Member States overlook Agreed Language on Women’s Rights at Beijing+20

I have always wondered whether when it comes to [inter/governmental ] negotiations on military spending, do member states overlook agreed language in the same way as they do on women’s rights and gender equality. 

For several decades, state authorities have compromised, overlooked and marginalised women’s issues. They give more precedence to military expenses, economy, bilateral / multilateral trade agencies and infrastructural development and little attention to gender responsive actions. Most states have failed to realised that for growth to be attained, efforts must be made to address the gender gaps. 

In 1995, 189 head of governments, including African heads agreed in Beijing to take action towards promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment (GEWE). It’s almost 20 years! and little progress has been made towards achieving gender equality across the globe, Africa in particular. Violence against women and girls remain high. Young women and girls still lack access to quality and healthy comprehensive sexuality information, education, services and care.

November 17 -19, 2014, at the ninth Africa Regional Conference on Women (Beijing+20)  in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia - in the attendance of around 23 Gender Ministers, 170 CSOs and 135 experts, we were all reminded by UN Women and partners that, in none of the 12 critical areas of concern of the Beijing Declaration, there has been a critical mass of progress and achievement. Thus the need for restrengthening engagement for gender equality and women’s empowerment (GEWE); accelerating the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, as well as fostering comprehensive, transformational sustainable development goals.

Not just UN Women and partners reiterated on the need for advancing GEWE, some Member states also emphasised on the need for strong commitment to ensure the promotion and achievement of GEWE. And to view GEWE as a development agenda. Sad to say, why this has been the conversation for decades, member states adhering to agreed language on women’s rights at some of the deliberations remains an issue. 

At this year’s Beijing+20 Regional Review, member states made an issue out of the section 3 of the draft declaration on Beijing+20 review  on “Women’s Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, and HIV/AIDs”. While this is not a new language, it sounded like a new issue for member states. 

SomeCameroon Delegation at Beijing20. pic taken by Bob . M.
In an attempt to further understand why this behaviour is common in almost all intergovernmental negotiations focused on GEWE that I have attended; I  approached some of the Gender ministers, including those in opposition of the section.  In our conversation, I was interested to understand why the opposition and what is their proposed solution. Recognising the fact that some of these language already exists in some of the treaties and conventions, their countries is already a signatory - e.g Maputo Protocol, Beijing Declaration & Platform of Action, Abuja Declaration and ICPD PoA…

Central Africa Republic (C.A.R): The wordings in the french version is different from the english document. Some of it are vague. it is vital to use matching words so to avoid discrepancies and also not contradict previous agreed language or declaration. Note that the fact that this Beijing+20 is a review and follow-up of the previous one, the deliberation seeks to ameliorate, correct, modify and close existing gaps so as to attain and achieve the platform’s objective. 

Zambia: Agreed language must be contextualised. It must be the same across documents, be it ICPD PoA, Beijing Declaration..If needs arise to use new language, or to paraphrased agreed language it should be clear and precise.

Ghana: The first thing to look at in such spaces is whether there has been progress made on previous proposed or agreed language. It is also important to look whether countries did enforced what they had agreed to. With that backdrop, it enables us review, revise our position for future implementation. It is also important to remember that nothing prevents a country from adding on an issue of critical concern, particularly emerging issues and threats that needs immediate address. E.g the Ebola Crisis is an emerging issue and though it was not mentioned in the BPfA in 1995, it cant be ignore today! Moreover, this review, revision and deliberation is to enable us all come to terms with the practical realities and ensure that it is fully implemented. it should be applicable and achievable.

Swaziland: consistency with the language. Often in most of these spaces, delegates rotate as government changes and usually there is no proper handover to inform & briefed the persons representing the country on some of these regional/global conversation. The reason you will find the same country in two separate occasions  making contradictory statements on the same issue. 

As an advice, representatives of member states must endeavour to gain broad understanding around key thematic areas, and also research around those issues to know what has previously been agreed to by their country [predecessors].  

Sudan: A lot of member states are confused. Some have little or no clue on what they had previously agreed to. But to help and facilitate participation, it is important that in clauses on agreed language, reference be made to those articles so that member states are aware that it is not a new language but an already agreed language

Note, some countries also change their delegates and usually these new delegates are not briefed on what has been previously agreed. And when they get in some of these spaces, they speak from a personal position and not the national position. 

Gambia: No idea why members states reject issues which they have already committed to.

Madagascar: The used of unmatched terminology. The english version is clear but the translation is poor and rarely relates to the content or subject of debate. 

Namibia: The understanding of issues in the Africa continent is completely different from that of global spaces. The way things are framed and phrased in spaces like this [e.g ECA] is not the same like in the CSW and other UN Meetings in New York.

re-wording remains a problem. The flow of words is critical for engaging government and stakeholders. 

NIGER: Political environment changes as well as personal opinion too can influence on the country’s position. 

Burkina Faso: The position and interest of government can change within any given period of time and that also impact their negotiations. For instance, at this stage, Burkina Faso is more concern about addressing insecurity and political violence and this can shift our position on many issues.

Cameroon: Typos, wrong phrasing and poor translation from english to french is one of the biggest impediment and reason for opposition. The Cameroon delegation is very ok with the declaration - we don't have any problem with promoting girls and women SRHR information, services and care. In fact, we think this declaration is one of the best so far in the region. 

Listening to all 11 Ministers, the one thing I noted is that everyone of them had at least an excuse. And I hope they realise that now is no time for making excuses. There should be no excuse for not achieving gender equality and women's empowerment (GEWE) in 20 years or more. For advancing GEWE is not about whether a country is french or english. GEWE is an essential human rights and must be fully attained. In summary, my take-home is that women and girls issues, particularly around around their health is still overlooked. States will continue to make excuses and justify their gender insensitive action and we must not allow that to repeat again in the next 15 or 20 so years. They must adhere and fully implement these agreement. GEWE must be realised!  

 ———— ———————————————
Access the full Africa CSO position statement on Beijing+20 here. 

The forum began on November 14th, with the CSO meetings which lasted for 3 days. Followed by the Experts and Ministerial meetings on November 17 - 19th, 2014. 

The conference ended with the adoption of a declaration on Beijing+20.

All about the 9th African regional review on #Beijing20 is online:

Both English and French versions of the CSOs Statement are available on Femnet Secretariat website.  Click here for English and French.

Speeches, news and other presentations and publications from the Inter-Ministerial meeting that took place from 17-19 is also available here:

Press Releases following the Inter-Ministerial meeting:


3 Global Events that offer hope for better future: The ICPDbeyond2014, Post2015 and Beijing+20

The year 2014 & 2015 is a defining moment for lasting change across the globe, and particularly for young people and women.

In 1995, the fourth conference on women took place in Beijing which led to the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action,  a global commitment to achieving equality, development and empowerment for women. The document was signed by 189 governments. It is estimated that over 30 000 participants from all walks of life, including activists, civil society members, public and private stakeholders attended the conference. 

Like the Beijing, the ICPD PoA was also another landmark moment in development history and as well as on the promotion of women’s reproductive health and rights.  Though the ICPD was held a year earlier, in 1994 in Cairo.  179 countries signed a forward-looking, 20-year Programme of Action (PoA) to promote development and improve human lives. 

Five years after Beijing,  the MDGs (soon be SDGs) was born with the aim to completely eradicate by the year 2015, extreme poverty and foster human development. Both agenda (ICPD PoA, Beijing & MDGs) outlined great strategies and approaches towards achieving sustainable development; providing unique opportunities to accelerate and advance gender equality and women’s empowerment.

In overall, reports have suggested that there have been some significant strides towards the realisation of some of these goals - and in Africa, countries like Kenya, Rwanda have shown significant progress towards reducing maternal mortality and promoting equality between men and women. Even at that much is yet to be realised. Findings show that youth and young women are still disproportionately affected and are constantly faced with systemic and / or structural forms of discrimination and violence.

For example, in most parts of the world, Cameroon in particular, young people continue to lack decent jobs and are unable to access quality health care services and information. Violence against women and girls is still prevalent across all sectors, with research suggesting that 1 in 3 women have experienced at least one form of violence. And in Cameroon at least 60% of women  have experienced violence before the age of 15.

Though some of these statistics aren't encouraging and hopeful the least. However, what I know for sure is these statistics can drop - to zero. These statistics can drop given that government officials and leaders keep to the commitments and promises in these declarations.  And the year 2014-2015, gives every country that opportunity to critical review its level of commitment and progress; failure and challenges in the implementation of these agenda. And as world leaders review their implementation and renegotiate their commitments, I am hopeful for better good outcomes.

In cumulation, seeing the participation and presence of young people and girls at some of these spaces offer  more hope for better future. For I know that their voices and contributions will help shape the next development agenda, as well as in developing a more inclusive agenda.

There is no doubt the last decades has taught us all great lessons, the greatest of all being - the benefits of inclusiveness. And as the slogan goes: “Nothing about us without us”.  In order words, it is clear that we can't achieved sustainable development, if the people aren't part of the discussion and / or taking key role in the discussion: a notion that has been clearly posited throughout the review processes in the ICPD, Beijing+20 and MDGs. With that I am hopeful for a better future!



Catherine Nyambura at UNGA speaking on ACCPD
I am African and a young woman, these identities for some reason need to be emphasized, why is that? Catherine Nyambura reflects on what it means being an African Young Woman on this day - African Youth Day
Our society a few years ago would have me explain what am doing, thinking and I can just take the stage (in this case - this virtual stage) to dare air my opinion. But I am happy to be alive at a time when some African Countries such as Rwanda top the 10 in Gender Gap and my country Kenya making strides all the way from number 78 to 42, this is to be celebrated but there are countries in Africa still doing badly in terms of closing the gender gap and achieving gender equality, we must harmonize our efforts and ensure daughters of Africa everywhere have something to celebrate.
 I now get to the point where I will call Africa out on their bluff, currently we have 91.5million women and girls living with the consequences of Female Genital Mutilation, an archaic practice that endangers girls lives and is usually a precursor of early child marriage that curtails girls education. I for example would not be so ably expressing myself had I not stepped into a classroom and granted the basic requirements to keep me in that class and ensure I excel , such basic requirements included sanitary towels and as a young girls growing up on the MDG poverty ceiling of families living below 1dollar a day, these were not easy to come by.
Onto the topic of the day, It is Africa Youth Day with the theme to build on young women’s potential, as a young African woman I feel the need to speak as to how I would like to see our potential built.  Young women are currently disproportionately affected by the high unemployment rates on the continents and for those who are employed they are prey to sexual violence and harassment and unequal pay, the historical gender gaps haven’t been closed and we have some field still widely dominated by young men which should eventually be equalized. Now I know that we have the perception that Africa is rising, but are we all rising or we are rising and leaving some behind, and these some left behind being young women and girls, participation in political leadership is still a touchy subject, we can rise but upto a certain point. No??
For us to build potential of any individual, they have to be healthy so it is time that Africa invested in women’s health seriously having committed to a 15% investment on health in the Abuja declaration but not there quite yet.To reap any demographic dividend from the 70% of our population ( adolescents and youth including young women) health and education are just those things we have to keep working at.
I will end with call for African youths to celebrate today because the fact we even have an African Youth Day shows that we have started the journey towards the right direction. Next step is to realize that youth are not homogenous and tackle their issues as such, like the young women’s focus on this year’s theme. 
Possibilities are endless!

This is a guest blog post by Catherine Nyambura, Kenyan SRHR activists and youth leader. She has over 6years of experience working with girls and young women on issues around sexuality education and rights. Catherine Nyambura is a member of the African Youth Task Force on Post2015. She is also the deputy director of Dadelion Kenya, a Swedish-Kenyan non-profit grassroots organisation based in Nakuru
This post was originally shared on "Rural Reporters

click here to Watch Catherine podcast delivered during UNGA69

 Follow Catherine on Twitter: @catherinenyamb1 



pic source: AAI
Meeting with some African Permanent Representatives (PRs) to the United Nations (UN) in New York (NY) was quite empowering and enriching. As a youth leader, having been involved with the post2015 process for over 20 months and having also been working at grassroots with young people for community good; I found our experience as youth task force, meeting with PRs in NY very relevant and timely. Especially as, very soon world leaders will be negotiating the adoption of the next development goals, and also since most at times there are hardly such opportunities for grassroots activists like myself to engage and share lessons with our leaders, particularly those in NY. 
A couple of days before my departure for NY, I had this weird thought; a very discouraging and mixed feeling on whether the PRs would want to meet us.  Behold, I was astonished when I finally met with some of them: their warmth reception and encouraging words was very touching. I was also moved when they promised sharing their expertise, exchanging relevant information as well as keeping us informed on the post2015 review process.
As I reflect on my experience, I remember the meeting with Benin PR H.E Ambassador Jean-Francis R. ZINSOU, how he spoke so passionately about African youth and why he strongly supports a standalone goal on youth in the post2015, as well as the prioritisation of investment in young people’s health.  At that moment, I recall it was an ‘aha’ for me. Also when the PRs of Liberia, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana and South Africa, all reiterated on the need for youth active engagement and prioritisation throughout the post2015. Above all were their emphasis on issues around accountability, financing and implementation strategy for the SDGs. The fact that they saw the need and acknowledged that youth role is extremely important in the setting up of the next 15 years development plan, so far was the best thing I needed to hear.  And also the fact that in their remarks, they also identify the link and support for universal access to comprehensive sexuality education and services for youth and adolescents in the SDGs.
In cumulation, I felt proud and deeply honoured to have being part of such a diverse and amazing group of young people, committed in promoting change.  And thanks to Ford Foundation , AAI and partners for all the support. 
Follow everything about the African Youth Task Force (AYTF) activities on twitter under the harsh tags: #AYTF , #AYTF2015 & Post2015

The 12 AYTF


Forced into Marriage at 14

“I refuse to walk in my mum’s shoes” says Mister , 14 year old child bride to WFAC concerning how she was forced to marry a man who is 3 times her age

 “It all started when I left the city and travelled to the village to spend the summer holidays with my grand mum”, Ms. Mister narrates her struggle, fighting against marrying a 35 year-old man. August 2013, Mister recalls, her mum joking about her meeting her husband in the village. A conversation, she never took so seriously until months later when she realised that her mum’s primary intention of sending her to the village was to marry her off.

Mister’s mum is a single mother, a child bride survivor. Mister’s mum was married off to an old man when she was still a minor, in exchange for some sort of traditional rites. Mister’s mum suffered abuse, neglect and violence in her marriage. At around 20, she escaped the abusive marriage. But as per tradition, the consequences are that she can only re-marry, if her ‘arranged’ husband accepts to liberate her. Mister’s mum is not the only woman who has been a victim of harmful traditional practices in Bafanji, North West region of Cameroon. Like Mister’s mum, there many more whose tales remain untold.

Informed by her mum’s experience, Mister refused to walk in her mum’s shoes. She says; “I was only 14, and I had been promoted to the next class (form two)”“If anyone had whispered to me that at this age I will be talking about marriage. I would have asked them to re-think” It was weeks before school resumes and all Mister wanted was to begin the new school year; to learn new things. As well as get the chance to live with her great grand mum, who remains the eldest in the family.

She was just weeks old in village, when she started hearing rumors of one man wanting to get married to her cousin. Mister was astonished and couldn't believe why a 35-year or more would be attracted to a 14 year-old girl. “I found it absurd!” she says: “I couldn't understand how someone would actually think of marrying a 14 year-old. I also couldn't understand even why a parent would allow their daughter marry someone that old.” “In my mind, I knew it was wrong and had wished my opinion would matter but little did I know the whole marriage arrangement was not actually about my cousin but me”, she said with such a heavy emotion.“My mum went on to arrange my wedding without my knowledge” “I felt lied and cheated”, said Mister with strong emphasis.

One day, Mister recounts, my mother visited me in the village and out of curiosity, I asked about my cousin and how things were going on with the wedding. “I got no response”, she remarked!

“Days after my mum had left, this man visited my granny, he came with gifts, shared to everyone and gave mine too! I received the gifts and never used them. I kept them. No one, including my mum knew I have been keeping his gifts” “I did this because I was taught that if someone you don't like gives you something and you don't want to be rude by returning the gift, you take it and keep it - who knows, someday, you might find a way of returning the gift”.

After a while, Mister decided to inform her mum about it as well as to seek assistance on how to approach the uncomfortable gift-giving situation. Unfortunately, the response she got was nothing she expected. “My mum told me that it was nothing” Mister recounts; “that he is just a good man who wants to show his kind gesture”. 14 year-old Mister knew for sure, something wasn't going right. While she thought the man was trying to win her support for her cousin. Mister had no idea, that the supposed cousin would end up being her. “Though, I wasn't convinced somehow I believed my mother,” she says, “I know my mother knows so many people and I remember her telling me she made so many friends when she was young. I also thought maybe the man wanted to win my support for my cousin”. Within that period, as Mister would recall, her mum would visit her almost twice in a month. The visits was just so too frequent, she says; until finally the truth came out! “I was shocked!” she say; “ …I can’t remember everything but all I recall is how my mum started telling me things like,… the man is a good man and that I will not regret marrying the man….”

“I never loved the idea of getting married, worse to that man”, says Mister angrily. “..I refused and told my mother that I do not want to get married but that I want to go to school. Mister explains: ‘I really wanted to continue with my education, and make her proud”.

“I tried to convince my mum to understand. No matter, how I tried to explain my passion for education, my mum will not understand, she kept reminding me of how I have to struggle to score a pass, and how schooling is for those who get good grades so it will be best if I get married. And if I want to continue my education, I can do that while in my husband’s home”.

All these was happening within the month of September – November 2013. And during that period, many schools had begun writing the second sequential test for the term exams. While some students were working hard to excel in their studies, Mister was waging war with her mum. Fighting for her future and life. “It was a big distraction to me”, Mister recalls, “I could not concentrate on my studies the way I had planned”

“Finally , I accepted to marry after mum had threatened to disown me”, She recollected, “Mum assured me that it was for the best as well as my future and that I should understand her health situation, she will soon die, and she doesn't want me to suffer”.

 “… and that with this man, my future is secure and safe, he is a good man, he is going to take good care of me and my younger sister and so we will be fine…” I felt so sorry for my mum, knowing fully that her health is not improving. I didn't want her to go through much pain.

So I accepted the proposal. Though everyone was against it but my mum never welcomed any one’s opinion. January 2014, in the middle of the academic term, I was removed from school and taken to the capital city, Yaoundé, to meet my husband.

Few months after the wedding, he wanted me to get pregnant. And I made him to understand that - the whole marriage is against my wish and if he wants me to give him kids, he better wait for 2025 because until then shall I be ready to give birth.

“Every night, this man and I would fight, quarrel and argue. The entire neighborhood knew us - because we will argue and shout at the top of our voices” says Mister; there are days when he would hit me and let me spend the night outside.

There are times, he will insult me and say: ‘I was not well trained to manage a house. I do not want to have children because I was not responsible enough to be a wife” When he said things like that I was happy because I knew that sooner or later he is going to send me packing and that was what I wanted.

Just four month after our wedding, April 2014, he asked me to live his house after beating me several times. I called my mum and explained the situation.  She was angry and decided to personally come pick me up. I was happy to live the house so that I can continue with my studies.

2 weeks after, she says. "I was shocked to hear my mum saying that I have to return to my husband - that ‘there is no marriage without a problem. And that the man and his family have apologized. I felt offended and disappointed". But finaly she returned, with heavy heart, she recollects.

While there, Mister decided to take her life in her hands, as she recounts: “I refused to do anything. I knew nothing I do or say will liberate me - so, its better I just sit and see what life brings each day” Each day, Mister narrates; “I woke up and just sat… There are days, I took my bath late in the evening. There are also those very bad days that I refused to speak to any one… And because of that there are times I was starved because I didn't wash plates, or clean the house"

 This continued for a couple of months, Mister explains, “It was not long, I was asked to back and leave”. “I felt liberated”, she giggles; ‘Finally, I left!”

Now am back, she says, to live with my mother, unmarried and I do not ever dream of getting married in such a way again and to such a man - NEVER! My plan is go back to school. I also believe that my mother too has learned her lesson and will never support such an idea. I have huge dreams and I won’t allow anyone - no man to obstruct those dreams.

This article is the 9th in the KnowHerStory Series. It also forms part of WFAC's documentary series that seeks to highlight and amplify the voices of Child Brides.
The bride was interviewed by Nancy Makeoh, WFAC's Community Outreach Manger and toegther we developed the story.

More on WFAC #EndChildMarriage or Child, Early and Forced Marriage Campaign, check out our 'Complete the Sentence Exercise on WFAC  Facebook Page. It is a weekly QUIZ that seeks to raise awareness against CEF Practices, why it matters and why it must end.


2/2 CEF Quiz