Published: Tuesday, 09 March 2021

“Women are the force, the brain and the wisdom” – Acting President

-PAP pays tribute to women’s role in the fight against COVID-19-

The Pan-African Parliament (PAP) has lauded the efforts of women and girls in Africa in creating a more equal future and recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, as women such as healthcare workers, caregivers and innovators are on the frontlines responding to the pandemic. The tribute was paid on the occasion of a virtual celebration of International Women’s Day hosted by the legislative arm of the African Union (AU).

This year’s commemoration was held under the theme: “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” Joined by other AU organs, United Nations institutions and civil society organisations, the virtual celebration provided a platform for Women Parliamentarians to present and report about women, in particular in Africa, on consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event also ignited a conversation on responses to uphold women’s rights and to fully harness the potential of women’s leadership in pandemic preparedness and response.

Hon. Chief Fortune Charumbira, Acting President of the PAP, said that women have been the most model and effective leaders in responding to this pandemic. Hon. Charumbira added that women’s role is even more commendable considering that they have borne the brunt of this pandemic, as the lockdown regulations in force in the world, specifically in most African countries, have given a rise to a shadow pandemic of violence against Women and Girls as first victims and poverty due to the loss of daily incomes.

“Women are the force, the brain and wisdom behind our capacity to rise as a people and face the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. They have demonstrated their resilience throughout this period. This is precisely why Parliamentarians and Government must bring women leaders on board by creating an infrastructure and allocate resources to enable them to fulfil their professional aspiration, family, and social responsibility. As the PAP, we call upon Member states of the AU to adequately respond to the increase in violence against women specifically during pandemics such as the COVID-19,” says Hon. Charumbira.

Hon. Pemmy Majodina (Ms.) from South Africa said that women deserve praise for their ability to strike a balance between their marital and professional responsibilities especially in the context of Covid-19. This further shows that women’s expertise and leadership are needed in solving Africa’s problems. She said: “We are encouraged by the progress made in terms of inclusion of women in some decision-making spheres. However, the coronavirus pandemic has exposed deep rooted inequalities that necessitate urgent and concrete actions to ensure a level playing field. Women have been significantly affected but they remain the backbone of this fight and the catalyst of the recovery process.”

Hon. Shitaye Minale Tizazu (Mrs.) from Ethiopia called on an enhanced collaboration between men and women in advancing the women’s agenda at continental level. She believes that men need to be part of the conversation as they hold the key to unlocking the full potential of women.

“As the roll-out of vaccine programmes begin around Africa, women need to be given priority as they have been on the frontlines as nurses, doctors and family caregivers. The conversation also requires that we look beyond the empowerment element and reflect on women and girls in rural areas who still lack basic assistance and have suffered the most from the consequences of the pandemic.”

Speaking on behalf of the Acting Director of the Women, Gender and Development Directorate ((WGDD) of the African Union Commission (AUC), Ms. IIwad Elmi Mohamed provided an overview The African Union strategy on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) 2018-2028 which was launched during the AU Summit in February 2019. The strategy is based on an inclusive and multisectoral approach and builds on the lessons learned from the 2009 gender policy.

“It is transformational in that its outcomes aim to mitigate, if not eliminate the major constraints hindering gender equality and women’s empowerment, so that women and girls may participate fully in economic activities, political affairs and social endeavours.” Ms. Mohamed concluded.