As the General Assembly meets to consider Africa’s development needs, gender experts are coming together at a United Nations-backed forum spotlighting the continent’s women, who are a vital part of efforts to achieve the global anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
“For millions of African women, hunger, violence, exclusion and discrimination are their everyday realities,” the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) – the lead agency for the forum – said in a news release.
A recent survey by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) evaluated government performance regarding their commitments to gender equality and women’s human rights. While African governments score high in terms of developing policies, they were found lacking in actual implementation.
Today’s forum will examine a range of issues affecting the plight of African women, including chronic poverty, lack of access to education and health services, HIV/AIDS and their participation in decision-making processes.
African women represent the largest demographic segment affected by HIV/AIDS, constituting 58 per cent of the 25 million Africans infected by the disease.
In addition, while they are the backbone of the informal economy, especially in the agricultural sector, African women lack access to productive resources, including credit, land, and technical and support services.
The gathering will urge governments and donors to make the empowerment of women and gender equality priorities to ensure real progress on the continent, particularly towards achieving the MDGs. The Secretary-General noted in a recent report that at the midpoint in the global campaign, Africa remains “off track” in its quest to achieve the Goals.
Participating in today’s meeting are representatives of Member States, donor countries, regional institutions, private sector and civil society groups.