Statement by UNDP Africa Deputy on Beijing+15

23 Nov 2009

Statement by Elizabeth Fong, Deputy Director of UNDP Africa region on the occasion of the Eighth Africa Regional Conference on Women (Beijing +15)


Her Excellency, the Vice President of The Gambia and Minister for Women’s Affairs, Dr. Isatou Ndie-Saidy,
Mr. Abdoulie Janneh, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa,
His Excellency, Mr. Jean Ping, Chairperson of the African Union Commission
Ms. Rachel Mayanja, Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General on Gender issues
Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Delegates,  United Nations Colleagues,  Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning.

It is an honour for me to be here today in representation of the UNDP Administrator, Ms. Helen Clark. It is also humbling for me to be addressing Delegates and participants with long experience as activists in fighting for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Firstly, I would like to commend  His Excellency, the President of The Gambia, and his Government for hosting  this Conference; and to her Excellency, the Vice President of The Gambia, for her participation throughout this conference and for her renewed call for action. 

I would also like to recognize Mr. Janneh for his consistent commitment to the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment agenda in the region, as well as the UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Chinwe Dike, and the UN Country Team for their contribution to making this Conference possible.

In the past few days, we have heard of our global and regional collective journey and milestones towards achieving gender equality as part of our sustainable human development goals. We have heard of the numerous achievements at the country and regional levels, and the remaining challenges; as well as the need to now focus on implementable actions, and greater and higher quality of results.

For that, we should take a deeper look at the Beijing Platform for Action and the 12 critical areas of concern, as well as the specific actions to be implemented by governments and all development partners towards the achievement of equality, development and peace. These critical development priorities have been reflected in subsequent regional and national action plans which have been developed to implement the global platform.

Your Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,

The Beijing Platform for Action provided the first global commitment to gender mainstreaming as the methodology for achieving women’s empowerment, by ensuring that an analysis of the concerns of women and men, as well as the impact of policies and programmes on both sexes are conducted at all stages and levels of development.  In this light, UNDP has adopted a two-fold approach to Gender Mainstreaming. Firstly, we support the empowerment of women to expand their capabilities, opportunities, and choices, as well as to claim their rights and move into full substantive equality with men. Secondly, we are supporting the development of capacity of governments to respond positively to women’s interests and concerns.

In 2008, UNDP adopted a Gender Equality Strategy grounded on the premise that the development objective of gender equality is absolutely indivisible from the UNDP human development goal of real improvements in people’s lives, and in the choices and opportunities open to them.

The Gender Equality Strategy provides the framework through which UNDP will work to support initiatives that empower women to claim their internationally-agreed rights in every development sphere, and support governments to be both pro-active and responsive in advancing the realization of these rights.  The Gender Equality Strategy is the tool we are using for the integration of gender into our core development work.

Distinguished Delegates,
As stakeholders, we are here today to review the progress made in transforming the lives of women and men, girls and boys, based on the objectives of the Beijing Platform for Action, 15 years after its adoption. We are also here to analyse the shortcomings, challenges and opportunities to enable us re-strategise to move forward.

From 2004, which marked the year of the previous major review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action in Africa, it is observed that while there have been remarkable improvements in the lives of women and men in the region in some key areas, enormous efforts are still needed for improvements in others.  I wish to applaud African Member States for the notable progress in building consensus and support for the implementation of the 12 critical areas of the Beijing Platform for Action. We note that in the Region, more women are joining the formal sector of the economy, more girls have access to and are pursuing higher education, more women are moving into professions historically dominated by men, more women are becoming self-employed and more women are participating in political life, as we have seen from the example of Rwanda, which has been cited repeatedly throughout this regional meeting.     However, as we have all agreed, this is not the time for complacency.

We should set clear, quantifiable and verifiable targets, so that 20 years after Beijing, we can  give substantiated evidence of where, how and by how much poverty has been reduced; where, how and how many more women are employed in the formal sector; where, how  and by how much literacy and health levels have improved; in which countries discriminatory laws have been abolished in the areas of marriage, ownership and management of matrimonial property, inheritance, divorce and family relations; where, how and by how much incidences of gender –based violence  have been reduced.   And this evidence can be given if we focus on implementable actions and corresponding results, and we ensure that  it is based on accurate and complete gender-disaggregated data.

This important regional review exercise has provided an excellent  opportunity to facilitate knowledge and experience-sharing among stakeholders involved in the promotion of the Beijing Platform for Action; and determine where and when our actions can complement and add more value.  Given the significance of gender equality and women’s empowerment in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, it is imperative that the Beijing Platform for Action continues to inform the political, social and economic development processes in all countries in Africa.

As the outcomes of this regional review process will feed into the fifty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women to be held in March 2010, UNDP will continue providing support to countries that are determined to meeting their international commitments under the Beijing Platform for Action, the CEDAW, the MDGs and related instruments. We will continue to support women’s organisations and CSOs working for gender equality to participate and make their views count at forums such as this.

Excellencies, distinguished Delegates, UNDP hereby reaffirms its commitment to be part of the collective regional and global efforts towards advancing the agenda for gender in Africa, in a re-energized, determined and results-focused manner.
I thank you for your attention.