Kenya: Ministers Call for Stronger Women Leadership in COVID-19 Fight

Africa's female Foreign Affairs ministers ask AU to mainstream gender in its Covid-19 strategies

Female Foreign Affairs ministers across Africa have called for increased gender perspectives and women leadership in the continent's strategy against Covid-19.

In a communique released after a virtual meeting between Foreign Affairs ministers of eight African countries including Kenya, the ministers challenged the African Union (AU) to mainstream gender perspectives in its strategies, calling for specific measures focusing on women and girls in ensuring their rights, safety and wellbeing are protected.

The leaders also asked countries to reinforce women's platforms such as the African Women Leaders Network and the Network of African Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation to address the gaps that lead to invisibility and disenfranchisement of women, girls, youth and children.

"We urge member States to strengthen the leadership and meaningful participation of women in governance in communities, civil society organisations, business sector, media, research community and academia in all decision-making processes to ensure ownership of solutions and outcomes," the communique read in part.

"Such mechanisms will enable them promote continental and global collaboration and partnership for the visibility and advancement of gender equality and women empowerment in the context of the Covid-19 crisis," it added.

FINANCIAL SHOCKS

With more than 111,942 coronavirus cases being reported across Africa, the leaders noted that women are more likely to suffer the most as a majority hold precarious jobs, which are often the first to be lost during financial shocks.

"We acknowledge that during this crisis, women are at the forefront, caring for their families and communities, and working in both the formal and informal sector, providing essential services and placing their own lives and health at risk," the communique reads.

Due to lockdowns and curfew regulations in individual countries, many people are staring at job losses, which will result to a higher rate of poverty.

The women expressed concern over the devastating effects the pandemic will have on health systems, peace and stability, economies, livelihoods and the wellbeing of women and girls.

They called on AU member States and its stakeholders to invest in more gender responsive health systems.

"This includes strengthening preventive and community-based health infrastructures as well as building capacity for the production of medicines and medical equipment," said the statement.

Countries have further been urged to provide practical support to parents, including, how to manage their mental health and tools support their children's learning. The leaders noted the need for additional measures to help household caregivers, women and girls with disabilities.

"Include women and girls' needs and priorities in social assistance, address care work and unpaid care and ensure economic stimulus and budgets target women-specific livelihoods," they stated.

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