Statement of the AUC Chairperson at the Civil Society Pre-Summit Consultative Meeting on Gender Mainstreaming in the African Union and Member States

Virtual Meeting, 1st February 2021

Delivered by Mme Bineta Diop, AUC Special envoy on Women, Peace and Security.

Honorable Amina Priscille Longoh, Minister Ministry of Women and Early Childhood Care, Republic of Chad

His Majesty MFUMU DIFIMA, Great Congo Customary Chief, President, Union of African Traditional Authorities UATA-CGLUA-DRC

Mrs. Martha Muhwezi, Chairperson, GIMAC and Executive Director, Forum for African Women Educationalist

Ms. Guiomar Alonso, UNESCO Regional Adviser on Culture, West Africa Sahel

Ms. Karen Ondwasi, Chairperson, GIMAC Young Women Network

Ms. Julie Kone, Chairperson, Gender Cluster Committee, ECOSOCC

Distinguished GIMAC Members,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

From the outset, let me bring you warm greetings from His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, who received your invitation with great pleasure but could not honor it personally, due to earlier commitments. He has kindly requested me to represent him at the opening ceremony.

Allow me to read his statement. I quote”

I am pleased to join women from across Africa for the 37th Civil Society Pre-Summit Consultative Meeting on Gender Mainstreaming in the African Union and Member States under the theme, “Advancing Africa’s Commitment to Gender Equality and Women’s Rights through Arts, Culture and Heritage.”, in line with the AU theme for 2021 “‘Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want.’

In adopting this theme, the The Assembly stressed the importance of Culture, Arts and Heritage in the achievement of the objectives of African Union Agenda 2063 as well as those of its Flagship Projects and declaredthat the African rich and diverse heritage is an essential asset to profile the continent in the global arena and bring about sustainable development, integration and peace in Africa.

Indeed, the theme is anchored on Aspiration 5 of Agenda 2063 that envisages an Africa Africa with a Strong Cultural Identity, Values, and Ethics. This entails strengthening the African cultural identity, values, and ethics as a critical factor for Africa’s emergence on the global stage; African people imbued with a sense of their fundamental cultural unity, a sense of common destiny and African identity and Pan-African consciousness, and an Africa where work is a key ethic and value, where women play an important role, and in which traditional and religious leaders, including the youth as drivers of change, are recognized.

Over the years, the AU adopted various key instruments to amplify, streamline and enhance the contribution of arts and culture to the continent’s socio-economic development and integration. These include the African Union Charter for African Cultural Renaissance (2006), The Pan-African Cultural Congress and the AU Plan of Action on Cultural and Creative Industries advocate for the development of artistic expressions.

Art, Culture and Heritage fulfil a significant role in terms of telling stories about our past, present, and futures, and as such, it is crucial that the stories being told are inclusive of the diversity of gendered experiences.

The need to ensure that women are equally able to tell their stories is not only an issue for women who are creative producers but also of the right to self-expression and the nature of the stories that we tell about ourselves.

This is in line with the Maputo Protocol on Women’s Rights and the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality as a clear commitment of the continent to assert its collective recognition of African women and the need to take measures to remove barriers including cultural barriers for their empowerment. The Heritage of Africa is steeped in the pioneering women bodies including PAWO, now an AU Specialized agency where women mobilized and organized the collective voices of the continent to fight colonialism.

The AU Commission over the years has taken special initiative to address the social-cultural barriers and issues affecting girls, hence the launch of the Saleema Initiative to fight FGM, and the continental campaign to end child marriage. The establishment of AU CIEFFA on girls’ and women’s education is also another milestone, as well as the 1 Million by 2021 Youth Initiative. The AU Commission has also set the benchmark for gender parity in decision-making with the 50/50 principle.

Unfortunately, many countries are still abusing culture and traditions to perpetrate violence against women and limit women’s participation in decision-making including in peace processes. Yet a culture of peace should constitute the bedrock of a common destiny, an inclusive Africa characterized by peaceful coexistence in our societies and where women and girls have equal voice and rights. Our culture must be liberating, empowering, and affirming rights. I salute the recent “SheLeadsPeace Campaign”, steered by my Special Envoy on Women, Peace, and Security, with the aim to accelerate actions for peace in Africa and create the right conditions for the full expression of African Arts, Culture and Heritage.

I am happy to note from the remarks by GIMAC leadership that this 37th session aims to outline how the arts and creative industries can influence gender norms, challenge the skewed expectations placed upon girls and women, and address the disadvantage and discrimination they face.

I commend the valuable contributions of the women of Africa and particularly female artists who continue to play a key role in driving positive social change through their works.  Arts and Culture continue to play a significant role in dictating the fabric of our society, it is a major catalyst for political and socio-economic development in Africa.

I call on the GIMAC Network to work closely with the African Union Commission, African Union Ministers of Gender and Women’s Affairs, Regional Economic Communities, United Nations agencies, and other civil society entities and pledge my continued engagement to ensure that there are proper gender equality policies in the arts, culture and heritage space.

It would be remiss of me to end my remarks, without saluting the incredible solidarity and resilience of women of Africa in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted so deeply our communities and societies, showing once more that in times of crisis, women and girls are the ones who suffer most.   As we embark on rolling out this year of enhancing Arts, Culture, and Heritage as levers for the Africa We Want, let us work hands in hands to ensure that they contribute to the wellbeing of our communities, and serve as vehicles for profound social change and dialogue that bring about true transformation in the lives of women and girls of Africa.

I wish you very fruitful deliberations and do hereby declare open the 37th GIMAC Pre-Summit Consultative Meeting.

Thank you for your kind attention.