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NEPAD and gender

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Background papers > NEPAD and gender


Women have been a major force in socio-economic development in all communities throughout history, acting as agents for change and providing the framework for the evolution of societies, even where their decision-making power was limited or covert. During the last century women across the globe have made great strides. They have thrown off the shackles of patriarchy that previously dominated many cultures and are increasingly claiming equality (albeit with varying degrees of success) in the political, economic, corporate and social arenas.

Africa's poor developmental record in the post-colonial era has been underscored by the continued marginalization of women in all spheres of life. Rural African women continue to be the poorest of the poor and are often totally excluded from the market economy. Male control of resources and power is still entrenched at home, in government and at work. Despite lip-service to the idea that they are essential contributors to sustainable socio-economic development, African women are seriously underrepresented at the highest levels of politics and business, and are thus excluded from the corridors of decision-making power.

Through the New Partnership for Africa's Economic Development (Nepad), hailed as an Africa-led and African-owned initiative, our leaders have committed themselves to good governance and poverty eradication. The experience of other developing regions has shown that successful development is predicated on the active involvement of all sectors of civil society, and that women play a particularly crucial role in this regard.

In spite of this, the formal Nepad document makes scant reference to the role of women and the initiative has received criticism from civil society groups for its strong focus on private-sector partnerships, an arena where women are already marginalized. The Nepad Secretariat's creation of an Office of Gender and Civil Society Organisations in October 2004, is a most welcome development. However, the fact that it comes a full three years after the Nepad initiative was formally launched, does raise questions about the prioritisation of women and their interests by Nepad.

This paper examines Nepad as it has evolved over the past three years, using a gender lens to determine the extent to which it involves women at all levels, with a view to identifying opportunities for women's participation and providing some strategic recommendations for enhancing their involvement in the various Nepad initiatives.

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