AS the African Development Bank (AfDB) plans to transform the state of gender parity on the African continent, a new strategy has been developed to ensure that economic opportunities, social progress and participation in decision making are gender inclusive.
This came up at a two-day regional consultative meeting on the Bank Group Strategy 2013 to 2017 that ended in Kigali on Tuesday.
The meeting, which was organised by the AfDB Centre, attracted government and private officials from over ten African States.
The Bank Group Gender Strategy 2013-2017 focuses on strategic areas based on the state of Gender Equality in Africa.
According Ginette-Ursule Yoman, the Division Manager Gender and Social Development Monitoring Division at the AfDB, the bank wants to establish a clear link between gender and development in its operations.
"The bank wants to customise its interventions in the three selected strategic areas to consolidate technical credibility and strengthen gender mainstreaming. The bank also wants to consolidate internally this corporate responsibility, promote advocacy, agree on challenges, identify pertinent solutions and work together," she stated.
Some of the challenges highlighted by participants were: lack of accurate baseline data for informing capacity strengthening on gender.
Participants also underscored the lack of comprehensive political will on the part of most governments among member countries to fully support gender mechanisms.
They further noted the lack of independent gender oversight bodies making it difficult to monitor and evaluate gender activities. They also cited the huge misunderstanding of the concept of gender issues.
Participants want AfDB to support Civil Society Organisations and independent bodies to hold government accountable and encourage member countries to demonstrate political will and commitment as a basis to increase aid and support.
Teshaye Guluma from Ethiopia said AfDB should support the development of clear and comprehensive national gender policies and use these as guidelines to respond to capacity building requests from countries.
Yoman said the gender strategy is to contribute to the vision of the AfDB's 2013/2022 long term strategy by supporting Africa's transformation through an inclusive growth by supporting the drivers of stronger, more equitable growth, opportunity and economic integration.
Meanwhile, during the opening of the meeting, participants noted that despite economic and political gains witnessed in many African states, gender equality is still under looked in many parts which may prove a challenge to overall development.
Yoman said knowledge on the welfare of women especially in rural Africa as well as capacity to empower them is still too low and must be improved.
"African countries must improve results reporting on gender equality, and our priority at AfDB is to assist member states to develop gender statistics to strengthen their capacity to empower all women," Yoman said.
"There is also need to pick examples and learn from other African countries such as Rwanda, Tunisia and Botswana that have registered tremendous steps in fighting gender inequalities."
Mack C. Mulbah, a Liberian investor, argued that governments and private initiatives must draw clear budgetary allocations for the promotion of gender equality.
"In many African countries, young girls do not benefit from initiatives like universal education, and this is because government officials take it for granted. If distinct strategies and finances are specifically allocated, the private sector should be called upon to act," Mulbah said.
Achilles Ndyalusa, a Tanzanian official, said increasing access of services to women especially in the agricultural sector will help to level the field for both men and women regarding economic opportunities.
The acting Director of the Gender Policy Development Unit at the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, Judith Kazaire, observed that although many governments have the tools and laws to improve gender equality, they lack the political will to do so.
"The reason why Rwanda is recognised as model in empowering women is because it has the political will to follow up on laid objectives. In some other countries, despite their resources and laws, issues that affect women like family succession and land ownership are ignored. This must change and it has to start from the top most leadership," Kazaire said.