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The 2017 edition of the Sixth Annual Gender Pre-forum on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance took place in Lusaka, Zambia, Thursday, November 2, 2017 with a call on co-existence in enhancing the role of young women in governance.

Convened under the theme,” Building on Progress, Sustaining the Gains: Enhancing young Women’s participation in Political Processes,’ the three-day forum was organized by the African Union’s African Governance Architecture secretariat in collaboration with Women and Gender Development Directorate for the Africa Union Commission and supported by COMESA. The forum ran from 1st to 3rd November 2017. It had attracted women political leaders, young women aspiring for political offices and seasoned experts in Africa as participants. Others were from Civil society organizations, the academia and the media.

The Gender Pre-Forum is part of the preparatory meetings leading to the High-Level Dialogue on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance in Africa. The AGA Platform places high premium on the meaningful participation of women; both young and old in the democratic governance processes.

Speaking to delegates during the official opening of the forum, COMESA Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya said despite the gains and all the changes that have been recorded in terms of the rights of women in the 21-century, women still face key issues that halt their ability to live a fulfilling life.

In a speech presented by Head of Peace and Governance at the Secretariat, Elizabeth Mutunga, the Secretary General said:

The success for women in the public realm or life outside the home, depends on progress in the private realm as well. Lack of accessible, affordable child care was reported as one of the major obstacles women face in professional development around the world and this is just one of the challenges faced by women.”

The Pre-forum sought to provide a platform through which the challenges facing young women’s political participation can be examined and devise concrete strategies to enhance their effectiveness and meaningful participation in political processes in Africa.

COMESA is implementing the gender Policy which has a dedicated section on women’s participation in decision making, leadership and Governance.

The policy calls on Member States to ensure 50:50 representation of women in political decision making, ensure creation of a conducive social environment to support women, ensure creation of facilitative legal and policy environment for women’s participation in politics and ensure equal opportunities for women and men in politics.

Other Speakers included, Madam Marie Goretti, Regional Liaison Adviser for the UN Women, Ethiopia Office, and Ambassador Salah Hammed, the acting Head of Africa Governance Architecture and Talumba Banda, Gender Expert at the COMESA Secretariat.