During the plenary session titled, "Challenges and opportunities arising in achieving inclusive growth and prosperity for all," Zimbabwe's minister of women's affairs, gender and community development - Nysasha Chikwinya - said women constitute over 51% of Africa's population and that her government has been smart enough to understand that involving women in politics and decision-making is crucial for achieving the SDGs.
"In Zimbabwe our constitution provides for 50-50 representation of women in politics and decision-making as a tool to realize gender equality. We are proud to have taken this bold step to empower women in Zimbabwe, and I trust there are many other countries that have done better. Those that have not should realize that without this important tool Agendas 2030 and 2063 cannot be fully realized."
Ms. Chikwinya said more than half of African farmers are rural women who don't understand most of the issues around climate change and mitigation measures, stating, "we need a sound and robust education program for women so that they can consciously participate in these programs."
The point on empowering women was supported by Ugandan minister of state for gender, labour and social development - Mutuuzo Peace Regis- who said her government is heading the right direction as "42% of our parliamentarians are women."
The Ugandan minister also said her government has focused enough resources towards empowering youth, given that "78% of our population is under age 35." Ms. Regis credited her government for educational policy that has led to a "drop in illiteracy rate from 32% to 24% in just 10 years," adding that one of the many other efforts by her government to 'leave no one behind' as per the SDGs is a "social assistance grant program for persons above 65 of age."
Other panelists included high-level delegates from Egypt, Mauritania, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, Botswana, and the AU Commissioner for Economic Affairs - who all highlighted successes made in the context of the SDGs and Agenda 2063.
There was a general view, however, that a lot still needs to be done in areas such as youth unemployment, girls' education and bridging gender gaps, reviving local economies, putting in place solid financial instruments, and investing in statistics.
The session was moderated by Fatima Denton, Director of ECA's Special Initiative Division, and chaired by Seleshi Awulachew, Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity - who urged governments to align the Agendas to their national development plans.
"Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030 originate from our respective countries and regions and therefore shouldn't be regarded as an imposition but rather as a co-creation, which should not be difficult to align with national development plans and implemented," said Mr. Awlachew.
It is expected that discussions during the two-day forum will result in a clear articulation of, and agreement on Africa's collective inputs in form of key messages to the 2017 High-Level Political Forum (HLPF).
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