The African Union has declared 2017 as the year of youth with the theme “Harnessing the demographic dividend through investment in youth.” The 29th session of the Gender is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC), held on 22-23 January in Addis Ababa, brought to light the intersectional experiences of Africa’s young women. As the AU Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security and President of Femme Africa Solidarite, Mme Bineta Diop, said in her opening address,
“We need to address the barriers that prevent young women from fully participating in peace and development initiatives. We need to widen the table.”
The GIMAC Pre-Summit Consultative is held annually before the African Union Heads of State Summit. It is hosted by the GIMAC network which consists of more than 55 civil society organisations promoting gender equality and accountability for women’s rights in Africa and the Diaspora. The outcome document of the meeting, including recommendations, were presented before Member States during the Gender Pre-Summit on 24-25 January.
During the 2-day meeting participants and GIMAC members reiterated that it is not possible to empower young women without taking into account the wider contexts in which women evolve, without addressing the power structures that subordinate women on the societal level and without eliminating the harmful traditional practices that create and environment in which unequal treatment is acceptable.
At the international level, the United Nations (UN) Security Council has adopted seven resolutions on women, peace and security (WPS). Yet the role and inclusion of young women is still considered an optional, second at best and not a fundamental prerequisite to any prospective peace, sustainable security and development. During a panel on “agency of youth towards sustainable peace”, Fatima Askira, Executive Director of Borno Women Development in Nigeria, said young women were often treated as recipients of assistance rather than key actors in development programmes.
In 2015 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security. It is the first resolution to recognise the important contribution of youth in peace and security. The youth, peace and security agenda aims to complement and reinforce the WPS agenda by acknowledging and supporting the work of young peacebuilders helping raise the role of young women and men for peace and stability, reminding decision-makers of the role of civil society in sustaining peace.
The young women present at GIMAC had a clear message: the time has come to recognise the role that young women play in building inclusive peace and collectively in the improvement of human security.
“We don’t want any more reports or any more figures about the state of women in Africa. We need action,” Hendrica Okondo of the World Young Women’s Christian Association (WYWCA) said.
Work on gender, peace and security is an important focus of the LPI work throughout its programming. The latest issue of the Horn of Africa Bulletin aims to contribute to the current discussions on gender, peace and security. Download it here and subscribe to the Horn of Africa Bulletin here.