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Topic: Women empowerment and gender equality for the socioeconomic development in Africa

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is a global policy-making body focused on the promotion of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment. This commission is part of the Framework of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and is supported by UN Women, an entity responsible for helping nations to implement the standards agreed in the CSW, through technical and financial assistance. To achieve these goals, every year, 45 CSW elected member states of the United Nations, assemble to set global standards and to promote concrete policies regarding these matters.

According to the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, Gender Equality means that all individuals should have equal opportunities, rights, responsibilities and political participation independently of their gender; and Women Empowerment concerns the power of women to control their lives. The Empowerment of Women and the promotion of Gender Equality are important per se, as a matter of social justice and human rights (UN WOMEN, 2001 a).

The Status of Women and socioeconomic development are strongly related. Firstly, when women have more social influence and more access to opportunities and resources, society tends to grow socially and economically. At the same time, developed societies are more inclined to grant women rights, creating a virtuous cycle (DUFLO, 2012). For instance, the control over resources by women is more likely to be canalized to children, thus, children are better fed, and the infant mortality tends to reduce (WORLD BANK, 2011, p. 5).

In Africa, women are the center of approaches to food security due to the fact that they have the primary responsibility for feeding their families. Besides, they represent the majority of the rural labor-force in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNDP, 2012). As Africa has a large informal economy, French economist Serge Latouche (2004, p. 5) points out that women are achieving bigger through their business in the continent.  For example, in Kirehe, a district of Rwanda, women are now encouraged to participate in meetings of the local agricultural cooperative, along with their husbands, being a part of the decision making process. Jointly, women and men of Kirehe decided that, if they united their efforts, it would be possible to boost the outcome of their agricultural activities. Furthermore, couples of this district have started joint accounts, which provided women with more voice to decide on the financial situation of their families. Since then, the community has noticeably improved its productivity (UN WOMEN, 2012).

Another key concern about the situation of women and socioeconomic development in Africa is that they are more likely to suffer in times of economic and food crisis than men.  Firstly, most of the female labor force in Africa works in vulnerable and insecure sectors which are more inclined to lay off workers in times of crisis. Secondly, in times of economic contractions, the infant mortality of girls in developing countries is an average of 7.4 deaths per 1,000, five times more than boys (WORLD BANK, 2011, p.86).  Furthermore, in periods of crisis girls are more susceptible to become malnourished and to be withdrawn from school in order to help their family to generate income (UN WOMEN, 2011 b). 

In order to promote worldwide development, the United Nations set the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to be achieved until 2015.  As stated by the World Bank Development Report (WORLD BANK, 2012, p.4) empowerment of women and gender equality are important channels to reach other MDGs, such as: the achievement of universal primary education; the reduction of child mortality; the improvement of maternal health; and the combat of HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases. Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, confirmed this thesis when he stated that Gender Equality is a “prerequisite” to achieve the MDGs (ANNAN apud DUFLO, 2011, p. 2).

By September the 5th, we will be 847 days short of the MDGs deadline, therefore it is time to act. This committee requires great endeavors from the delegates, since it must deliver an “Agreed Conclusion”, which contains concrete recommendations to guide the actions of Governments, intergovernmental bodies and other institutions. The “Agreed Conclusion” requires a unanimous decision to approve the final document. We invite delegates to establish standards and policies to boost efforts to achieve socioeconomic development in Africa through the promotion of Women Empowerment and Gender Equality.

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UN WOMEN/PIYAVIT THONGSA-ARD. UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet holds a press conference in Thailand. December 2012. Available at: <> Accessed in: 29 Apr2013.

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TASH MCCARROLL. Women hold up half the sky. 2013. Available at: <>. Accessed in:  29 Apr2013.


DUFLO, Esther. Women’s Empowerment and Economic Development. National Bureau of Economic Research . December 2011. Available at: <>.  Accessed: 06 Jun 2013.

LATOUCHE, Serge. Pode a África contribuir para resolver a crise do ocidente? Barcelona: 4th International Conference on African Studies, 2004.

OSAGI (Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women). Important Concepts underlying Gender Mainstreaming. UN Women, 2001. Available at: <>. Accessed: 06 Jun 2013

UN WOMEN. Commission on the Status of Women. United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, 2011 a.  Available at: <>.  Accessed: 03 Apr 2013.

UN WOMEN. Facts and Figures on Women, Poverty & Economics. United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, 2011 b Available at:  <>. Accessed: 03 Apr 2013.

UN WOMEN. Women Farmers Yielding Profits and Better Futures in Rural Rwanda. United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, 2012. Available at: <>. Accessed: 06 Jun 2013.

UNDP. The Millennium Development Goals Report 2012. United Nations, 2012. Available at: <>. Accessed: 26 Apr 2013.

WORLD BANK. World Bank Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank, 2011. Available at: <> Accessed: 26 Apr 2013.