Tendai Rupapa in NEW YORK, United States
The Organisation of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD) has received support from world bodies and cooperating partners for the sterling work being done by members in their respective countries.
The activities of the First Ladies have contributed towards addressing gender inequality and championing economic empowerment for women and girls.
A communiqué released by OAFLAD after its meeting on Tuesday, which took place alongside the ongoing 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, brought to the fore heart-rending issues such as gender violence and access to sustainable education.
In the communiqué, the First Ladies called for a stop to dehumanising practices such as genital mutilation, forced and early marriages ruining the future of many promising girls.
First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, who is also vice president of OAFLAD attended the meetings.
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) deputy executive director Mr Dereje Wordofa lauded the organisation for its unwavering support for women and children and general empowerment of the underprivileged.
“Since its inception, OAFLAD has played a critical role in helping emphasise critical issues affecting women and girls,” said Mr Wordofa.
“Through initiatives such as the campaign for accelerating reduction of maternal mortality in Africa, many lives have been saved.
“We stand ready to announce our cooperation with First Ladies across Africa and pledge our continued determination to work in partnership to support the empowerment of women and girls.”
Over the past two decades, the world has experienced a 40 percent decline in preventable maternal mortality, but Mr Wordofa said there is unfinished business in the drive towards gender equality, particularly in the sub-Saharan Africa.
“Over 200 million women cannot meet their family planning needs as they wish,” he said.
Mr Wordofa said the burden of reproductive cancer such as cervical cancer, which is often preventable if detected early, was causing increasingly maternal mortality.
Further, one in five girls is married before 18 while one in three women faces gender based violence.
Prevalence of female genital mutilation still remains sky high, a development that concerns UNFPA.
Plan International chief executive Ms Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen also weighed in saying; “Education is important and without education we all would not have been here.
“If education should not be looked at just in-terms of access or quality, but in terms of norms and values that the girl child is exposed to through the system.
“Statistics show that one in four girls do not finish secondary education. The education system must be transformed because education is not only important for the girl child, but for the future as well.”
UNAIDS acting executive director Ms Gunilla Carlsson echoed similar sentiments.
African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs, Madam Amira Elfadil Mohamed said achieving gender equality was key to the continental body’s vision of a better Africa.
She said OAFLAD’s vision was consistent with vision of Heads of State and Government of ending all forms of gender-based violence and ending child marriages, although there are some countries yet to ratify continental agreements on gender equality.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Amai Mnangagwa made a presentation on issues surrounding gender inequality, child marriages and women empowerment.