It is the first time the biennial Global Gender Summit is hosted by an African country. It attracted different leaders from across the continent including the President of Ethiopia, Sahle-Work Zewde, former Malawian President Joyce Banda, African Development Bank President (AfDB) Dr. Akinwumi Adesina and other high ranking dignitaries.
Rwanda’s First Lady Mrs. Jeannette Kagame, Kenya’s First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, and African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat attended the opening ceremony.
“Women are our mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters…..whenever women gain, everybody gains, and nobody loses,” said President Kagame
President Kagame said that being a man in a position of leadership, at any level, means never having to think about your gender, but being a woman leader means always having to think about how gender impacts your work.
“I think it is past time for men to become much more conscious of gender, so that women can afford to enjoy the same freedom, to just get on with a business that men take for granted,” he said.
President Kagame announced the start of the annual Sixteen Days of Activism campaign, which he urged the audience to make use of.
On his part, the AfDB President Dr. Adesina commended President Kagame and the First Lady Mrs. Kagame for being at the forefront of the fight for gender equality and empowerment of women, adding that the reason President Kagame is often regarded as a very successful leader is that he has a great partner.
“The challenges are not about gender, the challenges are about under-representation and lack of empowerment for women, period,” Dr. Adesina said, urging the summit to focus on issues that affect women directly, not just looking at the numbers of gender parity.
“Let us focus on women, let us focus on solutions for the gender disparities we see, that affect women,” he said, adding that women are winners and life-givers.
Dr. Adesina said that research has shown that when women are given the incentives, they deliver better than women, wondering why women, who are bearers of life, are denied access to basic services such as inheriting a land.
He said that for many centuries, women have been subjected to discrimination when it comes to accessing basic services such as financial services yet records show that women are better managers of resources when given the opportunity.
Dr. Adesina said that Africa must end all forms of child marriage and sexual violence which affects women.
“To the men, hear me clearly: leave our girls alone. Marry your own age mates. We cannot sacrifice the future of our girls…let our girls stay in school. Let our girls thrive. Let our girls excel,” he said.
On her part, President Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia highlighted the milestones her country has registered over the years, pointing out that the country has come from a very low base and today 50 percent of the cabinet is made up of women. She added that women occupy high ranking positions in government as well, including hers.
She pointed out that for the first time in Ethiopia’s history, women in the cabinet have been trusted with posts such as defence and security.
“The work has just started, not finished….there is a gap we have to fill. We have to have women filling middle-level leadership positions as well,”
“There is so much collective wisdom on this continent. Women working together are a formidable force to be reckoned with,” President Zewde said, adding that women have proved that they can deliver and that there is no template to follow.