African Women Leaders Network call for increased representation of women in the COVID-19 response at the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women

At a side event during the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, the African Women Leaders Network (AWLN) convened women leaders across the continent to discuss the importance of women’s leadership in decision-making and key achievements of the AWLN National Chapters. The side event, titled “National Chapters: Driving Women’s Leadership in Africa”, was co-hosted by UN Women, the African Union Commission, the Democratic Republic of the Congo as the 2021 Chair of the African Union, and the Government of Germany.

Launched in June 2017, the Network now has 25 National Chapters across Africa. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Chapters strived to advance the Network’s goals of peace and security, political participation, agriculture, financial inclusion, and young women’s leadership. Julienne Lusenge of the AWLN DRC National Chapter highlighted the role of women and solidarity missions to support victims from the continued violence in the DRC; Ebere Ifendu of the AWLN Nigeria National Chapter shared the ongoing work to institute a bill in the constitution on women’s participation in politics; Jennifer Riria of the AWLN Kenya National Chapter spoke of the endeavors to empower rural women working in the agricultural sector and to ensure their voices are included in the food value chain business; Emelda Vhiriri of the AWLN Zimbabwe National Chapter underlined the achievements with intergenerational mentorship of young women leaders and the importance of passing the baton to sustain progress; while Jamila Ksiksi, representing the AWLN Tunisia National Chapter spoke of the work to influence the legislation through adoption of laws to support women in agriculture for entrepreneurship and financial inclusion.

UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka acknowledged the opportunity that the Network presents to transform the face of African leadership. Yet, recalling that “only 27 per cent of countries worldwide have [COVID-19] task teams where women are adequately represented,” she emphasized the need for change. Acknowledging the under representation of women in leadership, in her keynote address, the former president of Malawi, Joyce Banda, insisted: “in our drive to find solutions to our problems, challenges and development needs, one critical factor that we need is political will or leadership: leadership at continental level; leadership at regional level and leadership at national level.”

Madame Bineta Diop, AU Commission Special Envoy on Women, Peace, and Security, urged “all women leaders to continue advocating for bold changes and solutions that will sustain the gains made over the years.” As governments and other stakeholders strive to rebuild a post-COVID-19 ecosystem, she insisted on the need for gender-responsive solutions.

In their opening remarks AWLN Young Women’s Caucus Chair Joannie Mbewa also called for a strong and groundbreaking inter-generational movement bringing together women leaders.

Paul Empole Efambe Losoko, Charge d’affaires a.i. at the DRC Permanent Mission to the UN acknowledged the role and leadership of women in the COVID-19 response. Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations, reaffirmed Germany’s commitment to the AWLN initiative and voiced the need to establish a permanent Secretariat for AWLN to institutionalize the network and ensure its sustainability.

The event was Moderated by Awa Ndiaye Seck, UN Women Special Representative on the Establishment of AWLN National Chapters.

Since AWLN was established in June 2017, considerable progress has been achieved towards greater women’s participation and leadership in advancing peace, security, governance and sustainable development across Africa.


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