Dakar meeting underscores African women’s empowerment

APA – Dakar (Senegal)

Strengthening the empowerment of women and girls is a sine qua non to realizing "sustainable development" in Africa, according to Mabingué Ngom, the regional director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Mr Ngom was speaking in Dakar on Monday, at the opening of a two-day high-level meeting on demographic dividend and the empowerment of women and girls on the continent.

The meeting, which brings together several African countries and international delegations as well as the African Union (AU), “demonstrates how much this topic is crucial for us and challenges us at the same time on the important challenges for sub-Saharan Africa and for the sub-region in particular" the UNFPA Regional Director said.

 Multiple obstacles to women's empowerment are mainly caused by their lack of education, which is however a guarantee for the reduction of the "maternal mortality rate" on the continent where "510 deaths per 100,000 births" are reported each year, Ngom, lamented.

He added:"There can be no demographic capture without demographic transition".

According to him demographic health studies have shown that a woman's education "is a key factor for the survival of her children during their first five years.”

Similarly, with regards to girls, it has been suggested that education, particularly at the secondary level, "contributes to delaying the age of marriage and first pregnancy, thus contributing to lower fertility and demographic transition" he said.

 Salimata Diop-Dieng, the Senegalese Minister of Women, Family and Gender, whose department was entrusted with the organizing the event, said it was looking forward to its plenary session with optimism.

The minister also stressed that "our interest" will be in the implementation of the regional project on women's empowerment and the demographic dividend in the Sahel (SWEDD), initiated by UNFPA, the World Bank and the governments of seven countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali, Mauritania and Niger).

The overall goal of the project is to accredit the demographic transition, optimize the demographic dividend and reduce gender inequalities in the Sahel region.

Considering women as a force for economic emergence, Canada's Ambassador to Senegal, Lise Filialtrault, noted that the effective empowerment of women and girls "requires the enforcement of laws".

She cited her country as giving particular importance to gender issues through its national and international policy.

 The pan-African meeting, which features several panels, will be closed on Tuesday afternoon by Senegalese leader Macky Sall.


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