This is the way it should be and Ndeye Rosalie Lo, NEPAD Advisor for Gender, Civil Society & Parliamentary Affairs, demonstrates this as she strives to achieve equality for all.
“To begin with,” she readily points out, “the term ‘gender’ is not a women thing as some people may think. Gender is a term which is cross-sexual. It is just the fact that the majority of women have been undermined in some way or another, and there is vast hidden potential amongst them that must
be unleashed. This resource is being unused or underutilised. Women are mentioned often, if not all the time, when referring to gender, but men are involved – all the time and at all levels.”
The Gender Unit has been with NEPAD since its inception and, when asked why it is necessary to have a
unit like this, (since all people are equal, according to International Human Rights standards), Lo answers simply that the African Union Constitution calls for gender equality combined with the fact that equality principles are not translated into concrete action. “In our society,” she says, “some have opportunities and benefits while others don’t. Unfortunately it’s mainly women who don’t. The fact that the majority of the African population comprises women means that we face certain difficulties in the current status quo. For example, NEPAD and the African Union are looking to develop the African continent. If we bypass the majority of the population we will never achieve the desired development.
“Addressing gender is critical when speaking about development, even if only a development framework. We will not achieve the Millennium Development Goals until we reach women empowerment,” Lo says adamantly. “Women, along with men, need to be able to voice concerns and needs – this is of paramount importance.”
Lo says that part of her job is identifying concerns at grass roots level and ‘grass roots organisations’ need to be brought on board. “These organisations are the voice of the people, giving people the capacity, but the process needs to be an empowered one so that they canunderstand what development really means for them. They need to realise that they must, and can, influence policy-makers’ decisions, as it is these decisions that will affect their life and translate [hopefully] into positive changes. This, in turn, will affect livelihood – in a positive way – because grass roots people have been involved from the beginning.”
Social Organisations (CSO) work with grass roots organisations, and parliamentarians have a critical role to play. It was with this in mind that NEPAD found it necessary to mix these two when adding it to the Gender mix – combined with the fact it is a single item for NEPAD on the African Union agenda, and will, therefore, get heard.
Lo points out that one of the measurements to the NEPAD programme is gender mainstreaming activities in
different sectors. “What this is,” she explains, “is that gender mainstreaming needs to happen in each of the different sector programmes. For example, we’re currently partnering with the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) – a NEPAD initiative – as we feel it is our responsibility to ensure it is engendered. Bypassing women in the agriculture sector makes no sense whatsoever and CAADP – across its various regional and national levels of operation – needs the capacity to do a gender analysis. We would like to see women having more access to land, improved access to seeds and water, as well as access to the broader sub-sectors within the agricultural environment.” Lo takes it a step further by pointing out that women within farming organisations need to play a critical role with regards to informing stakeholders and creating a better understanding all round.
“We need to ensure that financing for agriculture will not be gender-biased and, in addition, not focus on ‘cash-crops’ but address staple foods if our ultimate focus is to be on food security. Women in this sector must be allowed the opportunity to become entrepreneurs, as well as participate at a national level.”
Her passion for the above is obvious, and is one of the reasons why the CAADP project is being used as a case study. Once her Unit has learnt all it can from this exercise, it will use its findings to multiply the process in all of the NEPAD sub-sectors. “We will then have an arsenal of tools and methodologies which will align us with the international sector, our standards will be internationally recognised. We will be able to show our progress at any stage, as well as what has been achieved in terms of gender equality and women empowerment.”
Support from within
Lo reiterates the support that she and her department get from both NEPAD’s Chief Executive Officer and her
colleagues heading up other departments and working in other sectors. “They understand the importance of gender mainstreaming,” she elaborates, “and approach me for advice and assistance which makes it unnecessary for me to interfere with their responsibilities – this is a ‘win-win’ situation. The bottom line is that we are a team of men and women working together to address inequality.”
Lo’s department covers a broad based number of issues, from addressing the needs of people moving from
informal sectors to semi-formal sectors, to considering the legal aspect of goods circulation in Africa while addressing the human aspect of nutrition, and a whole lot more.
Income is sourced from a variety of entities, one of them being the Spanish in Africa Fund which has a R10-million disbursement to the NEPAD Gender Unit. The Unit records all of its successes, such as progress in unstable, post-conflict countries where women are responsible for addressing food shortages, etc.
Other issues which Lo and her team focus on are the reproductive rights of women and violence against women. They have managed to put in place a number of aid stations with regards to this, and are also involved in other responsibilities such as business incubation to be linked with Corporate Social Investment and hub identification. “There is a huge amount of work to be done in Africa,”
Lo concludes, “and as far as South Africa is concerned it is doing very well when one looks at the democratic
process. However, I would like for men to come to the fore and take more responsibility in helping us to promote a generation of HIV-negative people.”
On 1 February 2010, African leaders, meeting at the 14th AU Summit in Addis Ababa, approved the establishment of the NEPAD Planning and Co-ordinating Agency (NPCA) as a technical body of the AU in replacement of the NEPAD Secretariat.This decision is in line with the integration of the NEPAD into the structures and processes of the AU. The NPCA is mandated to facilitate and co-ordinate the implementation of NEPAD priority programmes and projects and to mobilise resources and partners in support of the NEPAD agenda.
In addition, the African Heads of State and Government also directed the NPCA to conduct and co-ordinate research
and knowledge management, monitor and evaluate the implementation of programmes and advocate on the AU and NEPAD vision, mission and core values. The leaders went on to direct that NPCA activities be financed through an established budget from the statutory sources of the AUC, voluntary contributions from AU member states and additional budgetary support from development partners and the private sector.