Commonwealth calls to unleash potential of women, girls

by IANS |

Kigali (Rwanda), June 21 (IANS) The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) week kicked off in Kigali with the opening of the Commonwealth Women's Forum (CWF) amidst the presence of over 600 participants.

Held under the theme 'Delivering a Common Future: Transforming for Gender Equality', the first day of the forum on Monday addressed women in leadership, women's economic empowerment and engaging men and boys, as well as different generations, in ending violence against women and girls.

Also at CWF, the Economic Cost of Violence Against Women and Girls Guidelines, which utilises a new framework to determine the cost of violence for various sectors in the economy and state, was launched.

Speaking at the opening session, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland QC noted that women and girls had been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 from vaccine inequity to economic insecurity and rising gender-based violence.

"It is our profound responsibility to place women and girls at the heart of our response to the pandemic -- not to further marginalise our sisters. We must strive, together, to end domestic, workplace, societal and political violence.

"We must strive, together, to place our sisters at the heart of our fight against the existential threat of climate change. And we must strive, together, to unleash the potential of all women and girls in the Commonwealth -- and enhance their opportunities to contribute to every sphere of social, economic and political endeavour."

The Secretary-General saluted Rwanda as a champion of gender equality and women's empowerment, adding that the country was a fitting host for Africa's first-ever Commonwealth Women's Forum.

She continued: "Women have been integral to the recovery and transformation of this nation, in its journey from devastation to a powerhouse of development and progress. I recognise Rwanda's leadership in building strong policy and legal frameworks and salute her achievements in ensuring women and girls are central to the development of the nation."

The Secretary-General added it was a "sad reality" that the political will and commitment demonstrated by Rwanda was the exception, not the rule.

Also speaking at the event was Jeannette Kagame, First Lady of Rwanda, who told delegates that Rwanda is ranked by the World Economic Forum as the seventh best performing country in closing the gender gap.

However, she reminded the audience of the importance of this forum. "With less than a decade to go, to achieve the SDGs, the urgency is palpable, particularly on SDG 5 (gender equality and women's empowerment). The Women's Forum is happening at the crossroads of critical economic and social change, where women, particularly in tech and innovation, may just be that game changer that is needed, provided that the nurturing environment, resources and support are available.

"How can we reset the button on women's leadership, agency, engagement and empowerment? For one, women's dialogues must be in the mainstream of key decision-making structures and processes."

Under the theme 'Delivering a Common Future: Transforming for Gender Equality', the first day of the forum addressed women in leadership, women's economic empowerment and engaging men and boys, as well as different generations, in ending violence against women and girls.

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