Amsterdam, the Netherlands – “Africa has noted that despite positive achievements registered recently in decision-making, women, as the largest proportion of our population; still remain vulnerable, at-risk and impoverished”, according to the African Union. 2015 marks the African Union Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Agenda 2063.
AWEPA asked the Chair of the AWEPA Section in the European Parliament, Hon. Bodil Valero to give her insights on the progress achieved over the past years towards empowering women and fostering development, as well as her vision and ideas for the future.
Women, Peace and Security: What is your opinion on the progress achieved in this field over the past years?
Too little progress has been achieved in this field. Resolution 1325 has not had sufficient impact and the number of women in decision making positions is still too low. Much more needs to be done in order to make progress, we need concrete action plans and more political will to include women and their perspectives.
How do you envisage the role of Women Parliamentarians in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (post 2015) in Africa?
Women play a key role; women usually tend to think more about issues such as education and health than men do. If women are to make a difference, they first of all need to obtain seats in the parliaments, today there is a deficit of women parliamentarians in many African countries. It is also essential to ensure the parliaments role and capacity to control and influence the national budgets. In this regard, women parliamentarians need to play an active role, it is with the budget one can make a real change.
What concrete steps can be taken to empower women in African parliaments and what changes do you wish to see in the future?
As a first step, it could be good to adopt quota systems to increase women´s representation in the parliaments. Secondly, education especially targeting women parliamentarians is needed. It would also be good to increase exchange programmes with women from other countries, for example, I believe women in European parliaments can share ideas and ways of working with African women parliamentarians. It is also crucial to enhance the cooperation between women in African parliaments, for instance, to share the good examples from those countries where women have a big influence.
AWEPA is actively involved in empowering women, having worked to strengthen the capacity of women parliamentarians in law-making, representation and oversight, for a number of years. AWEPA’s overall objectives have been to enable women parliamentarians to participate effectively in parliamentary work and in the pursuit of peace, national unity, and reconciliation; to increase the level of gender-sensitivity in all parliamentary business; and to enhance the visibility of women parliamentarians whilst promoting gender-awareness in society.
These objectives have led to a number of concrete activities and actions across AWEPA’s various programmes. These include AWEPA’s work in South Sudan to strengthen the role of women parliamentarians in conflict prevention with particular focus on resolving inter-ethnic conflicts, as well as the Mozambique Programme, where AWEPA has worked extensively with women MPs.
AWEPA has also set up the Network of Women Parliamentarians of Central Africa (or Réseau de Femmes Parlementaires d’Afrique Centrale – RFPAC), an all-women parliamentarian platform from across 10 Central Africa that gathers at least once a year.
Moreover, AWEPA has been conducting trainings aimed at strengthening the knowledge base and skills at both individual and peer level of the Somali women Parliamentarians, in the framework of the AWEPA “Supporting Legislative Institutions in Somalia” Programme.