Ministers responsible for Gender and Women’s Affairs from the COMESA Region recently met and approved several toolkits and documents which are expected to help the region promote gender equality, women empowerment and social development. The one-day Ministerial meeting held virtually via zoom on 29 March noted that women have continued to be negatively affected by many challenges including COVID-19 which has contributed to most of them recording slow progress.
Speaking during the official opening of the meeting, Zambia’s Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Hon. Christopher Yaluma used the occasion to encourage the Ministers and Member States MS) not to relent in their efforts of empowering women and fighting poverty.
He described the meeting as crucial as it was being held at a time when Africa is grappling with COVID-19 and women are bearing the major brunt of it.
Gender inequality remains a major challenge affecting the regional integration agenda. women entrepreneurs continue to experience different forms of harassment and many gender specific non-tariff barriers,” He added “This meeting has the opportunity to change this situation by implementing instruments that can support women and improve their welfare,” Hon. Yaluma said through his representative at the meeting Hon. Elizabeth Phiri, Minister of Gender Affairs.
He highlighted the importance of the normative frameworks being developed by COMESA to advance gender equality and social development in the region. He also added how COMESA has been doing commendable work when it comes to the inclusion of gender in trade matters. To overcome the challenges that COMESA Member States face, the Minister added that there needs to be concerted efforts from all stakeholders and that starts with the deliberations, adoptions and implementation of important policy frameworks such as the ones presented during the meeting.
Minister Yaluma highlighted Zambia’s unwavering support to COMESA’s initiatives and stated that Zambia was the first country to launch the 50 Million African Women Speak Project.
During the same event, Secretary General Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe appreciated the support from Member States and said this work on gender and social development will accelerate the achievement of inclusive development goals and is in line with COMESA’s vision in the Medium-Term Strategic Plan (MTSP) 2021-2025, African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
She reminded the MS of the need to take keen interest in the implementation of COMESA policy frameworks, and Council Decisions related to gender equality, women empowerment and social development across sectors to ensure that the ‘no one is left behind’ doctrine is realised.
Among the documents that were approved during the highly interactive meeting was the COMESA Gender Policy Implementation and Tracking Plan, the COMESA Online Course on Gender and Trade, the COMESA Social Charter Toolkit and the HIV and AIDS Policy Implementation and Tracking Plan. The Secretariat was urged to disseminate these important documents to Member States.