Gender & Social Affairs

Gender & Social Affairs

The Gender and Social Affairs Division in the COMESA Secretariat exists to promote and provide leadership, direction and oversight towards the achievement of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment (GEWE), Youth Empowerment, and Social and Cultural Development in the Member States, at the Secretariat and in COMESA Institutions.

The Division sets out to achieve this purpose through promotion of the implementation of the COMESA Gender Policy, Gender Mainstreaming, Advocacy and Capacity Building, implementation of the COMESA Health Framework, HIV and AIDS Policy, COMESA Youth Programme, COMESA Social Charter, Council Decisions, and targeted initiatives to advance women and youth. The Division champions Gender Equality, Women Empowerment, Youth Empowerment, Health, Employment, Social Development, Drug Control, Sport and Cultural agenda to ensure the inclusion of women, youth and social development in the COMESA regional development agenda. The work on Gender Equality, Women Empowerment, Youth Empowerment and Social Affairs is founded on the COMESA Treaty, and guided by the COMESA Gender Policy, continental and global frameworks and commitments.

Programmes and Projects

Youth Engagement in Democratic Governance and Socio-economic Development

In partnership with the African Union African Governance Architecture (AU/AGA) COMESA with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC) is implementing a project on Youth Engagement in Democratic Governance and Socio-economic Development Processes in Africa. The main goal of the project is Contribute to Youth empowerment and increased participation in entrenching democratic values and culture towards the promotion of accountable governance in AU and COMESA Member States. Activities include youth consultations on various thematic areas, capacity building, supporting deployment of interns and youth volunteers and promoting entrepreneurship to enhance employability of youth.

Social Charter

The COMESA Social Charter was adopted by the Council of Ministers in March 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Council of Ministers urged Member States to sign and ratify the Charter to enable its implementation. The Social Charter provides for the promotion of human development, social justice and the well-being of all COMESA citizens. The Charter is grounded on the principle that sustainable economic, social and cultural development in the COMESA region cannot be realized without the citizens being educated, skilled, healthy, free from violence, poverty and hunger, and participating in democratic governance. The protection of democratic principles, popular participation and good governance, human and peoples’ rights is in line with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and other relevant human rights instruments. Secretariat engages Member States to promote signature and ratification of the Social Charter. As at April 2020, only four Member States namely Mauritius, Malawi, Madagascar and Seychelles have signed the Social Charter, while no country has ratified it. The COMESA Social Charter, Health Framework, HIV and AIDS Policy, and Youth Programme have been developed and adopted to guide Secretariat, Member States and other stakeholders in social development programming and promotion of the well-being for all.

COMESA Health Framework COMESA Social Charter HIV and AIDS Policy

The 50 Million African Women Speak Platform

The platform is intended to empower millions of women in Africa to start, grow, and scale up businesses by providing a one-stop shop for their specific information needs.

The 50MAWS platform aims to facilitate a dynamic and engaging exchange of ideas among women entrepreneurs, using in-built social media functionality to connect them with one another in ways that will foster peer-to-peer learning, mentoring and the sharing of information and knowledge within communities, and access to financial services and market opportunities between urban and rural areas, and across borders and between countries. LEARN MORE

Gender Equality and Women Empowerment

The COMESA Treaty promotes the twin approach to advancing gender equality and women empowerment (GEWE). In Article 154, the COMESA Treaty calls on COMESA Secretariat, Member States and other stakeholders to promote Gender Equality through the mainstreaming of gender in all policies, programmes and projects and creating and enabling environment to ensure that women are not left behind from participation and benefiting from all sectors implemented by COMESA’s regional integration and development agenda. Article 155 of the Treaty promotes standalone initiatives on the advancement of women in business in the region to enable them to participate effectively in private sector development, investments, agriculture value chains and trade.

To strengthen and advance the participation of women in trade, for instance, COMESA implements initiatives such as the Small-Scale Cross Border Trade (SSCBT) Initiative addressing gender issues/gaps in SSCBT, and the 50 Million African Women Speak (50MAWS) Platform Project to enable women entrepreneurs to access information on financial and non-financial services and opportunities.

COMESA Gender Policy Advocacy and Capacity Building to Strengthen Gender Mainstreaming

In line with Articles 154 and 155 of the COMESA Treaty, and in recognition of the fact that sustainable economic and social development of the region requires the effective participation of women, men and youth, the 7th COMESA Summit of the Heads of State and Government held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in May 2002 adopted the COMESA Gender Policy and the Addis Ababa Declaration on Gender. The revised Gender Policy was adopted in October 2016 in Antananarivo, Madagascar.

The COMESA Gender Policy advocates for equal and full participation of women in all aspects of COMESA activities and other operations taking place in the region. It emphasizes the principles of Gender Mainstreaming and Affirmative Action across all spheres of COMESA policies, systems, structures, programmes and activities in order to redress existing gender imbalances. Essentially, Gender Mainstreaming and Affirmative Action is promoted to ensure that barriers that prevent the effective participation of women in core COMESA activities such as trade, private sector, agriculture and infrastructure development, investments, science and technology are addressed and removed. Besides, this will ensure that policies, programmes, projects, administrative procedures and practices of COMESA Secretariat, COMESA Institutions and Member States and their budgets are gender responsive. Further, the Gender Policy is intended for facilitating the engendering of legislation and development policies in Member States in order to promote women’ access to and control over production and productivity resources such as land, credit, technology and information. In line with article 143 of the COMESA Treaty, the Policy integrates the mainstreaming of cross-cutting issues such as HIV and AIDS, governance, environment, information, communication and technology, gender-based violence, substance and drug abuse and related developmental issues into all its policies, structures and operations. In order to achieve, a full implementation of the Policy, the COMESA Secretariat has developed the Policy Implementation Plan. The Division advocates for the full implementation of the COMESA Gender Policy through capacity building technical support. Full implementation of the Policy will significantly contribute to the overall attainment of COMESA’ s vision. COMESA Gender Policy

Small-Scale Cross Border Trade Initiatives

Small Scale Cross Border Trade contributes significantly to Intra COMESA and Intra Africa trade. Women are the majority in Small-Scale Cross Border Trade (SSCBT) and experience various forms of difficulties such as limited information on procedures, requirements, policy frameworks, opportunities, lack of storage facilities, and gender related harassment and other issues. To address the problems of SSCBTs, COMESA implements Small Scale Cross Border Initiatives to promote the implementation of the COMESA Simplified Trade Regime (STR) and Traders Charter, strengthen the capacity of border officials, traders’ associations, trade information officers, and others on gender awareness, gender-based violence and support for women and youth small scale traders. The result areas of the project focus on ensuring availability of gender statistics, construction of gender sensitive border infrastructure and facilities, strengthening associations and cooperatives for cross border traders, improvement and implementation of trade facilitation tools on SSCBT, and addressing harassment and gender-based violence at the borders. To promote the support for women and youth small scale cross border traders, the Council of Ministers adopted the COMESA Comprehensive Framework for the Support of Women and Youth Cross Border Traders.

Comprehensive Framework for the Support of Women and Youth Cross-border Traders

Social and Cultural Affairs

The vision of COMESA is to have improved living standards of all the citizens (women, men, girls and boys) of the region. Improved living standards of all citizens cannot be realized if efforts are not human centered ensuring good health through prevention and mitigation of epidemics and other communicable and non-communicable diseases, education, skills development, employment and engagement of youth, and social protection among others. Social development is provided for in Article 110 of the COMESA Treaty which calls on the Cooperation of Member States on Health and prevention of epidemics; and Article 143 which calls on the Cooperation of Member States on Social Affairs to raise the living standards of citizens through the adoption and implementation of a Social Charter.

Our Team

The Gender & Social Affairs is comprised of the following team members.

Beatrice Hamusonde Director- Gender & Social Affairs

Tsige Biyazen

Senior Gender Mainstreaming Officer

Edward Ssekalo Content Manager – 50MWSP

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