Home NewsNational Women Deliver 2023: “Follow Commitments with Actions”- President Kagame On Gender Equality

Women Deliver 2023: “Follow Commitments with Actions”- President Kagame On Gender Equality

by Edmund Kagire
11:22 pm

President Kagame speaks during the opening ceremoney of Women Deliver 2023. Photos/Moses Niyonzima/KT.

President Paul Kagame has called on the world to move from words and go into action towards building a more equitable world where women and men have the same opportunities.

The Head of State made the call on Monday at the opening of the Women Deliver 2023 Conference at BK Arena, bringing together over 6,000 delegates from diverse backgrounds and fields of expertise worldwide to advance gender equality.

Delivering his keynote address at the first Women Deliver conference to be held on the African continent, President Kagame said that while countries have made progress in closing the gender divide, women and girls across the world continue to face major challenges that affect their lives.

“In recent decades, there have been meaningful results in closing the gap between women and men, in terms of opportunity and achievement. Still, across the globe, women remain vulnerable to various forms of injustice,”

“We must challenge ourselves to do things differently, and with a sense of urgency. Commitments which are not followed by action, cannot fulfil our promise to build a more just, equitable, and prosperous future for the generations that follow us,” President Kagame said.

More than 6,000 delegates are attending the first Women Deliver conference to be held on the African continent.

The Head of State commended the organisers for choosing Rwanda to host the global meet, observing that gathering came at a time when unprecedented change and uncertainty are the order of the day.

Among other things, he said that millions of women continue to face challenges, including engaging in unpaid labour and other forms of unequal treatment that hold their progress back.

President Kagame pointed out that the inequalities have been exacerbated by some political pushback movements, in certain contexts, and at the same time women and girls have borne a disproportionate share of the burden, of the overlapping health, climate, and economic crises, which the world has faced over the past few years.

Long way to go.

He pointed out that recent studies showed that it could take more than a century to achieve gender equality targets, at current rates of progress, urging leaders to up the tempo if they must move from one step to another.

“Much more remains to be done, to tackle biased attitudes about gender, which are deeply embedded in our political, social, and economic systems. All of us share the responsibility to play an active role in changing these negative mindsets,” President Kagame said.

Talking about the country’s gender equality gains, President Kagame said that Rwanda has put in place an enabling environment for women to be equally represented in leadership positions, including in politics, and at all levels.

Delegates gathered at BK Arena for the opening ceremony.

“Our priorities are to advance gender equality across all sectors, especially digital and financial inclusion, and to continue challenging traditional gender norms,” he said.

He said that one of the key tools Rwanda has mainstreamed is the annual Gender Budget Statement, to ensure that public spending takes account of how budgetary decisions affect men and women differently.

He said the country invests in programs to engage men at the community level, about the importance of sharing childcare responsibilities, and preventing domestic violence.

“As the world rapidly evolves, we must join forces, to ensure that advances in technology work for all of us, rather than creating new sources of inequality,”

“Change is difficult and does not happen overnight. But together, with sustained effort, we can make a decisive difference,” President Kagame said before attending a high-level panel discussion on achieving gender equality priorities.

The panel discussion featured Presidents Macky Sall of Senegal, Katalin Novák of Hungary, Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia, Dr. Natalia Kanem Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund and Shabana Basij Rasikh, Founder of School of Leadership, Afghanistan.

A high-level panel discussion brought together participating leaders.

Women Deliver is a leading global advocate that champions gender equality and the sexual and reproductive health and rights of girls and women across the globe.

Earlier at an opening press conference, Dr. Maliha Khan, President and CEO of Women Deliver, said that the world needs to come together to address some of the challenges affecting women and girls, made worse by global crises and conflict.

“We’re facing enormous headwinds against gender equality, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and a growing anti-rights movement worldwide,”

“The only way we can push past them is if we double down on our efforts and work together. The time has come for us to unite against the global rollback of rights – change is inevitable, progress is not. We have to work at it.”

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Chair of the Women Deliver Board and former Deputy President of South Africa, said that the meeting comes at a time when the world is at crossroads, recovering from a few difficult years.

“Things can get better, or there is a high risk that they could become much worse. Not under our watch. Tomorrow has to be better than yesterday,”

“We are facing, right now, the challenge of the climate crisis. If we don’t stand up to it, we are doomed. We have to stand up and we have to do it now. We have conflicts in the world, we have racism in the world, we have homophobia in the world,” she said.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Chair of the Women Deliver Board and former Deputy President of South Africa, addresses the opening plenary.

“In all and many other challenges the world faces, women are on the wrong side. So, as we meet here in the coming days, we have to address these issues. We have an opportunity as sisters and brothers to discuss together the steps we have to take,”

Speaking on behalf of the United Nations Secretary General, Sima Bahous, Executive Director, UN Women, said that the landmark meeting held in Africa for the first time, also for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic, is an opportunity to ensure that the women’s rights movement grows from strength to strength.

“Women Deliver is the largest community of feminists of the women’s movement and its allies. It is indeed an unstoppable force. We are here because we believe in the power and imperative of gender equality,”

“We are here to celebrate and build on the women’s movement, to applaud those who have shattered glass ceilings and chart the path to shatter more and more,” Bahous said.

She pointed out that today there is a pushback against equality and women’s and girls’ rights, a regression in sexual and reproductive health rights, increased Gender-Based Violence, discrimination and deeply rooted misogyny, all of which must be addressed with urgency and renewed commitment.

Sima Bahous, Executive Director, UN Women, represented the UN Secretary General. She called for urgent action to tackle challenges affecting women and girls in the wake of global crises.

WD2023 has been co-created from its inception through the input of thousands of public insights via community consultation and an Advisory Group comprising 60+ representatives from all sectors, with 60% of participants representing feminist and gender equality organizations and entities in the Global South.

WD2023 is themed “Spaces, Solidarity, and Solutions” comprising 10 plenaries, 75 concurrent sessions, 12 skills-building workshops, 11 pre-conferences, 200 side events, 240 exhibition spaces, 55 Global Dialogue events, and nine Regional Convening Partner events.

The conference brings together the most powerful voices within the feminist community – from heads of state to grassroots activists and youth, to inspire, drive dialogue, and mobilize the collective into action to achieve true equality, rights and dignity for girls and women across the globe.

Key topics to be discussed in Kigali over the next three days include Gender equality in the era of multiple crises, the state of gender equality in Africa, sexual and reproductive health and rights, accountability of gender equality commitments and many other topics.

The First Lady, Mrs. Jeannette Kagame and the First Lady of Namibia, were in attendance.

Graca Machel and the First Lady of Namibia

Dr. Natalia Kanem Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund participated in the panel discussion.

President Katalin Novák of Hungary.

Shabana Basij Rasikh, Founder of School of Leadership, Afghanistan.

President Macky Sall reiterated President Kagame’s message of taking concrete actions on gender-related challenges that still hold Africa back.

President stresses a point.

Delegates enjoyed a showcase of the Rwandan tradition culture and dance.

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