The East African Community yesterday joined the rest of the world in marking the 2019 International Women’s Day under the theme, Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change. The 8th March 2019 event was held at the EAC Headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.
As provided for in Articles 121 and 122 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC, Partner States have undertaken various efforts to enhance the Role of Women in Business and Socio-Economic Development.
The chief guest at the event, Executive Secretary of the African Union – Advisory Board on Corruption, Mrs. Charity Nchimunya noted that the day is significant as it provides a platform to address various matters that affect women such as inequality and human rights abuse.
“At this occasion, we want to celebrate women all over the world, women who have made a difference in their communities, societies and countries. It is often said that ‘if you educate a girl, you educate a village, if you empower a girl, you empower a while community,’ and we see this in the various communities that we live in”, added the Executive Director.
The Executive Director noted that the 2019 International Women’s Day focused on innovating ways in which gender equality and the empowerment of women can be advanced particularly in with regard to social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure.
Representing the EAC Secretary General, Amb Liberat Mfumukeko, Director of Productive Sector, Ms. Mary Makoffu noted that the EAC is implementing various programmes aimed at empowering women in the EAC region.
“There are various programmes being implemented by the Partner States, and many others which have been initiated women organizations, as well as by civil society organizations which are initiated by both men and women. We must remember that if we do not change with Technology, technology will change us”, noted the Director.
She added that the world economy today is largely driven by the ICT sector and in a bid to catch up, the EAC, together with COMESA and ECOWA are implementing the 50 Million African Women Speak Platform. The platform is geared towards creating a dynamic networking Digital Platform for women entrepreneurs.
The Platform will enable women to connect with one another in ways that will foster peer-to-peer learning, knowledge exchange/transfer, mentoring and the sharing of information and knowledge within communities, and provide them with access to trade finance and market opportunities between urban and rural areas, and across borders and between countries.
In addition, the Platform will enable women to develop market intelligence skills to stay abreast of business development trends within their contexts, regionally and globally to ensure sustainability of their businesses.
On her part, the EAC-Giz Programme, Dr. Kirsten Foken, noted that the EAC-Giz Programme has been keen on supporting women who trade across borders within the region. “Giz has supported the development of various guidelines and handbooks for women on trade in the region, however I feel this is not enough, we need to encourage more women to take on information technology and devise innovative ways that addresses various needs of women and the community as a whole trough technology,” added Dr. Foken
The commemoration of the International Women’s Day at the EAC Headquarters included discussions on the role and opportunities for women in the Tourism and Forex industries, women at the forefront of sustainability (water, food and energy), development and use of a mobile platform on maternal health in the EAC, as well as access to financial services. In addition, the event incorporated free Breast Cancer Screening
The EAC Partner States recognise that women make a significant contribution towards the process of economic transformation and sustainable growth and that it is impossible to implement effective programmes for the economic and social development of the Partner States without the full participation of women.
To this end, the EAC has put the inclusion of women and girls at the centre of development programmes with Partner States ensuring affirmative action, constitutional and legal reforms, development of national gender policies; institutional mechanisms for implementation and accountability; economic empowerment measures, and sector-specific policies.
The EAC Secretariat is therefore committed to have a Community where women can participate as equal partners, decision makers, and beneficiaries in the development of their societies.
The International Women’s Day is held annually on March 8 to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. It is also known as the United Nations (UN) Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace. The UN drew global attention to women’s concerns in 1975 by calling for an International Women’s Year.