1. What are you thought regarding the African Women's Decade and among the 10 focus point of the AWD, which ones do you believe should be proritized? What do you think can be realistically achieved by the end of the decade?
I think the African Women Decade is a great opportunity to accelerate actions towards the realization of gender equality and women's rights. I think it is quite difficult to say which points of the decade should be prioritized because I believe that they all contribute to making gender equality and women's rights a reality. But if I had to really choose I would say that a women who does not have access to health services and rights and who is not protected from violence cannot exercise all her other rights. Education is also important in the sense that it is the basis for any attempt to build a gender equitable society where women have opportunities. I believe that having access to education is the first step to empowerment for women all around the world and that it allows one not to fear anyone or any rule and gives one strength and conviction to challenge them.
2. According to some, the African Women's Decade is not geared to solve women's issue in Africa. Do you agree with this?
I am an eternal optimist but we need to be realistic and I agree that launching a decade will not solve women's issues in Africa. It needs to be accompanied by political will at all levels, societal transformation where needed to address several inequalities and practices which prevent women from realizing their rights and societies from being gender equitable. I attended several events related to the AWD (including the launch in Nairobi last year) and I think what really preocupied me is the fact that 90% of the Fund which will be established to deliver grants to the projects implemented during the Decade is supposed to be financed by donor countries. I truly believe that Africa can find the resources to own its decade. Indeed experience have shown that where donors put their money they usually also put their conditions and influence. Many Decades have been adopted and did not achieve the expected results because of lack of ownership and political will from the people who they were supposed to benefit. I hope that more work will be put in strategic planning (including proper panafrican resource mobilisation) because with this Decade the AU has raised tremendous expectations but also fueled some more critics about its inability to go from paper and words to concrete actions impacting the people of the Continent.
3. Considering the great job the UNDP does for gender equality, what are their indicators, and how do they measure the success that they have in their different projects with regards to women empowerment in Africa?
We have several tools to measure the impact of our work on gender realtions, women' empowerment and gender equality. Two of the most prominent and relevant are the Gender Marker and the Gender Inequality Index. Since 2007 the Gender Marker monitors investments made on gender equality and women’s empowerment by scoring both gender mainstreaming and targeted interventions on gender equality and women's empowerment of each offices of UNDP both here at the Headquarters and in our offices around the 166 countries where we are present. Many agencies are starting to replicate this good monitoring practice.
The Gender inequality Index is a new measure that the UNDP has developped to better expose the inequalities and the differences in the distribution of achievements between women and men in our Member States. It is built on the same framework as the Human Development Index and the Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index. It is a very useful and important tool to bring real evidence and data to further enhance our policy advisory services at the global, regional and country levels.
4. How can African women make best use of the African women's decade?
I think that they need to see it as an incredible momentum on the continent to redynamise and define the women's rights movement. It is a framework for accelerating action in my opinion. I am supporting for instance in my personal capacity the creation of new platforms to strengthen what has been achieved, reflect on the shortcomings and failures and move from a strictly advocacy oriented agenda to a more result and action centered one. I truly believe that they should also serve as strong "watchdogs" to hold accountable all those who committed themselves to the Decade (African Union, Member States, UN Agencies). I have heard that some national and regional task force are being organized and supported by the AU but I think African Women ought to also organize themselves in national, regional and continental thematic clusters to follwo expertly each of the 10 points of focus of the Decade. They should produce shadow reports to name and shame all those who make promises that they are not working to keep.
5. The timeline for the MDGS is coming up 2015 but not much has been achieved on the ground. What lessons have been learnt since 2001 and what has been the impact on their methods of work?
I do not agree when people say that not much has been achieved. I believe that there are several success stories for each of the goals. The UNECA and others have published several reports where you can see that there is ground for optimism and that where certain conditions are present, countries have or will achieve the goals. For instance, Fourteen countries in Sub-Saharan Africa — out of 30 worldwide — have reduced the number of people living in hunger by at least 25 per cent. The same number of African countries have already reached or have the potential to achieve universal primary education. The issue for me is that setting up universal targets when countries are operating in different settings, with different means is a little bit ambitious and even unfair. The MDG3 has been reached and surpassed by some African countries too. It is true there are few, and it is true that not all 55 African countries will meet the MDGs in 2015 but if they accelerate their actions and fight poverty with the right development policies (the secret of those who are succeeding), they will succeed.
6. What impact on African societies will be seen as a result of the upholding of women's rights?
I think this sentence should be in the present tense. Already African countries who have chosen the road of equality and women's rights are seeing the results of such a necessary approach. All sectors of society benefit from the absence of violence against women, educated women make more informed choice for themselves and their children; empowered and women who have political and economic opportunities contribute more to the societies. Beyond the statistics that we just keep on hearing for me it is blunt common sense and usually ask people who are not as enlightened as us that they should close their eyes and imagine a society where men and boys would not be given any opportunities, would be bearing the brunt of all diseases, poverty and would only be portrayed in sterotyped ways and would not have a voice or leadership position....it is sad but for many this speaks more to them than our traditional advocacy messages because men and women have been taught these models and it is very difficult for most of us to let them go.
7. What place young African women have in the women's rights movement in Africa? And how can they actively and realistically participate in the promotion for gender equality?
This is one of my favourite topic as a soon to be former young women ;-)! I think I can speak on behalf of many sisters who have had difficulties getting their own voice heard in our movement because they are young and are expected to keep quite and "wait for their time" and paraded as projects from one conference to another. The good thing is that many of us have had the chance to meet those that I call true feminists who would never do something against any woman and would do everything for every woman. Those women who have managed to reject patriarchy in all its forms including the right of the elder ("droit d'ainesse") which still motivates the refusal of some to engage in constructive and equalitarian dialoguere with young women. I also think that it is very important for young women arriving in the movement to take time to learn from the best and worst before wanting to reach leadership position. I think that this makes us better activists and feminists because we benefit from the wisdom of those who have lived more and we get stronger and wiser fighting those who are trying to cut our wings. That is how we can actively and realistically participate in the promotion for gender equality and women's rights. I believe it has to start within our ranks and the African women's rights movement is one of the best leadership and wisdom academy you can find in my opinion.