Cablegate: Usau: April 9-11 African Union Consultative

R 070623Z JUL 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. SUMMARY: From April 9-11 the African Union (AU)
Consultative Meeting on Women and Gender met in Addis Ababa
to review a framework paper to be subsequently endorsed by
the AU Council of Ministers as the definitive AU statement on
gender policy and gender mainstreaming. Subsequent to the
meeting the Women Gender and Development Directorate (WGDD)
decided to postpone presentation of the policy from July
until the January 2009 AU Summit to allow for refining the
document. Deliberations at the ministerial level are
scheduled for August. The draft document, as a statement of
principles outlining the cross-cutting problems facing women
in Africa, is a coherent document, although implementation of
the articulated principles remains illusive, as does
mainstreaming women's and gender issues into other foci of
national, regional and AU policy commitments. The document
shows clearly that the AU's member states and the various
regional entities aligned with the AU have different policies
and priorities when it comes to mainstreaming women's issues,
and that the variance of attitudes and approaches makes
agreement on a single policy and approach difficult. END


2. The driving concept for the Consultative Meeting on Women
and Gender is the need to "mainstream" gender issues in all
entities, policies, and programs of the African Union
Commission (AUC), and to integrate the same concepts in the
programs of AU member states. Noting that of the poor of
Africa, sixty percent are women, that gender discrimination
in education is widespread, and that women face socially
sanctioned violence, the participants underlined that the
African Union's (AU) Constitutive Act and its Statutes
mandate the AU ensure the mainstreaming of gender in all
programs and activities, with a view to empowering women and
bringing them into the economic development paradigms of the
continent. Given the mandate, the AU created a Women Gender
and Development Directorate (WGDD) under the Office of the
Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) to be the
implementing arm of the AUC for gender issues. In practical
terms this means the WDGG reports to the Chairperson of the
Commission, not to the Commissioner for Social Affairs,
although the Commissioner for Social Affairs takes an active
interest in gender issues.

3. The WGDD, prior to drafting the framework paper under
discussion, held regional meetings, completed a Gender Audit,
and developed a Five-Year Gender Mainstreaming Strategic Plan
(GMSP). In collaboration with the UNIDEP it piloted courses
on gender responsive economic policy and produced a handbook
of best practices in mainstreaming gender. The First AU
Conference of Ministers in Charge of Women's Affairs and
Gender, meeting in Dakar in October 2005, adopted reporting
guidelines for gender issues. The first draft gender policy
was prepared in 2007. Because it failed to address certain
critical issues and provide a framework, a redrafted policy
paper, the subject of discussion at the April 9-11 meeting,
was prepared.


4. The draft gender policy document sets the target date of
2015 for inserting gender issues in all AUC organs. It also
couches gender equality in the greater context of human
rights. However, the WGWW faces an uphill battle to obtain
adoption of the policy, as the regional economic communities
(RECs) as well as individual countries, have disparate
approaches and a plethora of cultural practices and legal
provisions that impact directly on women's rights. One of
the first step forward is engaging with RECs and individual
states to develop a common understanding on gender issues,
and subsequently to begin the process of building capacity to
implement programs that address gender issues. Ironically,
the disparity of practice and attitudes toward gender is
evident in the various Commissions and organizations within
the AUC and the AU itself. Political will, capacity
building, legislative action, civil society involvement and
resource mobilization are all essential components for
progress toward gender equality.

5. Among the provisions incorporated in the draft AU Gender
Policy Document is that the AUC Chairperson will give an
annual report to the Heads of State at the Summit on progress
with gender mainstreaming and women's empowerment. In
addition, the Commissioner will ensure that the AUC, its
institutions and its organs adopt a common strategy for
promoting women's empowerment. Further, the Commissioner
will work with all institutions and organs to develop a
regional gender action program for funding, will hold
managers accountable for its implementation and will
establish sanctions for non-compliance.

6. COMMENT: The Adoption of an African Union Gender Policy,
when it comes, will be a significant step forward. The women
who participated in the Consultative Meeting do not
underestimate the task that lies ahead, first in gaining
endorsement for the policy, and then in implementing it. One
encouraging dynamic during the meeting was the almost
universal recognition that mainstreaming gender issues
involves making visible women's roles in the full range of
economic and social activities, an approach that is
predicated on building alliances rather than tackling
adversaries. END COMMENT.


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