As the 2014 session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women got under way today, the head of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) spotlighted the agency's joint efforts with the World Bank to address the multidimensional challenges that women and girls face in Africa's Great Lakes and Sahel regions.
"These two regions are similar because they represent the future of Africa, you see young people everywhere, vibrant, wanting to make a difference in their own lives, the lives of their communities and in the lives of their countries," said UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin in an interview with the UN News Centre ahead of a high-level panel discussion on "Gender-Based Violence in the Great Lakes and Population Dynamics in the Sahel Region."
The CSW is scheduled to feature Dr. Osotimehin, as well as several officials from sub-Saharan countries: Antonin Dossou, Minister for the Evaluation of Public Policies and Denationalisation Programmes of Benin, Genevieve Inagosi, Minister of Gender, Family and Child of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Maikibi Kadidiatou Dandobi, Minister of Population, Promotion of Women and Protection of Children of Niger, and Trina S. Haque, Sector Manager for World Bank Health, Nutrition and Population in West and Central Africa.
In his interview with UN News Centre, Dr. Osotimehin said: "When you look at the two regions, one of the things that I believe is common, is the issue of the adolescent girl who is not going to school, who is not being empowered, who doesn't have access to skills, education or the ability to be able to determine who she wants to be."
The World Bank/UNFPA special focus on women's empowerment in sub-Saharan Africa was born following a 2013 historic trip to Africa by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group. The purpose of the trip - in which Dr. Osotimehin took part - was "to send a signal that peace and security must go with development."
The purpose of the trip - in which Dr. Osotimehin took part - was "to send a signal that peace and security must go with development," and "the World Bank saw an opportunity in investing in women and young people. An additional 1 billion dollars was invested in the region by the Bank. We came back very enthusiastic, exhilarated about those possibilities."
It was very disturbing to notice that great degree of gender-based violence, often related to the conflict in the eastern part of DRC, he continued, adding that the officials felt that "if girls go to and stay in school, and if they are able to learn about sexual and reproductive health, and if they are able to make choices, then we can actually stop a lot of that gender-based violence."
"Going forward we also want to make sure "girls and boys have access to skills, entrepreneurship training and the ability to secure jobs and start businesses themselves," said Dr. Osotimehin. UNFPA is in consultations with the Bank to take this forward. "This is the first time that this is happening."