Leaders from various sectors of the society have committed to firmly advocate and push for a change to allow women and girls fully enjoy their human rights. At the just concluded 3rd edition of the Men’s Conference on Positive Masculinity convened in Pretoria, South Africa, African Union Heads of State and Government, adopted a Declaration recommitting to ensure the historical and structural drivers of violence against women and girls on the continent are identified and addressed in the economic, cultural, social and governance spheres.
The Declaration of the Heads of State and Government is informed by pre-consultations held leading to the Men’s Conference by various sectoral groups that reviewed the progress of implementation of existing mechanisms to address the scourge of violence, and made recommendations that would accelerate action to protect and promote the rights of women and girls. The pre-consultations included six different forums facilitated by the African Union for business and the private sector; traditional and religious leaders; academia; youth; civil society organizations; and women leaders who co-created solutions and recommendations to accelerate actions to create an environment for gender equality, women empowerment, and leadership in Africa.
The Men’s Conference on Positive Masculinity is a concept where the African Union is deliberately rallying the support of men who hold decision making positions across different spheres to be gender allies, not only to champion for change at family level, but also to become gender champions in their workspaces and eco-systems. Involving and engaging men in the fight to end VAWG has been proven to be a catalyst in the ending of the vice.
The Heads of State and Government have committed to take the lead to dismantle patriarchal systems that create inequalities, and to foster positive masculinity to rebuild the African social fabric through processes that heal and rehumanize individuals, institutions, leadership, and societies to embody the values of human dignity, equality, freedom, and self- determination. To achieve this, the leadership will provide the necessary resources to address violence against women and girls and ensure sustainability through national budgetary allocations and support African research for evidence-based interventions to end violence against women and girls and implementation of research findings and best practices of positive masculinity in Africa.
The African Union Assembly in February 2023 adopted a decision on the development of the AU Convention on Eliminating Violence against Women and Girls, cementing their commitment to sustainably address the vice through a home-grown continental legally binding framework. At the Pretoria conference, the Heads of State reiterated their support for the process of accelerating the elaboration of the African Union Convention on Ending Violence Against Women and Girls, capitalizing on the Circle of champions of Heads of State to mobilize a wider circle of male leaders in various spheres to drive action to end the scourge of violence, paying particular attention to intergenerational dialogues and engagement with young men and boys. The Chairperson of the African Union Commission will report annually to the Conference of Heads of State and Government on the implementation of the outcomes of the Men’s conferences on positive masculinity.
The implementation of these commitments equally aligns to the realization of the set outcomes for the Africa Decade for Women Financial and Economic Inclusion, focused on enhancing efforts to enable women’s economic power and address linkages between lack of economic and financial inclusion with women’s vulnerability to violence. The 3rd Men’s Conference was addressed by various leaders who committed to activate all avenues to enhance the participation and leadership of women in spheres of decision-making at all levels and all sectors of society to fulfill Africa Agenda 2063 promises of a people-centered continent.
Several Heads of State and Government addressed the meeting including, H.E. President Azali Assoumani, President- Comoros and 2023 AU Chairperson; H.E. Cyril Ramaphosa, President – South Africa; H.E. Sahle- Work Zewde, President -Ethiopia; H.E. Felix- Antoine Tshisekedi, President -Democratic Republic of Congo; H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President- Liberia and the African Women Leaders’ Network Patron; H.E. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, Former President – Mauritius; H.E. Catherine Samba- Panza, Former President – Central African Republic. The Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission H.E. Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa; Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa; H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Minister for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, South Africa, among others.