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union’s visionary Agenda 2063. Gender equality is the sole focus of one of the seventeen new SDGs, and is critical to progress across all the other goals – and for development in general. The report’s recommendations are highly relevant to achieving the development aspirations articulated in Equatorial Guinea’s National Economic and Social Development Programme (PNDES), (also known as Horizon 2020).

The importance of gender equality

Promoting gender equality is central to the achievement of Horizon 2020’s goal of achieving a sustainable, diversified, and emerging economy. Equatorial Guinea is classified as an upper middle income country. Nonetheless, the majority of people here, and in particular women, are engaged in subsistence agricultural-related activities or elsewhere in the informal sector. 

The national plan acknowledges the persistent disparities between women and men, including in the labour market. For example, 81 per cent of young men are employed in the formal sector compared with only 62 per cent for young women.  In education, while there is parity between girls and boys in enrolment  at the primary level, that is not the case for secondary and university education. Unfortunately girls have a high dropout rate from school, due in no small part to the high prevalence of teenage pregnancy and early marriages.  

Horizon 2020 recognizes these challenges and the need to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment to achieve inclusive growth.

The importance of gender equality in its own right and for sustainable development is also recognized across the region. Africa’s 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 labour markets, education, health, and other areas, then poverty and hunger can be eradicated. Gender equality is 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.  As we look ahead to the African Union theme for 2017 of Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth, there is an urgent need to move from defining strategy to taking concrete action on gender equality. This UNDP Africa Human Development Report aims to support countries to do that.

Key Messages from the Africa Regional Human Development Report

This 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 promote 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 

UNDP is committed to playing its part in accelerating gender equality and women’s empowerment in Equatorial Guinea and around the world, and we build gender equality into all our programming.  

In March this year, UNDP and the Government of Equatorial Guinea signed  a US$3.5 million Youth Economic Empowerment programme to address skills gaps and employment challenges. This initiative will help scale up the existing Vocational and Educational Training programme, support micro-enterprise development, and build entrepreneurial skills of youth, particularly those of young women. The programme will also establish modern platforms  to improve the matching of job seekers and employers.

To equip young people with relevant skills so that they can be more competitive in the labour market, UNDP’s multimedia centres have supported projects in Malabo and Bata. Sixty-one per cent of these trainees have been women. As the Government plans to roll out these multimedia centers to the remaining provinces, UNDP stands ready to scale up its support. 

UNDP promotes the participation of women in managing Equatorial Guinea’s biodiversity. Through UNDP/GEF support to the National System of Protected Areas since 2013, women are engaging in a range of income-generating activities, such as handicrafts production, eco-tourism, and monitoring and protection of endangered species. 

UNDP has also been instrumental in supporting the capacity of public institutions in Equatorial Guinea accelerate gender equality.  In 2015, UNDP provided training for members of civil society and government officials to improve awareness of women’s rights, and provide tools for better integrating women's rights in the design and implementation of development policies, regulations, and monitoring systems. 

Since 2013, UNDP has also supported nation-wide sensitisation for health personnel on human rights, particularly to reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination which can be a significant barrier to accessing HIV and other health services. The project has reached over 420 nurses, who often are the first entry point for women seeking health care. 

Since 2015, UNDP has partnered with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Gender in holding sensitisation workshops for civil servants on gender equality and women’s empowerment. Specific topics have included awareness raising on women rights, eliminating gender based violence, mainstreaming gender in development planning, building gender-disaggregated statistical systems; increasing women’s participation and leadership in decision making positions at all levels, including in public and private sector; supporting girls’ education programmes; and enhancing women’s economic empowerment.


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 report. 

UNDP is committed to working with Equatorial Guinea and all other African countries to ensure that the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063 are transformational for women and men, and girls and boys.

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