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African Union Summit: Women's empowerment is key to achieving goals of Agenda 2063

African leaders gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to focus on a continent-wide commitment to end hunger by 2025 and on efforts to boost the role of women in achieving prosperity in Africa. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva also attended the summit, at which the African Union officially launched the theme for 2015: "The Year of Women's Empowerment and Development towards Africa's Agenda 2063."

© FAO / Olivier Asselin

Mr Ban noted that 2015 was a “crucial year for global action to secure our global future,” and said he looked forward to African countries realizing their massive cultural, human and economic potential. 

Mr Graziano da Silva reflected on FAO's work in Africa and with the African Union (AU) in particular. "We have accompanied the AU and NEPAD [New Partnership for Africa's Development] since the beginning," he said, "and will continue to do so until we get a hunger-free Africa with the participation of key stakeholders from governments, private sector, civil society, youth and women."

The smart thing to do

Gender equality and women's empowerment are essential aspects of FAO's work towards greater food and nutrition security in Africa. Investing in women along agricultural value chains is the smart thing to do for thriving rural communities and more gender equal societies. For every dollar invested, the dividends are enormous in overcoming hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

The economic empowerment of women is particularly vital to closing the gender gap in agriculture and ensuring women’s full and equal access to land and other productive resources, as well as services, finances, technology, skills and employment. This involves policy interventions and investments that link social protection with family farming, while reflecting the multiplicity of roles that women play. Policies and programmes should also enable conditions for women to exert greater decision-making in family farming, food systems and management of natural resources. This means ensuring equal representation, participation and leadership in rural institutions and in the shaping of laws, policies, investments and programmes.

Turning point

By casting 2015 as the Year of Women's Empowerment and Development towards Africa's Agenda 2063, this summit marks a turning point in placing women’s empowerment and gender equality where they belong, at the center of the vision for an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa. It also offers a tremendous opportunity to build on work done in 2014 – the AU Year of Agriculture and Food Security and the UN International Year of Family Farming – and to celebrate the contributions of women across Africa, as farmers, food processors, traders and owners of agribusinesses.