The Minister Describes Gender Inequality as a major Challenge Affecting the Regional Integration Agenda
Report by Haffiya Elyas, Photo: Hamza Al Sir
Over 40 gender experts from 15 COMESA Member States began their annual meeting in Sudan yesterday to review the gender policy implementation plan and other policy documents and reports. The reports will be presented to the gender ministers later this week for adoption.
This is the 12th meeting of the COMESA Technical Committee on Gender and Social Affairs. It brought together Principal Secretaries and Technical Officers from gender ministries in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
On the agenda of the three days meeting are: The Draft Gender Policy Implementation Plan and Monitoring Tracking Matrix, the Framework for Comprehensive Support for Women and Youth, Cross Border Traders and the Draft COMESA Youth Internship and Volunteer Programme. A progress report on the implementation of the 50 Million Africa Women Speak Platform Project was also presented.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Development and Security in Sudan, Dr. Mohammed Khair opened the meeting. He underscored the significance of strengthening gender management and accountability mechanism at various levels to ensure the success of domestication of legal instruments such as the COMESA Social Charter.
“We all know the challenges bedeviling Member States as they make frantic efforts to address gender and social development issues,” he said. “This is exacerbated by lack of gender management and accountability. However, Secretariat needs to step up efforts in supporting Member States.”
He commended COMESA for spearheading programmes targeting the youth given that Africa has the largest concentration of young people compared to other continents.
According to the 2015 United Nations statistics, there are 1.2 billion youth aged 15-24 globally, accounting for one out of every six people (17%) worldwide. This is predicted to increase to one out of every four people, thus there would be 1.3 billion youth by 2030.
In his remarks, COMESA Assistant Secretary General for Programmes Ambassador, Dr. Kipyego Cheluget, said the commitment and support of the member States will go a long way in achieving gender equality, the empowerment of women as well as the integration of social development into the COMESA regional integration agenda.
In his speech presented by the COMESA Director of Gender and Social Affairs, Mrs. Beatrice Hamusonde, Dr Cheluget observed that Intra COMESA Trade Africa had significantly impacted on the overall growth of regional integration in Africa.
According to UNCTAD reports, 80 percent of intra-Africa trade happens with the regional economic Communities. In 2015, out of the total COMESA’s exports to the world, 22 percent went to Africa.
“However,” Dr Cheluget noted, “Challenges still exist for the regional integration programmes to be gender responsive in the planning, programming and in the monitoring processes.”
COMESA Ministers responsible for Gender and Social Affairs began their 10th meeting in Khartoum, Wednesday 28 February 2018. The objective of the two days meeting was to approve policy documents and received progress reports on the status of implementation of gender and youth empowerment programmes.
The ministers meeting follows that of the Technical Committee on gender held on 25 – 27 February 2018 to prepare progress report and policy recommendations for the Ministers endorsement and/or decision making.
Sudan’s State Minister of Social Security, Dr Ibrahim Adam Ibrahim opened the meeting. In his remarks, the Minister described gender inequality as a major challenge affecting the regional integration agenda.
“Women entrepreneurs continue to experience many gender–specific non-tariff barriers which limit their access to COMESA Market,” he said noting that women’s full enjoyment of human rights and eradication of poverty were essential to the achievement of all internationally agreed development goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union Agenda 2063.
COMESA Assistant Secretary General programmes Dr Kipyego Cheluget informed the delegates that considerable progress has been made towards the implementation of the decisions, made by the COMESA Council of Ministers in Madagascar in October 2016.
Ambassador Cheluget appealed to the ministers to encourage their respective governments to sign and ratify the COMESA Social Charter. Since its approval in 2014, only three countries have signed; Madagascar, Mauritius and Malawi.
The Charter provides measures for the promotion of human and people’s rights and social development. They include: social protection; equal treatment for men and women; health protection; safety at the workplace as well as other social and cultural protections.
The COMESA Social Charter also seeks to promote closer cooperation among COMESA Member States in the social and cultural fields in line with article 143 of the COMESA Treaty
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