Collective leadership required to end GBVF

President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged African leaders move as a collective in efforts to curb the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) on the continent.

The President made the call in an address he delivered during a presidential high-level advocacy breakfast of the African Union’s (AU) Gender Pre-Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Saturday.

Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo convened the breakfast in his capacity as AU Gender Champion.

President Ramaphosa said: “The development of an AU Convention on Ending Violence Against Women and Girls is a priority that we need to move forward with collectively as the Circle of Champions.”

The 2021 Kinshasa Declaration, he said, committed nations to providing the necessary resources to end violence against women and girls.

The Circle of Champions will lead in amplifying this agenda across the continent, said President Ramaphosa.

The aim of the Circle is to facilitate high-level strategic political engagement at Heads of State and Government level and to drive accountability towards ending violence against women and girls.

The President said the Circle of Champions is about firstly, foregrounding the role of male leadership in the agenda of ending violence against women and girls across Africa.

“Secondly, it is about taking forward the commitments made in the Kinshasa Declaration and foregrounding accountability for delivering on them. For these reasons, the agenda must be driven at Head of State level.

“Beyond being a persistent challenge across the region and the world, violence against women and girls undermines our efforts to realise the aspirations contained in the UN’s Agenda 2030 and the AU’s Agenda 2063; The Africa We Want,” he said.

Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls was a focus area during South Africa’s term as AU Chair in 2020.

With President Ramaphosa as chairperson, South Africa at the 2020 plenary identified several high-level actions.

These included:

– A rapid review of discriminatory laws related to violence against women in all African countries,

– The development and adoption of an A.U. Convention on Violence Against Women,

– Advocacy for the ratification of ILO Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work, and

– Women’s financial inclusion.

The AU, on reviewing discriminatory laws, through a partnership with the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria, conducted an initial literature review on laws that perpetuate violence against women and girls in the region.

The President said this was followed by a more in-depth 25-country study across diverse geographic, linguistic, and legal systems in Africa.

“This work will be an important foundation as we develop and adopt a Convention.

“It provides updated information on the status of women’s rights, the status of violence against women in these countries and the legislation in place. It identifies gaps and makes recommendations on how to address them,” he said.

“Finding ways to engage with Heads of State in different sub-regions and in the respective fora in which we play leadership roles can contribute significantly to this process.”

On International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 190, in December 2021, South Africa became the tenth member state of the ILO to ratify the Convention.

President Ramaphosa said making the workplace free of violence and harassment “will unleash women’s potential and enable other vulnerable workers to enjoy safe and healthy work environments”.

Through the Generation Equality Forum, South Africa advocated for preferential procurement and financial inclusion for women.

“We have introduced and are implementing our own policy that sets aside 40 percent of public procurement spend for women-owned businesses,” he said.

As co-leader of the Action Coalition on Economic Justice and Rights, South Africa believes strongly that the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) can play a significant role in closing the gender income gap and in creating opportunities for women-owned businesses.

“Since South Africa advocated for adopting the Protocol on Women In Trade by the AU in December 2020, the AfCFTA Secretariat has made steady progress in developing a framework for women’s economic participation.

“Africa-wide consultations were held with women business owners and informal traders. This culminated in the regional conference on women in trade in Tanzania at the end of 2022,” said the President.

He said South Africa is encouraged by the progress that has been made in driving high-level actions across the region.

“Ratifying ILO Convention 190 is an integral part of realising the vision of the current AU Decade on Financial and Economic Inclusion of Women.

“It is encouraging that of the 25 countries globally that have ratified; six are in our region. Of the ten countries in which it is in force, four are in Africa. So, we hope to see the whole continent ratifying Convention 190,” he said.

The AU has embarked on a campaign across the region to shift social norms with respect to gender equality and violence against women and girls.

President Ramaphosa emphasised the importance of addressing economic and political practices alongside social norms, saying this was “critical”.

“Moreover, it is key to understanding how history and current realities shape the manifestations of violence against women and girls in our societies.

“The Circle of Champions brings together African leaders as a show of the highest political will towards ending the source of violence against women and girls. It is the first time this has happened on our continent,” he said.

Source: South African Government News Agency