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NEPAD and AU Last update: 2020-11-27  

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NEPAD Reluctance to Address Gender Issues

8. Conclusion: Towards Strategies of Action
The commitment to ‘ensure the elimination of every discrimination against women’ (African Charter, Article 18.3) has been with us since it was adopted by OAU member states in 1981 – twenty-one years ago. This commitment has awesome implications, and implies a massive reform of statutory law, customary law and administrative practice in every African country. It also implies the introduction of anti-discrimination legislation, to outlaw all practices that discriminate against women. What has been our progress since then? What have African governments done to end the discriminatory laws enacted and administered by themselves?

And does the formation of the African Union indicate a sudden seriousness to implement this principle of gender equality? Unfortunately, the analysis of this paper indicates that NEPAD and the African Union both clearly exhibit a continuation of exactly the same pattern, of expressing fine sounding principles which do not lead to any subsequent action. Nor do they lead to proposals for action, or the prospect of action, or even an administrative framework which might enable action.

It is hoped that the analysis of this paper will serve to dispel any foolish illusion that African governments, as presently constituted, are likely to pursue policies concerned with equal rights for women – irrespective of how much they claim to commit themselves to the principles of democracy, good governance and human rights, especially for the purpose of collecting donor funding.

If strategies of action for women’s rights are based on the benevolence and generosity of males, to voluntarily give away their present domination and privilege, then it is based on complete folly. Equal rights of oppressed peoples are never given; they always have to be taken.

Strategies of action have to be based on a proper and realistic assessment of the present situation, and the obstacles. It also has to be based on an assessment of the weakness in the position of those who hold power. This paper itself exposes one such weakness, in the ideological contradiction and hypocrisy of governments which claim to adhere to a particular set of democratic principles applicable to all, but actually do the opposite when their sectional interests are threatened.

Such understanding is the beginning of strategising. How does the women’s movement get together and challenge patriarchal government on particular issues? How can patriarchal government be pushed to international embarrassment by exposure of ideological contradiction between word and deed on women’s rights. Where are the more general issues, which lend themselves to a general African women’s coalition for action? Which are the issues where women, despite their socialisation into patriarchal belief, can nonetheless readily see that they are being discriminated against and oppressed? Where are the possibilities of North-South alliances within the sisterhood, for support from others who have already won some of these battles? Which are the development agencies, whether bilateral or NGO, which can be conscripted to the side of the battle for women’s rights? Can progress on women’s advancement be made a conditionality in granting development aid to patriarchal governments?

We need to discuss these strategic issues of patriarchal opposition, instead of basing our discussion on some starry eyed belief that men will voluntarily relinquish their privileges.

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