Dame Ģraça Machel, one of Africa’s foremost advocates for the rights of women and children, has urged women to be on the driving seat and centre of economies.
She also called on African women and policy makers to challenge gender inequality and inadequate female representation in the continent’s business and economic, political and policy space.
“Africa’s socio-economic transformation will only be realized once we aggressively address gender-specific challenges, prioritize gender equality and women’s participation, and firmly entrench women in leadership positions at all levels in society,” Madam Machel remarked.
“African women need to be in the driving seat of national discourse…women need to be at the centre of our economies,” Machel said. “They must also pro-actively seek to correct the status quo.”
Ģraça Machel spoke during the 22nd Eminent Speakers’ Lecture of the African Development Institute held at the Babacar N’diaye Auditorium in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
Her address was titled: “Educating the Girl Child, Empowering Women, and Enhancing Female Entrepreneurship in Africa”.
“We have a remainder of 45 years to achieve the goals which we have set out for ourselves in Agenda 2063.
“Within these 45 years is a lifespan of an entire generation of young girls who will grow to become active citizens whose potential must be unlocked.
“To ensure that we achieve the goals for our development by 2063 we need to fully invest in and optimize of the continent’s other half which for too long has been neglected: the African female!”
Machel said to a packed hall filled with development experts, Abidjan-based diplomats, members of the Southern African community in Cote d’Ivoire, students from Ivorian secondary and tertiary institutions, the media, management and staff of the African Development Bank.
The former freedom fighter who was also Mozambique’s first Education and Culture Minister, following the country’s independence in 1975, also called for increased investments in education, especially girl child education, agriculture and nutrition.
“Investing in education from early childhood has a lasting effect on the survival, development, protection and active participation of children in social, economic and political activities. Knowing what we know, we must demand that governments fully meet their commitments to the investment in education.”
Education transforms the lives of individuals, communities and nations and is a prerequisite for sustainable development, Machel said, emphasizing that, “Education, particularly for girls, is a catalyst for reducing child and maternal deaths and lifting people out of poverty.”
She observed that Africa as a whole has no meaningful development of an Early Child Development (ECD) system and that World Bank estimates paint a dire situation for investments in ECD in Sub Saharan Africa.
“Nations in the region devote just 2 percent of education budgets to pre-primary education and early childhood development programs.
This small percentage is committed in the face of overwhelming evidence that an additional dollar invested in quality early childhood programs yields a return of between $6 dollars and $17 dollars,” she said.