Khartoum, Wednesday, February 28,2018: COMESA Ministers responsible for Gender and Social Affairs began their 10th meeting in Khartoum, Wednesday 28 February 2018. The objective of the two days meeting was to approve policy documents and received progress reports on the status of implementation of gender and youth empowerment programmes.

The ministers meeting follows that of the Technical Committee on gender held on 25 - 27 February 2018 to prepare progress report and policy recommendations for the Ministers endorsement and/or decision making.

Sudan’s State Minister of Social Security, Dr Ibrahim Adam Ibrahim opened the meeting. In his remarks, the Minister described gender inequality as a major challenge affecting the regional integration agenda.

"Women entrepreneurs continue to experience many gender–specific non-tariff barriers which limit their access to COMESA Market," he said noting that women’s full enjoyment of human rights and eradication of poverty were essential to the achievement of all internationally agreed development goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union Agenda 2063.

COMESA Assistant Secretary General programmes Dr Kipyego Cheluget informed the delegates that considerable progress has been made towards the implementation of the decisions, made by the COMESA Council of Ministers in Madagascar in October 2016.

Ambassador Cheluget appealed to the ministers to encourage their respective governments to sign and ratify the COMESA Social Charter. Since its approval in 2014, only three countries have signed; Madagascar, Mauritius and Malawi.

The Charter provides measures for the promotion of human and people’s rights and social development. They include: social protection; equal treatment for men and women; health protection; safety at the workplace as well as other social and cultural protections.

The COMESA Social Charter also seeks to promote closer cooperation among COMESA Member States in the social and cultural fields in line with article 143 of the COMESA Treaty.

The Charter shall enter into force when signed and ratified by at least 11 States. Therefore, Secretariat will continue conducting sensitization Missions to Member States who haven’t signed and ratify the COMESA Social Charter to encourage them to do so.

The two day ministerial meeting ends Thursday, March 1, 2018.