Dr Priscilla Achakpa is the executive director of the Women Environmental Programme (WEP), one of 6 regional women and gender networks implementing the Women2030 project aimed at gender mainstreaming in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals across the world
Your organisation is one of 6 regional organisations working around gender mainstreaming in the implementation of the SDGs across the globe. How has it been trying to entrench women’s participation in the implementation of the Global Goals in the African region?
I will say it is a little bit challenging because first of all, Africa is a very big and diverse region with 53 countries and diversity of languages, cultures and religions but of course we have been leveraging the opportunities presented by global conferences like the United Nations Environment Assembly, which we just concluded at Nairobi and where we had a great number of Africa women from all over the continent in attendance, to make headways.
So, during such conferences we try to organize ourselves and make a case regarding issues that concern Africa in the negotiations where we usually have parties (member states) from Africa attending. We articulate our stance on issues through positions papers in respect of how these global treaties affect Africa ensuring our interests are strongly captured in the negotiations.
We again leverage the opportunity presented to us by such forums to present our issues during each of the sessions which also affords us with the chance to advocate to our [African] member states that usually have official representatives at such meetings to take into cognizance the issues of gender, youth and children. We specifically ask them to consider peculiar issues that concern individual African countries or the region as a whole, when they are signing such treaties.
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Again, if there are treaties we object to we do tell them we don’t want African states to sign on to them. No one can do this alone as such we mobilize African women groups and sensitize them on the importance of specific issues to us in Africa like that of the indigenous people and communities so they can advocate for them at such meetings. At the end, we come up with position papers detailing the positions we want our member states to take during negotiations.
How important is gender mainstreaming to the success of the SDGs in Africa?
Gender mainstreaming is very critical to the success of the SDGs in Africa, I was part of the negotiations of the SDGs starting from the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) held in 2012 at Rio de Janeiro where it was agreed that we needed to come up with another development framework for the coming 15 years.
So, it began with the Open Working Group (OWG) which was tasked with preparing a proposal on the SDGs and which had a gender dimension to it. Again, considering Agenda 2063 of the African Union which also has a gender dimension, there is no way the issue of gender mainstreaming will not feature prominently in the implementation of the SDGs, even though ours is a male dominated continent, when it comes to governance.
Therefore, we are trying to systematically advocate to our leaders to understand why gender issues are very critical and especially because they have all signed on to the SDGs and goal 5 of the SDGs specifically talks about gender equality and women’s empowerment. As such, integrating gender into our development agenda is a very important issue. Although I will say it is a slow process we strongly believe we shall get there!
Like you said, Africa is a male-dominated society, any success stories and headways thus far, despite the challenges?
I will say we have some countries in Africa that have made giant strides like Rwanda where you will find that sometimes women representation in the parliament is up to 50%; even though there is this argument that it has to do with the fact that a significant number of Rwanda’s young men were killed during the Rwandan genocide, which made it easier for women to achieve fairer representation in governance.
There are also countries like Kenya and South Africa which are also coming up very strongly in terms of gender mainstreaming, and a few other African countries. It is rather unfortunate that Nigeria is still not anywhere close to these countries which might not be unconnected with violent conflicts around election processes which limits women’s participation in electoral politics. There is also the issue of money politics and ‘god-fatherism’ which again hinders women’s participation in politics.