Empowering women and closing gender gaps in Africa under spotlight at Tokyo conference

May 31, 2013

A South Sudanese mother stands with her children among their family’s cattle in Rumbek, Lakes State, South Sudan. The outcomes of the TICAD V panel discussion will help tailor policy and actions towards gender equality and women’s empowerment in Africa. Photo: Brian Sokol

Yokohama – The importance of gender equality and the empowerment of women in driving development in Africa will be the focus of a high-level panel moderated by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V) on Sunday.

The panel, to include heads of United Nations agencies, African Heads of State and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, will identify priority actions for closing gender equality gaps in Africa and ensuring that gender equality is central to the post-2015 development agenda.

It will focus on best practices in addressing such challenges as maternal health, food security, sexual violence and barriers to women’s economic, legal and political empowerment, as well as to their participation in peace building.

Given women’s role in agriculture – they are estimated to account for nearly 50 percent of the agricultural labor force in sub-Saharan Africa, and higher in some countries -- as well as their burden of gathering natural resources for fuel and sustenance, gender considerations are also critical to environmental and energy policies, including responses to climate change.

At the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012, world leaders affirmed that gender equality and women’s participation “are important for effective action on all aspects of sustainable development.”

“One of the most important steps countries can take to drive progress is to ensure and improve the political, economic and social rights and opportunities of women”, Helen Clark said. “Africa has achieved notable economic growth in recent years. To be sustained, that growth must be inclusive, and translate into concrete improvements in the lives of women, men and children.”

UNDP pursues gender equality both as a development goal in its own and because of its catalytic effect on development overall.

Countries that eliminate gender disparities in education, for example, will accelerate progress towards eliminating hunger and will improve child and maternal health, as educated women and girls are better able to make informed choices about family planning, nutrition, health, and education.

Research for UNDP’s most recent Human Development Report shows that a mother’s education level is more important to child survival than is household income. 

While gender equality is intrinsic to the achievement of human development, the linkages between gender equality, growth and sustainable development are also well established.

The World Bank estimates that eliminating barriers that discriminate against women’s working in certain sectors could increase labor productivity by as much as 25 percent.  Ensuring women’s equal access to agricultural resources and financial credit would have a dramatic impact on food security and overall economic growth.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, if women had the same access to productive resource as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 percent to 30 percent, raising total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 percent to 4 percent.

The report of the panel discussion, to be held on Sunday 2 June at TICAD V, will be used to inform UNDP, Japan and participating stakeholders in tailoring policy and actions towards gender equality and women’s empowerment in Africa. 

TICAD is a summit meeting on African development co-organized by the Government of Japan, the United Nations, the World Bank, the UN Development Programme and the African Union Commission. 

Note to Editors: TICAD V will take place in Yokohama, Japan, from 1 to 3 June, 2013. The objectives of TICAD are to promote high-level policy dialogue between African leaders and their partners and to mobilize support for African-owned development initiatives.

Contact information

Toshiya Nishigori, Public Affairs Specialist, UNDP Japan
Mobile : (+81) 90 7200 3295 / Tel: (+81) 3 5467 4751  E-mail: toshiya.nishigori@undp.org
Christina LoNigro, Press Secretary and Communications Advisor, Office of the Administrator
Mobile: (+1) (917) 607 9446 / Tel:   (+1) (212) 906 5301  E-mail: christina.lonigro@undp.org

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