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African Women's Decade Launched in Nairobi

The African Women's Decade, AWD (2010-2020) has been launched. It has the theme "grassroots approach to gender equality and women's empowerment".

The AWD was launched at the Kenyatta international Conference Center (KICC) in Nairobi today by Kenyan President Mr. Mwai Kibaki. AU Chairperson Dr Bingu wa Mutharika spoke at the launch as did the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Dr Jean Ping.

The event attracted thousands of people, who started the day with a march from Freedom Center and proceeded to the KICC, where local and international dignitaries, conference delegates and champions of gender equality mingled together to usher in a new era in Africa's march towards equal development for men and women.

President Mwai Kibaki said the AWD should mark the beginning of an effective, focused and re energized programme of empowering women. He called for implementation of laws and policies and for equal access to education.

"We have learnt that education holds the key to unlocking obstacles to women's empowerment" the President said. He declared his government's commitment to the Nairobi Declaration, which had earlier been presented to the meeting. He also announced that in the AU spirit of empowering women, his government had ratified the African Charter on Human and People's Rights.

After declaring the official launch of the AWD, the President unveiled a plaque commemorating the launch AU Chairperson, President wa Mutharika reminded the audience that many frameworks and commitments have been made in the past but that women have still not yet been fully emancipated. He said that the AWD should see real positive change in the lives of women, and that women should be involved in all decision making processes.

The AWD centers round ten themes i.e.; fighting poverty and promoting economic empowerment of women entrepreneurship; agriculture and food security; health, maternal mortality and HIV and AIDS; education, science and technology; environment, climate change and sustainable development; peace, security and violence against women and girls; governance and legal protection; finance and gender budgeting; women and decision making and mentoring youth.

"The ten themes were carefully thought out and linked to the thirteen critical areas of the Beijing Platform of Action, the eight Millennium Development Goals and the programme of the International Conference for Population and Development (ICPD) as well as other regional commitments", said AUC Chairperson Mr Jean Ping when he addressed the gathering at the KICC.

Institutional and governance mechanisms have already been put in place. "The Committee of 30 set up for the Decade had its first meeting during the pre summit meeting held in July this year, said Mr. Ping, adding that "the political leadership for the Decade will be provided by a ministerial committee consisting of ten ministers drawn from all the five regions of Africa".

Member states have been requested to see to the governance of the Decade by setting up national committees which will be instrumental in identifying viable grassroots projects that will be supported during the Decade through the Fund for African Women. Member states have already committed to contribute to the fund as agreed upon at the February 2010 AU Assembly meeting.

Through the fund, the AU will support women's projects around the continent. "One project per country per theme will be financed from the newly established Fund for African Women. As a result, 53 projects will be implemented for each of the ten years, leading to 530 projects being supported during the Decade", disclosed the AUC Chairperson.

The event witnessed handing over of the mentoring torch to the younger generation and reading of the Nairobi Declaration.

The large gathering in Nairobi was also addressed by the UN Deputy Secretary General Mrs. Asha Rose Migiro, the Vice President of Zimbabwe Mrs. Joyce Mujuru, the Vice President of the Gambia Dr Isatou Njie Saidy; the Kenyan Minister of Gender, Children and Social Development Dr Naomi Shabaan. A special message from the Kenyan First Lady Mrs. Lucy Kibaki was read out to the delegates, as were messages from Tunisia, Nigeria, and Liberia.

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