Pretoria – UNDP South Africa in partnership with UN Women and the Commission on Gender Equality launched the second Africa Human Development Report published by UNDP entitled: Africa Human Development Report 2016, Accelerating Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Africa.
The report was launched on Thursday 27 October 2016 at the Sheraton Hotel, in Pretoria. The aim of the launch was to stimulate policy debate and discussions on what further steps are needed to ensure that gender equality is more fully integrated into national agendas and on-going policy dialogues across South Africa.
Participants included policymakers development practitioners, development organizations, representatives from the private sector, civil society, academia, and other relevant stakeholders.
UNDP has been publishing Human Development Reports since 1990 to stimulate policy dialogue on topical development issues at global, regional and national levels. Over the years, these Human Development Reports have positioned UNDP as a thought leader and the reports have served as a guide for countries to consider options that enhance human development and expand people’s choices. The Human Development Index, a composite indicator that tracks progress against education, health, and income measures, has benchmarked countries on human development since 1990.
The 2016 Africa Human Development Report reviewed the on-going efforts of African countries to accelerate the pace of assuring women’s empowerment through all spheres of society – in the home and community, in health and educational attainment, in the workplace, and in political participation and leadership. While significant progress has been made across numerous fronts in most countries, gender equality for African women and girls is still far from satisfactory. To address the gender gap, this report adopts a political economy approach to gender equality and women’s empowerment in Africa.
In his opening remarks, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Mr. Gana Fofang, highlighted the achievements that Africa as a continent has made as well as emphasized the achievements of South Africa.
“The 2016 Africa Human Development Report noted these important achievements, and also places emphasis on the fact that in Africa women of child bearing age are at a higher risk of premature death; nearly one out of two (45.6%) have experienced sexual or physical violence of some kind during their lifetimes mainly from persons known to them. However, South Africa has made great gains in education and the MDG on Education is one of the goals met in terms of access, but for Africa as a whole, one in four girls of primary school age and one in five boys had never attended school or left school without completing primary education,” Mr. Fofang said.
During the panel discussion that was held at the launch, the participants agreed with the messages that the report highlighted, for instance; harmful social norms towards women and girls need to be deconstructed and addressed as they constrain development for all. Another message that the participants took away was that lack of access to land deprives African women of an important economic tool in improving their livelihoods. Adding on to this, the UNDP Senior Economist, Ms Fatou Leigh emphasized that women should have the capacity to participate in decision-making.
Chief Executive Officer of the Graca Machel Foundation, Ms Nomsa Daniels who spoke on ‘Women in African economies looking at how far South Africa has come’ agreed with the report that there is more to be done in order to uplift women economically, “The UNDP report shows the staggering costs of not investing in women in the loss of $95 billion dollars a year to the continent’s GDP for maintaining the persistent gender gap. The time has come for women to be equal partners in driving the development agenda at national, sub regional and regional level,” said Ms Daniels. The Deputy Representative, UN Women Multi-Country Office for Southern Africa, Mr Themba Kalua, in his reflection on challenges and opportunities for South Africa said “South Africa has made a lot of progress on gender equality and women empowerment, but there is a lot that still needs to be done in particular on Gender Based Violence (GBV). UN Women is ready to partner with government, civil society and other UN agencies in addressing GBV including through engaging men and boys using the HeforShe campaign”.
Director of Strategic Partnerships, Sonke Gender Justice, Mr Bafana Khumalo, presented a perspective on the legal and social norms in gender equality, specifically looking at what Sonke Gender Justice’s contribution has been in the country saying that it is high time the country dealt with the notion of “dangerous masculinities informed by patriarchal norms”.
“In our quest to advance gender equality and equity in relation to Human Development Challenges in the region, we must deal with the notion of dangerous masculinities informed by patriarchal norms. In this regard we need to tackle harmful traditional practices that continue to undermine the dignity of women. Some of these include, ending the so called child marriages, Female Genital Mutilation, mourning and cleansing rituals for women to name but a few. In this quest we must affirm positive collaboration between women and men in the struggle for gender transformation. Men of quality are not afraid of gender equality.” He said.
The report recommends forging stronger alliances among governments, private sector, CSOs and development partners towards a common gender-focused agenda for action. These include: (i) the establishment of an African Women Investment Bank and opening Women Investment Windows in national and regional development banks, and (ii) the commitment of public and private sector institutions to implement a Gender Equality Seal certification initiative to promote standards that foster equality of opportunities among employees.
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