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President Cyril Ramaphosa's remarks on the occasion of the Presidential High-Level Advocacy Breakfast, Gender Pre-Summit in Addis Ababa

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Your Excellency, Nana Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana,
Your Excellency, Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the AU Commission,
Deputy Executive Director of UN Women Ms. Asa Regner,
Your Excellency Madame Bineta Diop, AU Special Envoy on Women, Peace, and Security
Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection of the Republic of Ghana, the Hon. Lariba Zuweira Abudu,
Director of the Women, Gender and Youth Directorate of the AU Commission, Ms. Prudence Ngwenya,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to begin by thanking you, my brother, President Nana Akufo-Addo for convening this important engagement in your capacity as AU Gender Champion.

The 2021 Kinshasa Declaration commits us to provide the necessary resources to end violence against women and girls. The Circle of Champions will lead in amplifying this agenda across our continent.

The aim is to facilitate high-level strategic political engagement at Heads of State and Government level, and to drive accountability towards ending violence against women and girls.

South Africa wholly supports this critical platform. It is encouraging to see Heads of State responding positively to the call for more strategic collaboration to take this agenda forward.

We are grateful for the opportunity to work with successive A.U. chairs in this regard, namely H.E. President Felix Tshisikedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo and H.E. President Macky Sall of the Republic of Senegal.

The Circle of Champions is about firstly, foregrounding the role of male leadership in the agenda of Ending Violence Against Women and Girls across Africa.

Secondly, it is about taking forward the commitments made in the Kinshasa Declaration and foregrounding accountability for delivering on them.

For these reasons, the agenda must be driven at Head of State level.

Beyond being a persistent challenge across the region and the world, violence against women and girls undermines our efforts to realise the aspirations contained in the U.N.’s Agenda 2030 and the A.U.’s Agenda 2063; The Africa We Want.

Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls was a focus area during South Africa’s term as A.U. Chair in 2020.

Some of the high-level actions I identified at the plenary included:

·       A rapid review of discriminatory laws related to violence against women in all African countries,

·       The development and adoption of an A.U. Convention on Violence Against Women,

·       Advocacy for the ratification of ILO Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work, and

·       Women’s financial inclusion.

Of course, 2020 was the year the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, and we had to rapidly change gear to devote our attention to managing its fallout.

However, we did not let this pivotal issue fall by the wayside.

On reviewing discriminatory laws, through a partnership with the Center for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria, we conducted an initial literature review on laws that perpetuate violence against women and girls in the region.

This was followed by a more in-depth study covering twenty- five countries[1] across diverse geographic, linguistic, and legal systems in Africa.

This work will be an important foundation as we develop and adopt a Convention.

It provides updated information on the status of women’s rights, the status of violence against women in these countries and the legislation in place. It identifies gaps and makes recommendations on how to address them.

The development of an African Union Convention on Ending Violence Against Women and Girls is a priority that we need to move forward with collectively as the Circle of Champions.

Finding ways to engage with Heads of State in different sub-regions and in the respective fora in which we play leadership roles can contribute significantly to this process.

On ILO Convention 190, in December 2021, South Africa became the tenth member state of the ILO to ratify the Convention.

Making the world of work free of violence and harassment will unleash women’s potential and enable other vulnerable workers to enjoy safe and healthy work environments.

Through the Generation Equality Forum, South Africa advocated for preferential procurement and financial inclusion for women. We have introduced and are implementing our own policy that sets aside 40 per cent of public procurement spend for women-owned businesses.

As co-leader of the Action Coalition on Economic Justice and Rights, South Africa believes strongly that the Africa Continental Free Trade Area can play a significant role in closing the gender income gap and in creating opportunities for women-owned businesses.

Since South Africa advocated for adopting the Protocol on Women In Trade by the AU in December 2020, the AfCFTA Secretariat has made steady progress in developing a framework for women’s economic participation. 

Africa-wide consultations were held with women business owners and informal traders. This culminated in the regional conference on women in trade in Tanzania at the end of 2022. 

South Africa is encouraged by the progress that has been made in driving high-level actions across the region. We must build on these collectively.

Ratifying ILO Convention 190 is an integral part of realizing the vision of the current AU Decade on Financial and Economic Inclusion of Women.

It is encouraging that of the twenty-five countries globally that have ratified; six are in our region. Of the ten countries in which it is in force, four are in Africa. So, we hope to see the whole continent ratifying Convention 190.

The A.U. has embarked on a campaign across the region to shift social norms with respect to gender equality and violence against women and girls.

Addressing economic and political practices alongside social norms is critical. Moreover, it is key to understanding how history and current realities shape the manifestations of violence against women and girls in our societies.

Twenty-nine years ago, at the dawn of our democracy, President Nelson Mandela said:

“Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression. Our endeavors must be about the liberation of the woman, the emancipation of the man and the liberty of the child.”

The Circle of Champions brings together African leaders as a show of the highest political will towards ending the source of violence against women and girls. It is the first time this has happened on our continent.

As President Mandela rightly said, women's liberation must be at the centre of our endeavours to lay claim to being truly free societies.

As the Circle of Champions let us continue to learn from each other, support each other, and most importantly, hold ourselves and each other accountable for bringing about the change we want to see in the world.

I thank you.