Fabric of Africa

The women of  Africa

Women's Empowerment and Development

The Year of Women's Empowerment and Development

Currently in Africa, women’s rights and their access to sexual and reproductive health care are not yet sufficiently respected¹. In response, the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government have declared 2015 as the Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063, boosting Africa’s efforts in decreasing maternal and infant mortality and promoting gender equality nationwide².

April 20, 2015

The Year of Women's Empowerment and Development
The African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government have declared 2015 the Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development, aligning with Africa’s Agenda 2063 goals, which provide concrete regional frameworks for gender equality and women’s empowerment in Africa². It is no accident that this statement also aligns with the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) and the 5th anniversary of the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020)². Together, these platforms focus on the importance of public health policies, infrastructure, and education for women, including a need for all sexual and reproductive health rights to align with the Maputo protocol³.

The Maputo protocol calls for the elimination of discrimination against women, the elimination of harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation, gender equality in marriage, and rights to peace, education, and training. Furthermore, the protocol states that women have the right to control their fertility, including contraception and the right to have access to family planning education⁴. However, since its inception in 1995, many African countries have been slow to adopt these policies.


In her International Women’s Day statement, the African Union Commission Chairperson H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma stated that “women’s health is a major concern in our countries since the sexual health and reproductive rights of women are still not sufficiently respected, which is why maternal and infant mortality rates continue to be high on the continent. I commend the national launches of CAARMA (Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal, Newborn, and Child Mortality in Africa); its effective implementation will contribute to strengthening healthcare systems to benefit women and their socio-economic empowerment. We must invest in quality health services for all women and girls.”¹


Africa is beginning to make important strides in enforcing new practices and policies with regards to women’s rights. For example, Amref Health Africa has introduced an alternative to female genital mutilation as a rite of passage for young women in several Maasai tribes in Kenya and Tanzania. Between 2009 and 2014, 7,361 girls were initiated into womanhood using this alternative rite of passage⁵. In addition, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education in Tanzania has issued a firm declaration stating that pregnant girls and young mothers will no longer be forced to discontinue their school education due to pregnancy, a practice that often resulted in the yearly expulsion of 5,000 girls⁵.


Programs like the Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063 will help ensure that the women of Africa receive the care they deserve. More importantly, these policies will safeguard women’s rights to have access to health care facilities and formal education, without discrimination.



¹ AfricanUnion, (2015, Mar). A STATEMENT OF H.E. Dr. NKOSAZANA DLAMINI ZUMA: CELEBRATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY http://cpauc.au.int/en/sites/default/files/Chairperson_IWD_Statement_8_March_2015_Final.pdf

² AfricanUnion, C. (2015, Jan). AfricanUnion. Stakehoder’s Consultation on 2015 Theme "Year of Women Empowerment and Development Towards Africa Agenda 2063": http://summits.au.int/en/24thsummit/events/stakehoder%E2%80%99s-consultation-2015-theme-year-women-empowerment-and-development-toward

³ GIMAC. (2015, Jan). Gender is my Agenda. GIMAC Statement:25th GIMAC Pre-Summit Consultative Meeting on Mainstreaming Gender in the African Union and Member States http://www.genderismyagenda.com/activities/activities/25%20pre%20summit/Final%20Docs/20150126%20-%20GIMAC%20STATEMENT%20FINAL%20.pdf

⁴ Maputo Protocol: http://www.achpr.org/files/instruments/womenprotocol/achpr_instr_proto_women_eng.pdf

⁵ Amref Health Africa: Alternative Rites of Passage: http://www.amrefusa.org/newsroom/news/stop-fgc-amref-health-africas-progress-in-ending-fgc/


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