AU urges African leaders to advance women’s issues

US civil rights leader Xernona Clayton (centre) was a guest at the African Women of Excellence Awards. Picture: ANA

Deputy chairperson of the African Union says women are oppressed and discriminated despite being the majority on the continent.

The African Union (AU) Commission is urging African leaders to advance gender issues as a priority to aid development on the continent and curb abuse against women and children.

In an interview on Sunday with the African News Agency, deputy chairperson of the African Union Commission Kwesu Quartey pleaded with leaders not to sideline women.

Quartey, who had co-chaired the African Women of Excellence Awards (AWEA) on Saturday, said: “Gender is very central to development, the AU Commission is the vehicle for pan-Africanism, for creating [the] Africa that we want and the liberation of women and girls on the continent is important for the continent.”

In many African countries including South Africa, women were oppressed and discriminated by their own people despite being the majority on the continent, he said

“Women make up 51% of the entire population yet they have been enslaved, oppressed by own their own people through discrimination. We want to see (an) Africa where women are in charge, women and girls who are educated in science and technology because if we educate a girl child you empower the whole family not just one person.”

Women represent more than half of Africa’s 1.2 billion population but face economic exclusion, gender-based violence, harmful cultural practices, and financial systems that perpetuate their discrimination and Quartey said this was setting development on the continent back.

He noted that African women were in charge of the majority of households and were key food producers, representing more than 43% of the agricultural labour force.

Quartey was backed up by Dr Tony Luck from Legacy Africa Trust who said some governments were taking women’s issues seriously.

Dr Luck said: “Africa has to recognise its women as an incentive for development. It’s important that we recognise and celebrate women especially with so many things happening on the continent. We go around the continent speaking to heads of state and government about empowering women and utilizing their skills. We have received a lot of support from South Africa.”

She singled out the economic disparity between men and women as a key issue.

“Women are paid less than men for the same job but with the same education, the same also goes to education. It has to stop and treat women fairly.”

US Civil Rights Leader Xernona Clayton, who was a guest at the awards, urged African women to be determined in the pursuit of equality.

Clayton, who broke race and gender barriers in US national broadcast TV and worked closely with Dr Martin Luther King Junior to end racial inequality, shared her life experiences and said women’s rights should be prioritised.

Clayton broke glass ceilings in the 1960s fighting against racial and social injustice and promoting the recognition of African American culture and contributions to America through the Trumpet Awards.

She began her television career in 1967 and became the South’s first African American to host a daily primetime television talk show.

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