UNECA chief warns of rising burden of instability on women in Africa

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ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA - APRIL 10: Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) makes a speech during a commemoration ceremony for the 21 UN employees, who lost their lives in the plane crash in Ethiopia on March 10, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on April 10, 2019. (Photo by Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), at a past event. (Photo by Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

African countries cannot afford to ignore the rising burden emanating from the lack of peace and security that is greatly affecting women across the continent, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UN-ECA), Vera Songwe, stressed on Monday.

The ECA chief made the remarks on Monday while addressing a gender equality-themed high-level meeting that was held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa as part of the continental movement “Gender is my Agenda Campaign (GIMAC).”

“Every time guns go off in Africa it is the girl child who suffers and stops going to school. Women die in their numbers and conflict-related sexual abuses go up,” Songwe told the continental consultative meeting.

Songwe further stressed that African countries that are presently in active conflicts, such as Somalia, South Sudan and Burundi, have “alarming figures of rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, enforced sterilization, forced marriages and other forms of sexual violence.”

“Across the continent, high-pitched volumes of guns consistently continued to silence women’s voices, depriving them of human dignity on unprecedented levels,” she added.

The ECA Executive Secretary also stressed that “women can help improve Africa’s economic growth exponentially and that growth can in turn help Africa’s women as we seek to close the gender economic gap.”

Songwe, however, stressed that the current situation of women in across the continent “will not materialize with figures showing for example that over 200,000 women have been raped since the second Congo War. We need to silence the guns now.”

According to Songwe, the adoption “Silencing the Guns: Creating a Conducive Environment for Africa’s Development” as this year’s theme of the African continent as well as the imminent 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) is “an indication of the continent’s commitment to peace and security as a crucial ingredient to socio economic development.”

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