Civil society groups, women and gender rights activists have expressed concern about increasing violence against women and dwindling resources hindering the empowerment of women.

According to them, women and girls are still facing poverty, marginalization, abuse and other human rights issues and these are some gaps that remain to be addressed despite the progress made towards gender equality.

As the year 2020 approaches to mark 25 years of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA), to promote gender equality, these civil society groups and activists met in Accra and called for a critical review of issues that still stand in the way to equal and fair treatment of women and girls at all levels of society.

The meeting, which is part of the Beijing +25 consultative processes, was attended by various women’s rights and civil organizations from Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya and across several African countries.

It was organized by the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) in partnership with NETRIGHT, organizations committed to upholding the rights of women and influencing decisions made at national, regional and global levels with the aim of promoting gender equality.

Madam Patricia Blankson Akakpo, Programme Manager of NETRIGHT, addressed the meeting and noted that the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted by 189 countries at the 1995 UN Fourth World Conference on Women, which was held in Beijing, China, “constitute to this day the most effective and comprehensive global policy framework and roadmap for achieving gender equality and women’s rights.”

She said since its adoption there has been gradual progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment across the world but that “structural inequalities still persist in many countries preventing full achievement of women’s rights and gender equality.”

She said on the African continent and across the world, Beijing ’95 accelerated activism within the women’s movement and governments did set up Women Affairs Ministries which have overtime metamorphosed into Gender Ministries.

Yet, Madam Akakpo noted that gender equality remains the greatest human rights challenge of the times, adding that there is slow implementation, lack of political will, and accountability in resourcing and translating women’s’ rights and gender equality commitments made over the years into full reality to address abject poverty, low status and gender-based violence against women.

She added that the full realization of women’s rights as human rights is essential to “any country’s development.”

Dr Charity Binka, a board member of FEMNET West Africa, said it is time to pause and review what has happened after almost 25 years of the adoption of the Beijing declaration.

According to her, violence against women is increasing and there is the need to assess what has been achieved so far and the gaps that are still left to be addressed.

Dr Binka, who is also the Executive Director of Women Media and Change, noted that it is time to build on the successes of the Beijing declaration in going forward.

FEMNET is leading the Africa civil society review processes by mobilizing informing, supporting and convening women’s rights organizations to strategically contribute and influence the 2020 national, regional and global Beijing reviews.

In September 1995, thousands of women and men from around the world met in Beijing for the Fourth World Conference on Women. Delegates from governments, UN bodies and civil societies adopted the “Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) which outlined commitments in 12 critical areas of concern.

Review reports are generated using specified guidelines designed to show progress made and challenges encountered in the implementation of the BPfA in the last 5 years.

The Beijing +25 review process is expected to offer the opportunity to look back on what has been achieved and what needs to be done.

By Eunice Menka
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