Implementation of the Dakar/Ngor Declaration and the programme of action of the ICPDICPD+5 logo




After the introductory text, this page is divided into three sections:


       Achievements & best practices




       Recommendations for the way forward


Visit the Gender empowerment proceedings section to read the proceedings related to this thematic area.




According to the ICPD-PA, the empowerment and autonomy of women and the improvement of their political, social, economic and health status are important ends in themselves in addition to being essential for the achievement of sustainable development. It called on member State Governments to take actions purporting to empower women and eliminate inequalities between men and women.



Achievements and best practices

Since ICPD, several ECA member States have requested and implemented training activities in gender, population and development, mostly for high- and mid-level policy makers, programme managers and implementers. This not only reflects ECA member States governments' increasing commitment to understanding and addressing gender issues in national development planning processes but is an indication of their recognition of the centrality of gender issues to achieving sustainable development.


Nearly all member States have taken actions to initiate and/or improve gender sensitive data collection, analysis, dissemination and use in education, health and censuses. The measures being undertaken in this regard include creation of gender statistics units; development of gender-sensitive education management systems, data collection instruments and morbidity and mortality statistics; creation of documentation centres; collection of recurrent publications on gender disaggregated data by concerned Ministries (Algeria, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa); conducting Demographic and Health Surveys (Benin, Central African Republic, Guinea, Senegal); training personnel; and advocating for the use of gender disaggregated data in policy and planning (Kenya).


Other actions taken to gather information on women's knowledge of traditional practices and skills include undertaking surveys on traditional practices (Ethiopia, Ghana). Specific studies have been carried out on FGM (Gambia, Guinea), adolescent motherhood (Malawi), women's status and women in development (Mali, Algeria, Comoros), traditional contraceptive methods (Senegal) and women's knowledge of traditional food (Zambia). South Africa reported the creation of a Journal focussing on culture, traditions and gender. Togo reported the creation of a data base on modern and traditional laws related to the family.


The Population Census in Tanzania illustrates the manner in which some data collection, planning, implementation and analysis activities are being genderized in a few member States. The genderization of the census exercise started with gender-based assumptions and basis for the census. It continued with the development of gender sensitive questionnaires and a gender-focused analysis plan. Genderization of the census exercise is to continue with recruitment of staff, training of enumerators, implementation and data analysis.


About 71 per cent of the reporting member States have initiated gender-focused research in such areas as division of labour, access to income, intra-household control and socio-cultural factors affecting gender equality. Such efforts include gender-focused surveys, demographic surveys with gender modules and studies on poverty, female-headed households and property rights. Actions taken to focus research efforts on the division of labour, income access, control within the household and socio-cultural factors which affect gender equality include specific studies and research on women's workload; women's involvement in enterpreneurship; women's rights and baseline of women in development; violence against women; marriage and fertility rights; women's lands rights; FGM; surveys focussing on income an wealth of the household level by gender.


Equally, based on research findings from studies, strategies have also been developed by member States to increase age at marriage. The actual measures in this regard mostly include informing and educating the community leaders, parents and the public at large about the disadvantages of early marriage; encouraging girls to go to school and to remain there at least up to the end of their secondary school; as well as enacting and enforcing legislation concerning the minimum age at marriage (Cape Verde, Central Republic of Africa, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Mauritius, Nigeria).


Most member States are taking steps to reduce discrimination against women. Significant proportions of them have respectively, ratified and are implementing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW - a comprehensive convention extending from public to private spheres to ensure gender equality in matters of citizenship, education, employment, health care, economic rights, marriage and family relations). An equally significant proportion of them have adopted measures to promote women's participation in decision-making. The latter measures include the creation of women ministries, increase in the number of female ministers and parliamentarians and using the quota system to promote women's participation. A number of member States, including Mozambique and Uganda, have adopted laws and policies purporting to advance equal participation of women and men in decision-making at all levels.


Women are empowering themselves and are taking the initiative to participate in electoral policies. For example, in Kenya and Liberia women presented their candidatures for Presidential elections in 1997. In some other States women have organized themselves into coalitions or caucuses and have played catalytic roles in encouraging more women to compete in political elections. In Burundi, Development Centres have become Gender Development Centres and are producing and disseminating gender-sensitive materials and have included men in their membership and activities.


Over 90 per cent of the reporting member States (including Chad, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Liberia, Mauritania and Rwanda, Mauritania, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe) have developed national action plans that address among other things, women empowerment issues. These plans identify areas of discrimination against women. Among other things, these plans advocate the enrolment of all school age girls as well as the readmission of such girls who dropped out of school due to pregnancy (Kenya). Their main foci are the mobilisation of women; the development of an education micro-plan; and implementation of projects that provide equal access to credit, regardless of gender.


Ghana has ratified the universal treaty on the rights of the child (1994); has increased advocacy and sensitization at political and grassroots levels on the needs and benefits of girl child education; has raised the quota of girls in higher educational institutions; and has adopted measures to encourage more girls and women to opt for science and mathematics in schools. Additionally, in consultation with NGOs, the government has formulated a national action plan which has identified priority areas, set time-bound targets for monitoring and evaluation and allocated resources for implementation. For 1997-1998, the priority areas being addressed are poverty reduction and access to micro-credit; education of girls; decision-making and public life for women.


Cameroon has made primary school attendance for girls obligatory. Côte d'Ivoire has fixed the goal to increase the overall schooling rate to 90 per cent by 2000; has reduced the rate of illiteracy from about 57 per cent to 30 per cent in four years; and has adopted measures to distribute books and construct boarding schools for girls. Kenya has instructed its provincial administration to ensure that girl child marriages are eliminated from areas where the practice is still prevalent. Mali's action plan covers the years 1996-2000 and allocates resources for women's economic promotion, education, health, environment, civil and human rights and participation in public life. Nigeria has designed programmes to increase female enrolment into primary school and more girls' schools are being established in the northern region. South Africa has established a gender equity task team to review practices within the Department of Education and within schools that negatively influence the participation of girls and women in formal education.


Various actions have been taken to promote women's equal participation in the labour force. These measures include ratification of Employment Equity Bill (South Africa); provision of maternity leave and vocational training and implementation of literacy programmes (Eritrea); inclusion of employment issues in policies and constitutions (Zambia, Uganda); equal-pay-for-equal-work regulations (Zimbabwe and Botswana); provision of credit schemes and education (Ghana); and Affirmative Action Bill and Act (Namibia); Botswana, Eritrea, Mauritius and South Africa have adopted specific legislation to increase and protect women in the labour force. Besides, many States have taken actions to increase women's access to productive resources and technical services including the establishment of the family economic advancement programme in Nigeria; an enterpreneurship unit providing technical advice, counselling and guidance to women in Mauritius.


Equally various steps have been taken to tailor extension of technical services to women producers including providing services, equipment and funding to assist their income generating activities (Burkina Faso, Benin, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia and Togo); organizing training seminars on techniques of management for women's associations and groups (Burundi, Central African Republic, Mauritania, Niger, Rwanda); developing specific programmes for women (Gambia); providing micro-credit to women entrepreneurs to set up small and cottage industries (Central African Republic, Ghana, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal); setting up women's banking to give credit facilities to women in business (Ghana, Mauritius); implementing appropriate technology projects to ensure that existing and new technologies are genderized (Guinea, Kenya, Sao Tome and Principe); and encouraging the formation of women farmer clubs (Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo).


In an effort to mainstream gender concerns in line ministries, several governments, including those of Ethiopia, Rwanda and Zimbabwe, have established Gender Focal Points (GFPs) in line ministries. The mandate of the GFP is to serve as a catalyst for gender-responsive planning and programming and to ensure that gender concerns are incorporated into sectoral policies, strategies, projects and activities. The GFP reports to the cabinet minister and collaborates with the ministry or structure that has the primary mandate for co-ordinating gender issues.


A few States have recognised that men's participation is critical for the attainment of gender equality and equity and women empowerment. Strategies for male participation include implementation of male promotion IEC and advocacy activities and services; and creation of an enabling environment through implementation of appropriate laws and policies. For example, the ILO has executed about a dozen projects on Population and Family Welfare Education for the labour sector in English-speaking African countries. In Tanzania, one such project increased contraceptive prevalence rate from 14 to 36 per cent.


Côte d'Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, Morocco and Nigeria are reinforcing political will and are pursuing decentralized implementation of NPPs. Kenya has initiated special education and information programmes to expand the resource base for population programmes by encouraging the private sector and the local communities to be actively involved in initiating, implementing and financing the programmes. The concerned Department (i.e. NCPD) is designing packages that would enhance the capacities of the institutions to deal with integration of population into development planning at all levels. In Morocco the decentralization policy, the reactivation of the NPC's role as the coordinator of the country's NPP and the coordination of the various sectors and advocacy are among the measures being put in place to ensure that population issues is central to governmental priorities. In Nigeria there are concerns with the rapid population growth and its consequences on poverty and economic development, the needs to revise the National Population Policy and to integrate population factors into development planning, among others. In Seychelles and Mauritius concerns are being raised about the phenomenon of aging.


The data in Table 5 indicate that a sizeable proportion of the member States are taking actions towards ensuring gender equality, equity and women empowerment. Only a few member States are yet to promote women's participation in decision making (8 per cent); to tailor extension and technical services to women producers (13per cent); and to improve the collection, analysis, dissemination and utilization of gender disaggregated data in education and health (3per cent).




Despite the considerable progress realized since the ICPD-PA, understanding of gender issues and awareness of their implications for RH in general and for well-being in particular remain incomplete. As a result the "mainstreaming" of gender issues remains partial, and significant gender issues are neglected in formulating and implementing NPPs. A significant barrier to mainstreaming has been weaknesses in the conceptualization of gender as well as the delays and difficulties in developing strategies to operationalize effective integration of gender concerns in the development and implementation of development policies and plans. While many member States have now adopted gender policies and have modified laws and regulations to eliminate or reduce provisions which discriminate against women, the structures and systems for implementing the new policies and enforcing the new laws are often frail and lack broad support in the community.


In many cases attitudes and practices unfavourable to elimination of gender discrimination and disparities remain deeply entrenched and restrict the gains which can be made through changes in policies and laws. Although the importance of male involvement in RH and gender matters has been widely discussed, most member States are still in the process of developing methods and mechanisms for bringing it about and thereby strengthening population programmes.


There are several constraints as well on operational activities. These include inadequate numbers of specialists to train nationals on various aspects of women empowerment; lack of or weaknesses in national IEC and advocacy strategies focused on women's rights; and in some States, shortcomings in institutional arrangements for the design and implementation of programmes. In some cases, insufficient collaboration between Government departments and NGOs limits programme efficacy as does the weaknesses of links to policies and programmes not specifically focused on issues which relate to gender and/or population. The number of staff in women's Departments and Ministries is inadequate and those available do not have the necessary training in gender analysis as well as qualitative and quantitative skills for collecting, analyzing, and utilizing the requisite data. Some NPCs and other data gathering institutions are not even sufficiently trained to collect gender responsive data.


The data in Table 5 indicate that from the responding countries, 10 per cent the member States are yet to put in place needed institutional arrangements for addressing gender issues; about 10 per cent of them are yet to ratify the CEDAW and 20 per cent of them are yet to actually implement measures to effect the latter. Moreover, 38 per cent of them do not have information on traditional practices and skills, 51 per cent are still to take action towards increasing the age at marriage while about 29per cent are yet to focus research efforts on women's division of labour, access to income, control within the household and socio-cultural factors affecting gender equality.



Recommendations for the way forward

According to the ICPD PA, the empowerment and autonomy of women and the improvement of their political, social, economic and health status are important ends in themselves in addition to being essential for the achievement of sustainable development. It called on member State Governments to take actions purporting to empower women and eliminate inequalities between men and women. Accordingly the meeting recommended that:

  • Countries which have not done so, are urged to ratify and implement the CEDAW convention. Those that have already ratified, should ensure effective implementation of the Convention.

  • The role of the family in inculcating new gender values should be promoted and strengthened.

  • Studies should be commissioned into the current state of the family in African society taking into account the various transformations it has undergone in order to ensure family stability and other life-enhancing strategies.

  • More research studies should be commissioned on gender issues such as the image of women portrayed in the media and school curricula; violence in the family; discrimination against girls education; socio-cultural barrier to women's employment.

  • Mechanisms should be established and programmes developed for strengthening positive socio-cultural practices and eliminating negative and harmful practices.

  • Countries should give priority to the special needs and requirements of rural women in gender programmes.

  • Countries should ensure that the school curriculum and materials are made gender sensitive.

  • Countries should constantly exchange experience on all aspects of gender programmes; and

  • Countries should raise the level of formal education of females and males, where necessary, as a means and an end to tackle gender concerns.




Visit the Gender empowerment proceedings section to read the proceedings related to this thematic area or visit one of the other areas identified in the assessment of the African experience:




 Theme 1 Reproductive health and rights

Reproductive health and rights

 Theme 2 Family, youth and adolescents

Family, youth & adolescents

 Theme 4 NGO amd private sector roles

NGO & private sector roles

 Theme 5 Policy amd development strategies

Policy & development strategies

 Theme 6 Advocacy and IEC Strategies

Advocacy & IEC Strategies