The theme of this year’s European Development Days that took place on June 5th and 6th in Brussels focussed on the empowerment of women and girls. The United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa) joined four other major associations of local authorities active in development cooperation: AIMF, CLGF, PLATFORMA, and UCLG. Stand 68 in the EDD Global Village came alive as the partners created a space for us to engage and talk to women and girls across the continent.
As Europe’s leading forum on development it provided a great platform to share ideas and experiences through a gender lens. Our aim was to inspire innovative solutions for Africa’s most pressing challenges including urbanization, migration and climate change with women and girls at the heart of our debates and discussions. It also provided UCLG Africa with an opportunity to showcase the ways in which local Africa is responding to the challenge of women’s empowerment and the need for women to be involved in decision-making if we are to “Build the Africa We Want to See,” that encourages the participation of all members and sections of our communities
The Network of Locally Elected Women in Africa (REFELA) was set up by UCLG Africa as a way of engaging and supporting women as representatives at local government level. The Voice of Local Africa is about an inclusive voice for all. If 50% of our population is excluded then building a better unified Africa for All will be a struggle to achieve.
“Invest in a man we will build a family. Invest in a woman and we will build a nation”
EDD 2018 Cities for All, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director UN Habitat
2017 saw UCLG Africa step up its efforts in this regard with REFELA opening its doors and recruiting country representatives to improve its reach to locally elected women. Stand 68 welcomed Cities Alliance, a close strategic partner, where we received female Mayors from Uganda, Ghana, and Liberia. Roundtable discussions took place with the President of REFELA, Célestine Ketcha Courtés, Mayor of Bangangté in Cameroon and Malika Ghefrane, the REFELA Special Advisor. Each of the three Mayors pledged to work closely with UCLG Africa to set up country chapters for REFELA and to attend the up and coming Africities Summit in Marrakesh in force.
“REFELA is opening up and recruiting country representatives to improve its reach to locally elected women” President of REFELA Célestine Ketcha Courtés, Mayor of Bangangté in Cameroon
UCLGA Africa and its regional teams are committed to listening to not only women’s voices but also the voices of young people. During the live discussions and debates with youth champions on Stand 68 at EDD our Secretary General met and spoke with an award-winning youth blogger, Jean-Luc Habimana around the subject of “Transition Towards Sustainable Development,” which is the theme of this year’s Africities.
The Secretary General made a call to action for the youth champion, using the tools of technology that exist at the centre of youth culture globally, to reach, motivate and inspire young people to become part of the story of transition. “Promoting pride and self-esteem” and using the lives of “real young people” on the ground in the cities and territories already making contributions to this transition could inspire and mobilize youth in this vision as “we will not build Africa without the youth.”
“With over 40% of its working age population between the ages of 15 and 24, it is the youngest continent in the world. There are almost 200 million youths in Africa and according to African Economic Outlook, this number will double by 2045.”
Let us all coalesce and make “youth” Africa’s golden opportunity and not our biggest challenge.