Women Deliver 2023: Leaders discuss gender equality challenges and way forward

By Jane Babirye
On 18 July 2023 at 01:53

Leaders attending the Women Deliver Conference 2023 (WD2023) have discussed challenges surrounding gender equality and emphasized the need to break stereotypes that limit access to equal rights and opportunities.

The official opening of the Women Deliver Conference 2023 took place at BK Arena in Kigali, Rwanda on Monday, July 17th.

The conference, held under the theme "Spaces, Solidarity, and Solutions," has brought together approximately 6,000 delegates from around the world in person, with an additional 200,000 participants joining online.

Prominent leaders who attended the conference include President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, President Macky Sall of Senegal, President Katalin Novak of Hungary, and Sahle Work of Ethiopia.

Dignitaries including the First Lady of Rwanda, Jeannette Kagame; First Lady of Namibia, Monica Geigos; representatives from UN agencies; and the Prime Minister of Uganda, Robinah Nabbanja, were also present.

The Women Deliver Conference serves as a platform to advance the pursuit of gender equality and find solutions to the challenges faced by women. The first day of the conference featured engaging discussions and panel sessions on various topics related to gender equality.

President Kagame, who officially opened the conference as the guest of honor, acknowledged that significant progress has been made in closing the gap between women and men in terms of opportunities and achievements.

However, he emphasized that women continue to face vulnerability and injustice, often being employed in the informal sector or expected to provide unpaid labor.

Additionally, certain political movements have exacerbated gender inequalities, necessitating further efforts to challenge biased attitudes entrenched in political, social, and economic systems.

The Head of State underscored that much more remains to be done to tackle bias attitudes about gender which are deeply embedded in ‘political, social, and economic systems’.

“All of us share the responsibility to play an active role in changing these negative mindsets,” he noted.

During a panel discussion moderated by Femi Oke, a British TV presenter and news anchor for CNN International World Weather Service, leaders explored issues such as restricted access to education and sexual rights for girls and women, the impact of conflicts on women and children, and gender-based violence.

The panel featured prominent figures like Shabana Basij Rasikh from Afghanistan and founder of the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA), President Sahle Work of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia, Dr. Natalia Kanem of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), President Katalin Novak of Hungary, and President Macky Sall of Senegal.

President Novak, as the first female president of Hungary, emphasized the importance of allowing women and girls to have a say in determining their own path, rather than being forced to choose between motherhood and their profession.

President Sall of Senegal underscored the significance of supporting women and urged a shift in the mindset that perceives women and men as unequal. He further stressed the need to treat women with dignity, stating that a society that fails to respect women is a society in decline.

Phumzle Mlambo, Women Deliver Board Chairperson, acknowledged that the world is currently facing multiple crises, including climate change, racism, and homophobia.

Urging immediate action, she emphasized the importance of standing together and supporting one another.

Sima Bahous, Executive Director of UN Women, reflected on the objectives of the conference and highlighted the main challenges facing women worldwide, such as sexual harassment, discrimination, and limited sexual and reproductive health rights.

She also recognized Africa as the continent with the youngest population, holding the potential for the future, and called upon everyone to embrace the responsibility of driving change.

The event was also attended by representatives from civil society, government representatives, private sectors, women-led organizations, youth-led organizations, and LGBTQIA organizations, all united in advancing women’s rights globally.

The official opening of the Women Deliver Conference 2023 took place at BK Arena in Kigali.