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A decade ago, African women had reason to expect change following a much-heralded global conference that set ambitious targets to transform the lives of women across the world.

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This year marks the 10th anniversary of that milestone event, the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, China, in Like their counterparts elsewhere, African women are taking stock of progress and asking to what extent promised reforms have been implemented. They are also examining why progress has been limited in many countries and are seeking ways to overcome the obstacles. There have been moves to implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women CEDAWa UN protocol, as well as the development of new policies and guidelines and creation of networks of gender experts, she said, citing just a few examples.

Mayanja told the delegates, who came from countries. In Africa specifically, women have made ificant strides in the political arena over the past few years. The continental political body, the African Union AUtook a major step by promoting gender parity in its top decision-making positions. In five women and five men were elected as AU commissioners.

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The following year, Ms. African women have also successfully promoted agreements that advance their rights. And in activists succeeded in persuading their he of state to adopt a protocol on the rights of women. They are now lobbying states to take the final step and ratify the protocol to make it enforceable see box, 9. For example, she says, the primary development policies in many countries, known as poverty reduction strategies, still do not take into differences in income and power between men and women, hampering efforts to finance programmes that reduce inequality. In addition, she says, the majority of African women are still denied education and employment, and have limited opportunities in trade, industry and government.

Out of the conference emerged a plan, the Beijing Platform of Action, which laid out areas that needed improvement if the position of women was to be improved. The areas include reducing poverty among women, stopping violence, providing access to education and health care and reducing economic and political inequality.

Barring some notable exceptions, progress in these areas has been slow. The Beijing platform should no longer be viewed as a set of simple goals and aspirations, says Ms. Hassan, but must be used as a tool to push for the adoption of gender-sensitive policies. For many Wells area submissive female wanted badly women, the Beijing platform and the various international instruments their governments have ed have yet to translate into positive changes in their daily lives. They remain at the bottom of the Wells area submissive female wanted badly hierarchy, with poor access to land, credit, health and education.

While some of the agreements that African governments have ratified enshrine property and inheritance rights, in most countries women are denied those very rights. She finds it disturbing that 10 years after Beijing, African women are much poorer. Between andthe of people living in poverty dropped in all developing regions except Africa, where it increased by more than 82 million. Women make up the majority of the poor, as much as 70 per cent in some countries. More often than not, men are more likely to find a job and enterprises run by men have easier access to support from institutions such as banks.

When they do, their holdings tend to be smaller and less fertile than those of men. Studies also show that if women farmers had the same access to inputs and training as males, overall yields could be raised by between 10 and 20 per cent. But perhaps the most inhibiting factor is that women in Africa continue to be denied an education, often the only ticket out of poverty. Disparities between girls and boys start in primary school and the differences widen up through the entire educational system.

In total enrolment in primary education, Africa registered the highest relative increase among regions during the last decade. But given the low proportion of girls being enrolled, the continent is still far from the goal of attaining intake parity by the end of this year. Bysub-Saharan Africa was the region with the most girls out of school, 23 million, up from 20 million a decade earlier.

The total of children out of school has declined during the last decade. Between andworldwide enrolment in primary education increased from million to million, with the highest increase occurring in sub-Saharan Africa, which recorded a 38 per cent rise. Policies specifically targeting girls were responsible for considerable improvements in countries such as Benin, Botswana, the Gambia, Guinea, Lesotho, Mauritania and Namibia. In Benin, for instance, the gender gap narrowed from 32 to 22 per cent, thanks to policies such as sensitizing parents through the media and reducing school fees for girls in public primary schools in rural areas.

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Therefore an effective method of ensuring gender parity is to equalize the gender balance among teachers, a strategy Mauritania used to narrow the gender gap in primary schools from 13 to 4 per cent between and After assessing the challenges faced by girls in schools, the government embarked on programmes to build latrines, assist pregnant students, distribute free textbooks and increase the of female teachers. But in general, Africa has the lowest proportion of female teachers of any region.

Numerous other hurdles continue to hamper the expansion of education in Africa. Austerity programmes introduced in many countries during the s constrained educational spending.

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Governments had little money to maintain existing schools or build new ones. At the family level, households that became poorer often faced the stark choice of deciding whom to send to school — and often it was the girl who stayed home. By the time children go through high school and reach college, the gender gap has become even wider. As with a range of other historically male-dominated subjects, an International Labour Organization ILO survey shows that women are starkly underrepresented in technical programmes in African colleges.

The share of women enrolled in polytechnic courses ranges from 40 per cent in the Gambia to just 2 per cent in Zambia, the ILO reports. In Ghana, even though 30 per cent of all those attending polytechnics are women, only 1 per cent of the total taking technical courses are women. Africa, however, has registered improvements in adult literacy rates, which rose 20 per cent between and The goal is to raise adult literacy rates by 50 per cent byfrom the level. However, in some countries the female illiteracy rates are much higher than the regional average of about 50 per cent.

Many now acknowledge that to enable women to escape poverty, development policies should place more emphasis on their contributions to the economy. Even though women make up a ificant proportion of the economically active population, their contribution is not fully recorded because they are mainly engaged in family farming or in the informal sector. In other cases, what they do, such as household work, is not considered an economic activity. But while they do most of the work, they lack access to markets and credit.

In Uganda, women make up 53 per cent of the labour force, but only sell 11 per cent of the cash crops. This makes it difficult to identify disparities between the sexes and de remedial policies. To redress the bias in macroeconomic policies that favours men and boys at the expense of women and girls, a of African countries have adopted a tool known as gender budgeting see Africa RecoveryApril Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda are among the countries currently assessing their budgets along gender lines.

This involves analyzing government spending choices and their impact on women and men, boys and girls, with the aim of better identifying disparities. That in turn can help mobilize more financing to narrow the gaps, for example by funding programmes to reduce the heavy time burdens on women or by improving their access to energy, water, transport and labour-saving technologies. Almost all SADC countries have a national government body that deals with gender issues.

However, women in some countries in Southern Africa have moved into positions of political influence. In South Africa and Mozambique, for example, women Wells area submissive female wanted badly 30 per cent of the seats in parliament. In February Wells area submissive female wanted badly, Mozambique became the first country in the region to appoint a woman as prime minister, Ms.

Luisa Diogo. In Rwanda, women lead the world in representation in national parliaments. There, 49 per cent of parliamentarians are female, far more than the 30 per cent target specified in Beijing. The world average is just 15 per cent. In 14 of 23 recent elections in African countries, women increased their parliamentary representation. Still, the situation is far from ideal. In the majority of these countries 20women hold 10 per cent or less of parliamentary seats. In Madagascar, Mauritania and Niger, for example, they occupy less than 5 per cent of seats.

In some countries, the presence of women in parliament has made a difference in the adoption of gender-sensitive policies. Because of pressure from women, some countries now have affirmative action policies, such as quotas, to increase the of women in decision-making positions. In South Africa, women parliamentarians succeeded in passing various pieces of legislation, such as those legalizing abortion, countering domestic violence and ensuring child support. In Uganda, women parliamentarians helped to adopt legislation making rape a capital offence. Infollowing a long delay, Mozambique passed a family law considered pivotal for the emancipation of women in that country.

Lidia Brito. We are no longer seeking promises, but are demanding action.

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