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NEPAD and AU Last update: 2020-11-27  

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NEPAD Reluctance to Address Gender Issues

4. Analysing NEPAD: Gender Fade Away
Having now set out the desirable planning logic which NEPAD ought to follow, how well does NEPAD follow this logic in the area of gender issues? Let us look at the above seven headings again, now to look at main aspects of the adequacy of the treatment of gender issues within NEPAD. This present section will look at the first six headings (i.e. from Situation Analysis through to Objectives), and the following Section 5 will look at the adequacy of the proposed NEPAD Management System.

Situation Analysis. (This is to be found in the NEPAD sections on Africa in Today’s World, The Historical Impoverishment of a Continent, and Africa and the Global Revolution.) Here there is no mention of a single gender issue. In terms of logical coherence, how can NEPAD be proposing to address gender issues when none were even mentioned in the situation analysis set out in the introductory sections?

Policy Imperatives. The main NEPAD document has a very weak and unsatisfactory policy statement concerned with ‘promoting the role of women in development’, but this has now been bolstered with the supplementary NEPAD Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance. This is more in line with the similar text of the Constitutive Act of the African Union. This Declaration includes the principle that

… it is a binding obligation to ensure that women have every opportunity to contribute in terms of full equality to political and socio-economic development in all our countries. (Article 11).

This same Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance also reaffirms (at Articles 3 and 4) its allegiance to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Beijing Declaration, and the OAU African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. This latter document includes the following principles:

Every individual shall be entitled of the rights and freedoms recognised and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction on any kind such as …sex …(Article 2)

Every individual shall be equal before the law. Every individual shall be entitled to equal protection of the law. (Article 3)

The state shall ensure the elimination of every discrimination against women and ensure the protection of the rights of the women and the child as stipulated in international declarations and conventions. (Article 18.3)
Problem Identification. Given the very serious situation of women’s oppression and marginalisation summarised in Section 2 of this paper, then clearly the above principles should have comprehensive and serious implication for the recognition of priority gender issues which ought to be a primary focus for NEPAD action. Given NEPAD’s own declared interest in good governance, democracy and human rights, one might be entitled to expect a priority interest in identifying and removing instances of legalised discrimination in law (both statutory and customary). However, NEPAD does not identify any specific gender issues that need to be addressed. After the Situation Analysis, which does not mention gender issues, NEPAD moves straight from Policy Principles to Goals. There is no identification of the focus of problems to be addressed, except insofar as these are implicit within the Situation Analysis or the Goals.

Goals (under the NEPAD heading of Sustainable Development in the 21st Century). Despite the fine expression of gender principles, NEPAD’s expression of gender goals is very vague and lacking. There is an overall ‘long term objective’ to ‘promote the role of women in all activities’ , which is vague to the point of meaninglessness. There is a ‘goal’ to ‘make progress towards gender equality and empowering women by eliminating gender disparities in the enrolment in primary and secondary education by 2005’.

This latter goal of ‘gender equality and empowering women’ is not merely a goal, but also includes the intervention strategy of more schooling for women. There is no explanation of how the intervention relates to the goal, let alone the relevance of this strategy in societies where women are up against barriers of legalized discrimination.

From the earlier expression of fine principles, the goals have faded away to almost nothing, with no observable logical connection. Completely missing from the goals is any intention to increase women’s representation in parliament, government and top decision making positions. This is despite clear commitments both in the African Platform (para. 105f) and in the Beijing Platform (para.182) which endorses the UN Economic and Social Council guideline of 30% women in top decision making positions

Intervention Strategies (to be found in the NEPAD sections on Conditions for Sustainable Development and Sectoral Priorities). Here there is absolutely no gender element suggested in any of the three ‘initiatives’ on Peace and Security, Democracy and Political Governance or Economic and Corporate Governance. But since NEPAD identified no gender issues or goals in these areas, perhaps it is not surprising that NEPAD can now find no strategies – since there are no issues to address, and no goals to pursue!

Obviously the authors of NEPAD have not referred to the Beijing Platform for Action, which at para 190 and 191 lists no less than nineteen alternative strategies that can be used to increase the proportion of women in decision making positions in politics and economic governance. One of these suggested strategies asks governments to ‘Take positive action to build a critical mass of women leaders, executives and managers in strategic decision making positions.’ Another strategy is concerned with ‘Taking measures, including … in electoral systems, that encourage political parties to integrate women in elective and non-elective positions in the same proportion and at the same levels as men’.

The only NEPAD Goal which is gender oriented (para 68) provided an intervention strategy for closing gender gaps in school enrolment. But when we look under the Education strategies (para 120-125) we find that this intervention strategy has gone missing – there are no objectives nor activities with which to implement the strategy.

Without going further with this analysis, it is clear that the NEPAD interest in gender issues has now entirely evaporated. What started out with fine statements of principles of gender equality has now faded away to nothing.

NEPAD is better understood as being in the category of empty lip-service to principles of gender equality. In principle NEPAD is much in favour of equal rights for women, but in practice it proposes almost nothing in the form of action to realise these principles. Absolutely nothing is proposed in the areas of democracy, good governance and human rights, which are not only crucial for women’s advancement, but which are supposed to be NEPAD’s priority area of interest! NEPAD’s introductory statements on gender equality therefore prove to be nothing more than window dressing, lip service and hot air. They are not followed by any identification of the gender issues in these areas, let alone the formulation of goals and objectives to address gender issues in these areas.

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