The Speaker of Parliament, Donatille Mukabalisa, has called for greater efforts in pushing for gender equality on the African continent specifically in the area of agriculture which is the source of livelihood for most people on the continent.
Mukabalisa said this in Kigali yesterday while officially opening a learning exchange that will see the representatives from 15 countries to discuss gender equality and investments in agriculture and food security.
Participants are drawn from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) network of parliamentarians, the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), civil society, and women land rights experts.
Mukabalisa told the MPs that the three-day discussions should focus on critical issues and propose strategies aimed at mainstreaming gender equality and food security on the continent.
She called for more cooperation in supporting women to generate faster growth for themselves and their families.
"67 per cent of women in our country are involved in subsistence agriculture, but only 33 per cent are into market-oriented agriculture. They need skills to use technology in order to create economic opportunities, reduce food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty in general, and generate faster growth as well," she said.
Long way ahead
Mukabalisa pointed out that while African governments, as well as regional and sub-regional organisations have over the years made significant commitments, regarding women and women rights, there were still cultural and mindset barriers.
"This gender inequality has a negative impact on the economy and sustainable development on our continent," she said.
The Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, Dr Gualbert Gbehounou, commended Rwanda for what it is has achieved in terms of gender equality.
"It is well known worldwide that Rwanda has made commendable progress in gender equality and women's empowerment by putting in place legal and policy frameworks to enforce women's rights in agriculture, food security and nutrition. That choice is eloquent and well thought out given the achievements," he said.
He, however, pointed out that in the four years since world leaders agreed on the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, little has been achieved regarding SDG 1 and 2 that aim at eradicating poverty, hunger and malnutrition as well as the SDG target of eliminating gender based discrimination.
"We are all frustrated and concerned that hunger is on the rise, poverty affects almost half of the world population and progress to combat climate change is slow. In 2017, nearly 821 million people did not get enough to eat and two billion people suffer micronutrient deficiencies, a hidden form of hunger due to malnutrition," he said.
He pointed out that women would have been instrumental in changing the status quo but challenges abound.
"Women would even be contributing much more had it not been for the multiple constraints they are confronted with which limit their capacity to contribute to their full potential in agricultural production, economic growth and development," he said.
The Deputy Secretary-General in charge of the Productive and Social Sectors at the East African Community, Christophe Bazivamo, said that it was time to deliver on the promise made to commit 10 per cent of the national budgets to agriculture.
"Our countries have agreed on promoting women in agriculture. In the Malabo Declaration, they agreed to put at least 10 per cent in agriculture and that is in the pipeline.
"What we are now looking forward to is availing this money. There is a difference between budgeting for it and actually giving it to those it was planned for," he said.
The exchange is expected to end on Thursday.