The Role of Women in African Development

Without gender equality, the African continent will not fulfill its remarkable potential for its people. 2015 saw gender equality enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals as well as the review of agreements seminal to women’s rights — including the Beijing Platform for Action and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325.

Action is yet needed to protect and further African women’s rights. 2016 calls upon the political courage of the continent’s leaders to rethink economic inclusivity and reinvigorate efforts on human rights. But it is a painful reality that there are 11 current armed conflicts in the African continent, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Within this context, violence against women and girls only escalates.

In 2016, governments mediating or supporting these discussions on peace, security, and development must insist on the meaningful participation of women as a condition of their involvement—this is a right, and a means to conflict resolution. The United Nations found that less than 4 percent of signatories to peace talks from 1992 to 2011 have been women; many peace negotiations in Africa are testament to this statistic.

In the medium term, progress on gender equality requires Africa’s economic growth to be shared by its women and girls. While GDP growth is expected to pick up to an average of 4.25 percent in 2016, the continent faces rising and extreme economic inequality. This is more concerning since, as recently found by the IMF, income inequality is strongly linked to gender inequality—as a cause, consequence, and solution. Government investment in public services that enable gender equality such as high quality education and health care is therefore essential, as is ensuring that economic policies are assessed for their impact on women and girls.