July 16, 2003 The Second Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU), which took place in Maputo, Mozambique from 10 to 12 July 2003, was a successful milestone in the advancement of women’s rights in Africa.
Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS) welcomed the election of five women Commissioners to the African Union Commission, as well as the adoption of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa to the African Charter on Human Rights, and the Decision taken for the elaboration of an AU policy, declaration, strategy and management system on gender mainstreaming of the Commission of the African Union by the AU Gender Directorate.
The positive outcome of this Summit in terms of gender mainstreaming and women’s effective participation in the African Union was the culmination of three very important consultations among African Women’s Networks, from which were issued the Durban Declaration, the Dakar Strategy and the Maputo Declaration. The first declaration resulted in the adoption of a gender parity proposal in the AU Commission by the Heads of State and Government. The two which followed proposed further recommendations for the efficient implementation of gender mainstreaming and women’s effective participation in all programmes and structures of the African Union (AU) and its specialised mechanisms such as NEPAD, CSSDCA, and the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa. Some of the organizations included in these advocacy programmes were FAS, FEMNET, ACCORD, ALF, ABANTU, WILDAF, FDC, ACDHRS and Equality Now.
The five honorable women elected to the AU Commission were Mrs. Julia Dolly Joiner of Gambia, Mrs. Bience Philomina Gawanas of Namibia, Mrs. Saida Agrebi of Tunisia, Ms. Elisabeth Tankeu of Cameroon, and Ms. Rosebud Kurwijila of Tanzania. The women appointed to the AU Commission proved to have the utmost expertise in their respective areas, considerable experience working in the field, and to be highly reputable members of the African society.
Mrs. Joiner, who most recently served as Secretary General and Head of Civil Service for Gambia, holds degrees in international public administration, public policy, and management development, and was elected as Commissioner of Political Affairs.
Ms. Gawanas, who holds the post of Ombudswoman of the Republic of Namibia, was a founding member of Lawyers Against Apartheid in the United Kingdom, and holds an executive MBA in governance, ethics, and strategic management. Ms. Gawanas was elected to the position of Social Affairs Commissioner.
Ms. Tankeu served as Minister of Planning and Regional Development for the government of Cameroon, with the responsibility of executing the country’s national plan and financial analysis. She holds a degree in Economic Sciences from the University of Paris. She will serve as the Trade and Industry Commissioner.
Ms. Kurwijila, elected as Rural Economy and Agriculture Commissioner, is currently Programme Development Coordinator for ACTIONAID in Tanzania. She holds a master’s degree of science in agricultural economics of London University and has published numerous works on agriculture, women and water management.
Mrs. Agrebi will serve as the AU Commission’s Human Resources, Science and Technology Commissioner. Mrs. Agrebi holds a master’s degree in public health from Berkley University. Ms. Agrebi is also an active member of African civil society as president and founder of the Tunisian Mothers’ Association and is a member of the Tunisian Parliament.
FAS wishes to thank UNFPA, UNDP, UNHCR and the Governments of the Netherlands and Senegal for their support to FAS initiatives regarding gender mainstreaming in the African Union and NEPAD.
Femmes Africa Solidarité