The adoption of a new global development framework provides the international community with an opportunity to achieve gender equality and women's empowerment.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in late September provides essential targets and goals that seek to position gender equality and women's empowerment at the centre of the global agenda.
During the UNGA, world leaders committed to promote peace and tolerance and implement strategies to improve women's status, strengthen gender e quality policies, eliminate gender disparities in education and reduce female unemployment.
They also committed to implementing a plan on ending gender-based violence, guiding efforts on women's rights, and aligning national laws with international commitments.
In his statement at the 70th UN Summit held in New York, African Union chairperson, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, said the promotion of gender equality is critical for the realization of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
He further noted that gender equality and women empowerment are central to the achievement of human development saying, "We must continue to build upon the achievements that have been realized since the 1995 Fourth United Nations Conference on Women and the Beijing Declaration and its Platform for Action."
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking at the gender summit held on the side-lines of the UN General Assembly, said the world cannot achieve sustainable development without full and equal rights for half of the world's population, in law and in practice.
In this regard, Ki-moon called on world leaders to create and implement coherent gender equality policies, provide financing for gender equality and monitor progress of this cause.
The gender summit held under the theme "A Commitment to Action", aimed at building support, consensus and renewed political commitment, at the highest possible levelfor the full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was adopted at the Fourth World Women's Conference in 1995 to address the fundamental principles of the rights of women and girls.
The Platform for Action was adopted with the aim of achieving greater equality and opportunities for women.
Since the adoption of the platform for action in 1995 significant progress has been made towards achieving 50/50 gender equality in the world.
According to statistics provided by UN Women, most developing countries have made remarkable progress in achieving gender parity in primary education and at least 50 percent of women are in paid wage and salary employment.
The number of women in parliament has nearly doubled in the last 20 years.
However, southern Africa has experienced mixed performance in terms of facilitating gender parity in key decision-making positions, and more action is needed if the region is to achieve gender equality.
According to the SADC Gender Monitor 2013 released during the 33rd SADC Summit held in Malawi, performance in promoting participation of women in decision-making structures has been mixed across the region.
The publication shows that representation of women in the Lower House of Parliament ranges from more than 40 percent in Seychelles and South Africa to around 10 percent in Botswana and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Average SADC representation by women in parliament was 25.8 percent as of mid-2013, marginally up from 20.6 percent in 2005 and 23 percent in 2011, but still short of the 50 percent target.
The achievement of 50:50 by 2015 remains a major challenge in all SADC Member States. According to the report, women are under-represented at all levels of decision-making in the public and private sectors -- in cabinets, parliaments, local government leadership, central government, central committees of political parties, private sector boards and management, and non-government sectors, special public service committees and other institutions in SADC Member States.
The challenges range from cultural and social to economic and political factors that make it difficult for women to climb to the top echelons of government and related institutions, private sector and non-governmental organisations.
Access to decision-making by women is hindered by gender-insensitive electoral policies, lack of resources, and prevailing gender stereotypes based on customs and traditions are among the factors that impede progress for equal representation by women and men.