SPECIAL ENVOY OF THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE AFRICAN UNION COMMISSION ON WOMEN, PEACE AND SECURITY
PSC OPEN SESSION ON WOMEN’S PEACE AND SECURITY
“THE IMPACT OF THE COVID -19 PANDEMIC ON WOMEN, PEACE AND SECURITY AGENDA IN AFRICA”
29th November 2021
- Your Excellency Amb. Mohamed Omar Gad, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Chairperson of the Peace and Security Council for the month of November 2021
- Your Excellency Ambassador Bankole Adeoye, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security,
- Our guest speaker, Ms Helen Kezie-Nwoha, Executive Director, Women International Peace Centre
- Your Excellencies Members of the Security Council,
- Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
- Representatives from the UN Agencies,
- Representatives from the Regional Economic Communities,
- Representatives of Civil Society Organizations,
- Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me, Your Excellency Ambassador Mohamed Gad to congratulate you, and through you the Arab Republic of Egypt, for steering the work of the PSC in the month of November 2021. I wish to sincerely thank you for accepting to hold the now established PSC open session on Women, Peace and Security that we usually commemorate each year in October. This year, due to pressing issues, the session was rescheduled and I am grateful that Egypt has included it in the PSC Agenda for November.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is almost two years since the first case of COVID-19 was declared on our continent. The eruption has disrupted and impacted our lives in multiple ways. Factually, and like in many other crises, women and girls are paying the highest price for this invisible enemy. It is befitting that PSC has decided to focus on the Impact of COVID-19 on the WPS agenda and on the lives of women and girls.
Indeed, gains made over the last two decades in the journey to realizing the right of women to peace, are being eroded. I will give some examples;
In the protection pillar of the WPS, which focuses on the protection of women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence, available data shows a glimpse picture. Incidences of gender-based violence have not only increased to alarming figures but also, women’s access to crucial Sexual and reproductive health and rights has been lost. For instance.
- In South Africa, the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre recorded a sharp increase in cases of up to 10,660 in a one month period of lockdown from 27 March to 16 April 2020. In one single day, on 16 April, the Centre received reports of 674 cases.
- In Ethiopia, data from a few hospitals in Addis Ababa showed that, between mid-March and mid-May 2020, within the space of fewer than two months, more than 100 girls were raped, some of them by close family members.
- In Zimbabwe, there have been reports of an increase in cases of young girls forced into transactional sex in return for cash, food, or even sanitary products.
- In Tunisia, in the first five days after lockdown, calls to a hotline for women suffering abuse increased fivefold.
- In Somalia, there was a 50% increase in calls to helplines/ hotlines across the country.
- In Niger, 499 gender-based violence cases were reported in Niamey between January and April 2020.
Excellencies, the list is endless!
And worse is that, although schools have reopened in many countries, many girls are yet to resume schooling as they have either become mothers or young wives. The pandemic has robbed these girls of their childhood and an opportunity for education, this again has a negative impact on gender equality and development outcomes of our continent.
Women’s economic rights, a crucial pillar in the progression of the women’s peace and security agenda is another area where the crisis of COVID-19 has worsened the situation. The coronavirus containment measures, such as the closure of workplaces and movement restrictions have had multiple negative effects on women. The causal work opportunities that somehow helped women survive disappeared, leading to loss of income and livelihood opportunities and domestic chores. This loss of income and the increase in women’s chores around the home as they care for the family, without a parallel increase in income, has consequences on women’s mental health and wholesome wellbeing. As the economy of many countries shrinks due to coronavirus, the face of poverty is once again in the image of a woman.
Africa hosts more than 25.2 million refugees and internally displaced people with more than half being women and children. The chronic overcrowding characteristic of most refugee and IDP camps in Africa is already making it extremely difficult for people in those camps to adhere to social distancing and proper hygiene protocols essential for preventing COVID-19. The pandemic has exacerbated the precarious conditions that millions of women and girl refugees face every day.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
Despite the devastating impact of the coronavirus, women have remained resilient, they have stepped up their efforts to prevent the virus as well as to bring about peace and security. For instance, last year, when the COVID -19 was intense, Malian women reached out to my Office through their local Chapter of African Women Leadership Network (AWLN) for assistance in the peace process and to ensure more female representation in the government that was to be established. Although we were unable to carry out an onsite Solidarity Mission, we successfully held one virtually. In May 2021, also we held a successful virtual Solidarity Mission with the women of Mozambique at their invitation on the situation in Cabo Delgado.
As we meet today. Ethiopia is going through a profound crisis. It is the occasion to express our solidarity with the women and girls, who are facing the brunt of the ongoing conflict. We hope to organise a solidarity mission with the women and girls of Ethiopia in a near future.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentemen,
At the community level, women have not relented, they are taking up unique roles to prevent and mitigate the impact of the deadly coronavirus. They have taken actions to combat the spread of the virus in their communities, raised awareness to deal with misinformation about the vaccine and advocated for gender responsiveness in the government’s strategies of combating the virus among others. However, these efforts are hugely undermined by the low numbers of women occupying formal leadership roles in the lead institutions of addressing the pandemic.
There is an urgent need to scale up efforts to ensure women’s voices are heard including by tracking WPS efforts by our member states. This is why my office continues to work in proximity with the Member States and Regional Economic Communities to monitor and report on the implementation of the PS Agenda in Africa. On September 22 and 23 we held a virtual meeting with 22 of 30 member states that have adopted an action plan on WPS. Discussions focused on the progress made by member states in the implementation of the agenda, despite the constraints posed by the coronavirus. Among the outcomes of this virtual meeting was the need to upscale member states’ capacity to monitor and report using the CRF. This was followed by in-country support to the Central Africa Republic and Sierra Leone. As we speak, we are conducting a Training of trainers on the use of the Continental Results Framework (CRF), in partnership with the Kofi Annan International and Centres of Excellence to enhance the capacity of national WPS focal persons to render the annual report systematic, evidence-based and action-oriented.
At the global level, Africa was honoured through the Republic of Kenya to lead the Open Debate of the United Nations Security Council on WPS on 26 October 2021, with an emphasis on the need to invest more in women’s participation in peacekeeping and peacebuilding processes.
At this juncture, I wish to recognize the increased commitment from Member States that have adopted NAPS to monitor and report on the implementation of the WPS Agenda. I wish also to salute the unwavering support of the Chairperson of the Commission, H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, who continues to champion the call for an acceleration in the delivery of commitments. Allow me also to express our profound gratitude to our partners who are accompanying the WPS Agenda in Africa. We deeply value the support of Norway, the USA, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Canada and UN Agencies.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
On Thursday 25th November 2021, as the world marked the beginning of the sixteen days of activism on violence against women and girls, Africa showed once more that we are at the vanguard of advancing the WPS Agenda. Indeed His Excellency President Felix Tshisekedi, president of the Democratic Republic of Congo and AU Chairperson, hosted the First Men’s Summit on Positive Masculinity toward ending violence against women and girls in Africa. With the outcome to work towards an African Convention to eliminate VAWG, Africa is indeed showing the way in fulfilling the promise of a secure and inclusive continent.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As I end my remarks, I wish to offer some reflections and recommendations on ensuring that women’s needs and leadership are engrained in the ongoing efforts toward post-COVID-19 reconstruction;
- I believe you will agree with me that gender responsiveness and women’s leadership in planning and rolling out vaccine distribution needs to reach everyone, especially those most marginalized, who many times are women.
- I appeal to our Member States with the support of partners to redouble efforts in structuring women’s role in peace and security and to provide sustainable funding for their activities.
- I call for enhanced support to AWLN solidarity missions and the deployment of FemWise mediators to support the Member States in conflict and/or in transition.
- I urge that sex-disaggregated data be a standard practice in our national, regional, and continental policy formulation. This is one way to ensure the unique concerns of women and girls are taken into consideration in the bid to build back better.
- I urge Member States to provide more resources for the full implementation of the CRF, passed by this council in 2018 is crucial. These efforts will only succeed and be sustained if we strengthen and institutionalize the Office of the Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security, with an established structure that is adequately resourced with human and financial resources.
I thank you for your kind attention.