Tendai Rupapa in NEW YORK, United States
The Organisation of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD) yesterday advocated high-level interventions to curb gender-based violence and all forms of stigma and stereotypes that inhibit women and girls from contributing meaningfully towards the development of the global economy.
Speaking at a conference themed; “Renewing commitment towards enhancing gender equality and women’s empowerment in Africa”, on the sidelines of the 74th Ordinary Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) here yesterday, OAFLAD spelt out the need to bridge the education gap between men and women.
First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa is the OAFLAD vice president, having been elected in July this year.
In her address, Amai Mnangagwa said investing in women and girls yields positive returns on poverty eradication, economic growth and sustainable development in respective communities.
“We are gathered here again today (yesterday) fighting gender inequality, which has affected our lives for a long time. It is still showing its ugly head,” she said.
“There is a need to increase socio-economic development leading to poverty reduction and empowerment of the girl-child.
“The whole world should make women a priority in all activities, and Governments should ensure the education gap in schools is gender sensitive.”
Amai Mnangagwa said the gender parity in schools should be addressed with immediate effect.
The First Lady, who recently embarked on a nationwide tour providing widows with knowledge on inheritance laws and administration of deceased estates, said women should be allowed to inherit properties after the demise of their husbands without the interference of relatives.
“They would have worked together to acquire those properties,” she said.
“Women are also yearning for equal labour market access, which is never here nor there because of the slow progress registered so far.
“The work that women do is presumed to be characterised by substandard and bad conditions of workmanship. We are saying women should be considered in those quality jobs. They are equal stakeholders.”
OAFLAD president and Congolese First Lady Antoinette Sassou Nguesso called for sound policies that protect women and girls.
She said Africa had an alarming rate of violence against women, and called for mindset shift, saying the time to act was now.
“The moment has come for us to stand up for the girl child,” said the First Lady. “We have been discussing at all platforms about violence against women and child marriages and I am saying the time to act is now.”
Another OAFLAD member, Sierra Leone First Lady Madam Fatima Bio spoke on the importance of education, saying it was vital for the economic prosperity of a nation.
She advocated for free education for all.
“I want to express the need for African First Ladies to concentrate on the campaign against early child marriages, teenage pregnancy and rape in Africa,” she said.
OAFLAD members took turns to speak on violence against women and child marriages while sharing notes on how to address the challenges.
Speaking with one voice, the organisation called on member states of African Union, Heads of State, traditional and religious leaders and civic society organisations to honour commitments made at the global, continental and nation levels to ensure gender equality and women’s empowerment, especially targeting marginalised communities.
The organisation called on relevant authorities to undertake innovative campaigns and continuous dialogue to transform social and cultural norms that inhibit women’s rights.