UN Women's work in Africa focuses on enhancing public accountability to gender equality and women's human rights. UN Women supports women's leadership in democratic governance and peace building, and promotes the transformation of policy processes to reduce women's poverty, end violence against women and address HIV and AIDS.
National Poverty Reduction plans are key entry points to address women’s economic needs. In 2008, UNIFEM (now UN Women) partnered with governments in Burundi, Cape Verde, Liberia and Rwanda to integrate a gender perspective into national strategies. In Liberia, UNIFEM (now UN Women) supported consultations that resulted in the inclusion of women’s economic empowerment, leadership, literacy, and ending gender-based violence in the poverty strategy.
In Mozambique, work on gender responsive budgeting helped to address gender equality gaps in the country’s poverty reduction strategy. Following the call by women’s organizations to prioritize ending violence against women in the strategic plan as key to addressing gender inequality, funds were provided to create facilities for victims of domestic violence in police stations in all 129 districts. Public expenditure related to health and violence against women is now tracked by applying a gender perspective. Analysis of the Health and Interior Ministries Budgets indicate an increase from US$ 15,000 in 2006 to an expected US$ 51,000 in 2009, for gender related actions.
In Côte d’Ivoire, the National Survey on the Living Conditions of Households, conducted by the National Institute of Statistics with support from UNIFEM (now UN Women), was the first to integrate a gender dimension in an effort to provide quantitative evidence on specific inequalities faced by women. The household survey covered education, health, agricultural work, security and participation of women, and its results have informed the country’s poverty reduction strategy. For example, to boost gender parity in education, increasing facilities for girls in primary schools along with awareness building for parents is planned. Similarly, support will be provided to self-employment initiatives in agro-industrial settings to reduce women’s unemployment rates.
In Sudan, UNIFEM (now UN Women) has partnered with the UN Mission in Darfur, the local police and tribal leaders in training women in refugee camps to protect themselves from sexual violence. The women receive information on where to seek medical support and about safety measures, such as walking together in groups or carrying a whistle to use in case of attacks. Targeted outreach to men, mentoring them on becoming champions for the protection of women’s human rights, is also underway. The UN Women-supported initiatives have resulted in the establishment of Child and Family Units in police stations and the recruitment of 500 female police officers for Southern Darfur.
In Burundi, significant progress was made when the traditional judicial institution for conflict resolution, the Bashingantahe, amended its Charter to allow for the effective involvement of women. UNIFEM (now UN Women) supported the sensitization of the Bashingantahe on women’s rights and its role in addressing violence against women. For the first time, women are admitted to participate in judicial decisions and now constitute 40 percent of the judges in each session. A direct outcome has been an increase in cases of sexual violence heard by the Bashingantahe: more women are now willing to break the silence on violence and report cases of abuse.
Together with UN partners and civil society organizations, including HIV-positive women’s groups, UNIFEM (now UN Women) supported the integration of gender equality priorities in the Nigerian National Strategic Framework for HIV and AIDS 2005-2009. UN Women and its partners have since put in place a Gender Manager to focus on gender equality priorities within the National Agency for the Control of AIDS. In Rwanda, UNIFEM (now UN Women) supported the Association Rwandaise des Conseillers en Traumatisme (ARCT Ruhuka) to provide HIV and trauma counselling, and to empower women victims of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). ARCT Ruhuka has adopted a training manual for peer educators, and, in 2008, 30 community health providers received training on basic trauma counselling, including SGBV and HIV risks.
In Ghana, UNIFEM (now UN Women) enhanced the participation and leadership of women living with HIV and AIDS through a gender and HIV and AIDS assessment, conducted by the UN, the Society for Women and AIDS in Africa, the Ghana AIDS Commission and the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs. The assessment will feed into national policies and programmes on HIV and AIDS. In Sierra Leone, UNIFEM (now UN Women) collaborated with Action-Aid and UNAIDS to launch a national network of women living with HIV and AIDS. The network is already using skills acquired through UNIFEM (now UN Women) training sessions to advocate for improved access to care and support services.
In Kenya, UN Women is working with the Human Rights Commission and other organizations to influence the integration of gender concerns in the constitutional reform agenda that is underway. In Sudan’s Khartoum and Northern States, electoral law analysis is being used to build public awareness of and commitment to defend women’s rights in the electoral process, ahead of the 2010 presidential and parliamentary elections. A mechanism through which civil society can collectively engage to monitor laws and action plans and work with the government to counter sexual and gender-based violence has been established in Madagascar.
At the sub-regional level, strategic alliances have been forged with partners such as the Network of West African Religious Leaders for promoting gender equality and to fight negative traditional and cultural beliefs. The Network has already formulated a three-year Action Plan with clear goals for gender equality, good governance, women’s economic security and rights and ending violence against women.
For more than a decade, UNIFEM (now UN Women) has supported women’s participation in Sudan’s drawn-out conflict resolution process. Women leaders from the North, South and Darfur have convened at the donor conferences on Sudan, held in Norway in 2005 and 2008, to develop a common agenda and action plan.
Partnering with UNIFEM (now UN Women), the Rwanda Defense Forces embarked on a campaign to train several thousand military officers to understand, help prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, UNIFEM (now UN Women) backed women’s activists during two years of intensive lobbying that resulted in a Constitution guaranteeing women’s full participation in peacebuilding.
In Sierra Leone, UNIFEM (now UN Women) provided training for commissioners and senior staff of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to help them respond to the needs and concerns of women. The commissioners subsequently made special provisions to encourage the collection of testimonies on sexual violence, including a witness protection programme and trauma counselling services. UNIFEM (now UN Women) also assisted women’s groups in their efforts to help women come forward and to address the medical needs of rape victims.
In Liberia, the first post-conflict country to have a National Action Plan on UN Security Counicl resolution 1325, efforts are focused on making use of specific indicators that will measure its implementation and ensure that women are included in the reconstruction of the country. UN Women has also supported consultations for the formulation of National Action Plans on SCR 1325 in other post-conflict countries in Africa, including Burundi.
UNIFEM (now UN Women) worked with women across the region to ensure that the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, ratified in 2005, reflected CEDAW’s standards. UNIFEM (now UN Women) also supported the International Association of Women Judges to provide training for judges and work toward the domestication of CEDAW.
In Sierra Leone, UNIFEM (now UN Women) worked with partners to bring the country’s laws in line with the Convention, resulting in the passing of three bills on women’s rights in 2007, including legislation on domestic violence, marriage and inheritance. Following CEDAW workshops in Cameroon, participating lawyers are now citing the Convention in court.