Africa: ECA African Women Conference, 1/23/98

Africa: ECA African Women Conference, 1/23/98

Africa: ECA African Women Conference
Date distributed (ymd): 980123
Document reposted by APIC

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Region: Continent-Wide
Issue Areas: +economy/development+ +gender/women+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains the announcement and overview theme statement of the Economic Commission for Africa's 40th anniversary conference, scheduled for 28 April to 1 May 1998. The conference will focus on "African Women and Economic Development: Investing in our Future."

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ECA Press Release No. 39


Addis Ababa, 20 January 1998 - The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) is to stage an international conference aimed at promoting the pivotal role of women in Africa's economic development.

The Conference, entitled "African Women and Economic Development: Investing in our Future," due to take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 28 April to 1 May 1998, is being organized in the context of ECA's mandate to follow implementation of the regional Dakar and global Beijing Platforms of Action, which place poverty reduction through the economic empowerment of women as a top priority.

The Conference is being organized in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and a number of other sponsors.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will attend the Conference, set to coincide with the Commission's 40th anniversary. In addition, the gathering will bring together a number of Heads of State and Government, African policy makers, UN organizations and specialized agencies, representatives of civil society, and the donor community. Overall, some 500 participants are expected to attend.

In staging this conference, the Commission hopes to encourage links between the goals of recent UN conferences (Beijing, Cairo, Vienna and Copenhagen).

It seeks to do so by:

- sharing experiences on how public policies should equalize opportunities between women and men and redirect resources to those investments in which women's participation brings about the highest social returns;

- drawing strategic lessons from on-going efforts to implement the Beijing Platform for Action;

- identifying best practices and validating programme modalities for country-level implementation of actions recommended by the Conference;

- forging partnerships for post-conference development and implementation of the recommended actions and programmes.

The four-day conference is being organized around four main themes:

- Developing African Economies: The role of women;

- Achieving good governance: The essential participation of women;

- African women and the information age: A new window of opportunity; and

- Creating opportunities for Africa's new generation.

The event will get under way with an opening plenary session, followed by two days dedicated to focused discussions in smaller working groups. On the third day, A plenary devoted to the work of selected UN agencies will begin with keynote address by the UN Secretary-General, while a forum of Heads of State on Day Four will provide space for conference participants to share their perspectives with the leaders.

The Conference is expected to evolve a concrete plan for follow-up actions to be undertaken by ECA and its partners.

To ensure maximum participation in the conference, a planning meeting will be convened from 17 - 20 February in Addis Ababa, bringing together representatives of some 25 key organizations.


For more information, please visit the Conference Home Page at:


Overview from ECA 40th Anniversary Page


African Women and Economic Development: Investing In Our Future

International Conference on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of ECA Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 28 April - 1 May 1998

An Overview

Significant progress has been made in improving the situation of women across the world. This is reflected in narrowing gender gaps in major socio-economic indicators. However, gender disparities are still apparent almost everywhere, particularly in Africa.

A series of recent global conferences have indicated the serious social and economic cost to society of excluding women (half the human population) from existing development strategies and decision-making structures. Consequently, many governments are demonstrating their political willingness to redress this situation through affirmative action among other strategies.

At the close of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in September 1995, governments adopted a Global Platform for Action with one of the top priorities being poverty reduction through the economic empowerment of women. One of the mandates of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) is to monitor and assist in the implementation of the recommendations of the Platform at the continental level. ECA has also mainstreamed the gender equality theme throughout its programmes.

Closing the gender-gap and enhancing women participation in development is essential not only for achieving social justice, but also for reducing poverty and contributing to economic growth. While investing in women is so central to sustainable development, African women still face many barriers in benefiting from, or even contributing to, development. A concerted, multi-pronged effort is therefore needed to promote a stronger role for African women and achieve long-term change in their conditions.

In this regard, ECA is taking the opportunity of its 40th Anniversary to organise an International Conference from 28 April to 1 May 1998 in Addis-Ababa under the theme: "African Women and Economic Development: Investing in our Future."

Through this Conference, ECA aims to:

* Share experiences on how public policies should equalise opportunities between women and men and redirect resources to those investments in which women's participation brings about the highest social returns;

* Draw strategic lessons from relevant on-going women's programmes for implementing the Beijing Platform for Action;

* Identify "best practices" and validate program modalities for country-level implementation of actions recommended by the Conference; * Forge partnerships for post-conference development and implementation of the recommended actions and programmes.

The Conference is organised around the following four themes:

* Developing African economies: the role of women. The persistent inequality between women and men perpetuates a lower level of productivity and, ultimately, holds society to a lower level of economic growth. How can public policy initiatives be used to secure the equal access of women and men to productive resources (land, capital, infrastructure facilities and technology) and to basic services (education, health and employment) so as to increase economic growth and people's wellbeing?

* Facilitating good governance through women's participation. The near exclusion of women from the centres of power has contributed to the absence of women's voices and perspectives, leading to an impoverished debate, and often, distorted policies. Strong participation of women in political and community affairs through civil society organisations with strong links to the state are a powerful instrument for improving governance and forging gender equity in public policies and programs. How can women's organisations and mobilisation machinery be strengthened and sustained as key building blocks to good governance? How can we bring expanded numbers of women into senior leadership positions in Africa, foster communication among women and men, and encourage changes in laws and policies that will protect women's rights?

* African women and the information age: a new window of opportunity. The ECA Conference of Ministers responsible for Planning adopted the African Information Society Initiative (AISI) in 1996, as an action framework to build Africa's information and communications infrastructure, maximise opportunities for harnessing information for Africa's development, and to expedite the information revolution in Africa. Through the Initiative, measures will be taken to ensure that gender sensitive information services are a major focus of national attention and action, with appropriate international support. Sector applications of information technology are planned in the fields of electronic commerce, library resources, global health networks and economics, virtual university, distance education, and telematics for African media. How can the African Information Society promote and facilitate dialogue and partnership around the priority concerns of women?. How can women ensure their full participation in, and benefit from, the new information technology?

* Creating opportunities for Africa's new generation. Perceiving and practising gender equity should be developed in the early formative years of children. There is a need to create (at the household and formal schooling levels) opportunities for the New Generation to develop consciousness to gender equality. The youth would also greatly benefit from skills for promoting men and women as equal partners in society. What innovative strategies can be adopted to equip the new generation with the life skills necessary to create societies based on gender equity?

Partnership: A strategy for attaining Conference objectives:

Partnerships between government, civil society, non-governmental organisations, bilateral donors, and international agencies are necessary for synergy in the resolution of the issues before the Conference. Strong partnerships are also necessary for mobilising resources needed to implement programs that are beneficial to women. The Conference will bring out "best practice" modalities for such partnerships and will suggest measures to strengthen and make more effective the existing ones. This will help to forge a consensus on policies and program actions.


The Conference will bring together:

a. Top policy-makers in Africa from various sectors (ministries responsible for Women's Affairs, Finance and Planning, Education, Trade, Industry, Agriculture, Health, Justice, Water Supply); b. Representatives of civil societies (women's associations, youth associations, parliamentary groups, private sector, NGOs, trade unions and local authorities); c. Representatives of African sub-regional and regional organisations (both IGOs and NGOs); and d. Representatives of the international community, donors and financial community.


The Conference will be a four-day event.

* Opening Plenary Session

At the opening Plenary Session, the conference themes will be presented within the context of the challenges to the economic empowerment of women and their roles in and contributions to the African economy in the 21st Century.

* Working Groups

Two days will be dedicated to guided discussions in small working groups, a system that will give every participant the possibility to contribute effectively to the results of the Conference. These working sessions will form the core substance of the conference. Each working group will focus on a specific sub-set of the agenda themes. The Working Groups will identify the most important problems and issues in that area, and identify concrete actions that the participants, decision makers, international organizations and civil society can undertake to address them.

* Action-oriented Plenary Sessions

After the two days of working groups, the findings and recommendations will be reported and discussed in The Second Plenary Session. This is intended to bring consensus that will lead to actionable plans.

The Third Plenary Session, to be chaired by the President of The African Development Bank, will focus on the subject: Towards Gender Equity: Framework for Partnerships. This session is intended to crystallise the discussions into concrete actions for follow-up after the Conference. The key outputs of the Conference will emerge in this Plenary.

At The Fourth Plenary Session the keynote address by The UN Secretary-General will be delivered on the subject: Post Beijing: The United Nations and African Women. It will be followed by a panel discussion involving the Heads or Senior Representatives of the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Bank, and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). This session will accord to heads of UN agencies the opportunity to listen to, and learn from, the beneficiaries of their programmes in Africa. It will also give the opportunity to key players at the community level to express their views and influence donor policy and allocation of resources.

* Forum of Heads of State and Government

Based on discussions of the previous days, the concluding session will be the major opportunity for Heads of State and Government, Partners, and participants to achieve convergence on concrete action plans. The Heads of State will share their perspectives in a discussion with a panel of women who will present the views of conference participants. The Secretary-General of the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) will chair the Panel discussion, which will be moderated by a prominent African woman. It is expected that after the Conference, the Heads of States will, in turn, effect policy advances in their own countries to improve the position of women and girls, as part of a gender equity development strategy that will emerge out of the conference. It is also expected that there will be greater effort to advocate, in regional fora like the OAU summit, for the strategies and commitments made at the conference.

The outcomes

The expected outcomes of this very special convocation on behalf of Africa's future:

* Promoting linkages between the goals of the different United Nations conferences at Beijing, Cairo, Vienna and Copenhagen;

* Influencing policymakers and securing their commitment to make fundamental changes for the empowerment of women in their countries;

* Partnerships for development and implementation of strategic programmes elaborated on the basis of discussions during the Conference.


Secretariat of the Conference for information and
correspondence: Economic Commission for Africa African Centre
for Women (ACW) P.O. Box 3001 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Tel: (251.1) 51 89 19 (Direct)/51 72 00 Ext. 33700
Fax: (251.1) 51 27 85 (Direct)/51 44 16 or 51 22 33


From: Message-Id: <> Date: Fri, 23 Jan 1998 10:43:50 -0500 Subject: Africa: ECA African Women Conference

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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