On 14 -15 July 2023, ACCORD participated in the 5th Gender Is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) Strategic Engagement with African Union (AU), Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and Partners on the AU theme of the year on ‘Accelerating Implementation of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)’.
‘The implementation of the AfCFTA – breaking trade barriers of African women and youth to ensure their inclusion’, was the topic for discussion. The meeting drew participants from diverse backgrounds, including government representatives, civil society organizations, grassroots activists, representatives from the RECs, UN Women, Development Partners and International Non-Governmental Organisations.
During the meeting, it was noted that AfCFTA contained many gender gaps that will require the collaborative support and engagement of civil society organizations towards developing training programmes that will help to utilise the various provisions within the AfCFTA Protocol on women and youth at the national level.
During the parallel breakout session that discussed, ‘Women’s entrepreneurship and access to markets in conflict settings’, ACCORD’S Programmes Coordinator, Ms. Marisha Ramdeen presented on the findings and recommendations of the pre-consultation meeting that took place in June 2023. Ms. Ramdeen emphasized the importance of addressing systemic inequalities and harnessing the economic potential of women in conflict settings to contribute to sustainable peace and development.
The network’s six thematic clusters guided the key topics discussed during the meeting. Some key recommendations from the meeting included, adopting human rights approaches in the implementation of AfCFTA; providing a platform for women’s rights organisations and gender advocates inclusion in the negotiations; implementing monitoring mechanisms for the AfCFTA; and the dissemination of the AfCFTA Protocol for rural women traders, and implementing interventions that promote the value and importance of young people, especially young women and girls in the implementation of AfCFTA.
The meeting concluded with the presentation of the Outcomes Statement. In her closing remarks Dr Amany Asfour, the 2023 GIMAC Network Thematic Lead, stated, “The AfCFTA has the potential to be a transformative force in Africa’s development, but we must ensure that this transformation is inclusive and equitable. Women’s participation in trade must be actively promoted, and gender-based barriers must be dismantled to harness the full potential of this historic agreement.”
The GIMAC Network Steering Committee and Partners meeting took place following the 5th GIMAC Strategic Engagement. The current status of the GIMAC Network Partnership and its initiatives, as well as feedback and reflections from the 5th Strategic Meeting formed part of the discussions. The youth training; the strategic engagement; and the steering committee meeting, altogether aimed to further guide and strengthen the network in its efforts to ensure that gender mainstreaming feeds into all key policies of the AU.