The African Union’s 25th Extraordinary Summit ended in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Monday, with leader making a commitment to uplifting women.
President Robert Mugabe, who is also the rotating chair of the African Union (AU), brought the meeting of more than 50-heads of state and government to a close.
Almost overshadowed by events, including the attempted efforts to enforce the controversial indictment of Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, by the International Criminal Court, was the theme of this year’s gathering, women, which President Mugabe reaffirmed.
“We are now in pursuit of our objectives of our theme for this year, Year of Women Empowerment and Development Towards Agenda 2063.”
Agenda 2063 is a long-term goal the African Union committed to at its 50th anniversary in 2013, to build and develop a prosperous and United Africa. The agenda promises to fully involve and engage women and youth, to “rekindle the spirit of working together toward collective prosperity, common destiny under a united and strong Africa.”
President Mugabe declared the continental body is still committed to this vision.
“We have resolved and committed ourselves to abolish all ills, based on cultural and religious practices, including early child marriages, and gender based violence.”
The push for women’s empowerment has been gaining momentum over the years, in light of the hardships women continue to face, as they are subjected to violence, deprived of education and other economically empowering opportunities. Actress and humanitarian, Angelina Jolie, offered an impassioned appeal to the leaders gathering in South Africa to uphold their commitment.
“Please, think what it would mean if the 54-nations of the African Union, press as one, towards a full rights and opportunities for women, not for just this great continent, but for the world.”
Africa’s only female leader, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, too appealed for commitment in areas that really matter for women.
“Access to land. In too many of our countries, women don’t have because sometimes they have to get their husbands permission, sometimes there are no land laws that would allow women to own land. Most times the land is what they use for collateral to get finances from the bank. So the lack of land means lack of finances.”
Also speaking for the most vulnerable of women, particularly those from war-torn nations, the chair of the African Union Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini Zulu, also issued an appeal.
“Our resolve to silence the guns, must therefore give hope to women and children suffering from the terror of Boko Haram and Al Shabab, our resolve must provide renewed hope to peoples in conflict ridden areas,” said Zuma.
Despite the commitment to empowering women, women’s rights activists continued to raise alarm over increasing violence against women and children.