SPECIAL ENVOY OF THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE AFRICAN UNION COMMISSION ON WOMEN, PEACE AND SECURITY
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you for the honour to close this Pre-Summit. It is always a pleasure to be part of these conversations with women leaders from across the continent. The knowledge, energy and experience shared during these discussions is a testament to the opportunity present on the continent. I firmly believe that to achieve the Africa we want, we need to have many conversations that help us imagine and define a future we can be proud of. In addition to having conversations, it is also important to have rich conversations situated in the right context, leading to action and impact. You will agree with me that the discussions we have had these past days have been very rich, very meaningful and will hopefully lead to a meaningful impact in the long term.
The African Union chose a very important theme for this year: Building Resilience in Nutrition on the African Continent: Accelerate the Human Capital Social and Economic Development. Aspiration 1 of Agenda 2063 speaks to a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development and this can only be possible when its priority area on the elimination of poverty, inequality and hunger is actualized. Food is the basis of nutrition and good nutrition is critical to the wellbeing and quality of life. Over the years we have seen the impact of climate change, conflict on proper nutrition and food security on the continent.
In the cause of our panel discussions, we have been made to understand the politics of food, the intersectionality between climate justice and food security, and the need to make nutrition available and assessable for all especially women.
I found it troubling to learn that women consist of 80% of bulk labour input in African agriculture and despite many constraints, women are expected to meet the basic survival needs of the continent. Yet, women are vulnerable on all dimensions of food security in terms of availability, access, utilization, and stability and suffer from macro and micronutrient deficiencies which in turn has a negative impact. Women suffer from a spike in food prices, they suffer labour market discrimination which confines women to formal and casual employment and are pressured into spending the bulk of their income on food than male households. All of this has impacted the bargaining position of women with respect to their household income where women decide to reduce spending on nutrition by reducing food purchasing power thereby shifting to cheaper and less varied diets.
Many of our discussions have also echoed the need to challenge patriarchy. Men tend to have more access to social capital and can navigate their ways out of the crisis while women often face critical burdens given their household food security roles. This plays out in limited access to resources such as land, labour, fertilizer negatively impacted the availability of food. Factors such as wealth, age, ethnicity interplay with gender to determine food and nutrition allocation and outcomes.
Even on the micro-level, within households, discrimination of household resources such as nutrition may result in an increased incidence of malnutrition among girls and women and maybe compounded in times of conflict. This has impacted the development of society as its impact translates through the reproductive years.
I am glad that we are gathered here to discuss these issues as we have a pivotal role to play in demanding accountability in nutrition. Now is the time for us to move from talking to action. Demanding accountability is about making sure investments and activities directly benefit those affected by malnutrition and ensuring that commitments made by member states are delivered with the interest of the most affected. There is a need for strong leadership within civil society in generating demand, securing political commitment and ensuring accountability for better nutrition.
We can do this through intentional advocacy including through the generation of knowledge, evidence, data showing the severity of malnutrition and food insecurity of women and raising awareness through our various networks. For us to push nutrition to the top of the development agenda, we must frame and package our information in ways that it would galvanise commitment.
There is also an opportunity to recognise the role lack of information on nutrition at grassroots levels plays. I believe many of us who are connected to the grassroots through our Civil Society efforts, therefore, have an opportunity to pass on the message and design intervention that seeks to challenge and address this ignorance. Our efforts on the ground must always recognise the role nutrition plays as a cross-cutting factor and be mindful of these intersections.
I would like to end my closing remark with the wise words of German Philosopher Ludwig Andreas Von Feuerbach ‘Man(or dare I say, Woman) is what he eats”. We must ensure that we have food and that this food is well nourishing to the body.
I thank you.