AU Watch

Main Regional (AU) Institutional and Legal Framework

The AU is composed of 54 Member States and seven regional economic communities (RECs) representing Africa’s sub-regions, as well as key programmes and instruments such as NEPAD and the APRM, all of which reflect the commitment of Africa’s leaders to gender equality. At the national level, the AU is involved in legislative reviews and amendment processes. At regional levels, the AU has encouraged its Member States to adopt, ratify, implement and domesticate treaties, conventions and decisions; has established a consensus on gender equality issues among member states; and plays an important role in supporting research on gender issues.

At a sub-regional level, the AU has provided guidance to the RECs in complementing and harmonizing global and regional frameworks by integrating and translating various resolutions and commitments into their policies and plans of action. The RECs are expected to monitor the implementation of integration-related policies and programmes, to mobilize the necessary resources to support such policies and programmes, and to report on progress. For example, the RECs all possess dedicated gender units, which include declarations and tools for gender audits and mainstreaming.

Pillars of AU Gender Mainstreaming

The gender architecture in the AU is conceived in line with AU aspirations and in consultation with stakeholders, Member States, ministerial gender meetings, and the civil society forum, and is constituted by six pillars, as follows:

1. The constitutional framework of the Constitutive Act of the AU

At its creation, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) established the Women’s Division within its Community Affairs Department with the objective of mainstreaming gender in all actions. The OAU was transformed into the AU when the Constitutive Act of the AU was adopted on 11 July 2000 at Lomé, Togo (African Union, 2000). Article 4 defines its principles as being to ‘promote and protect human and peoples’ rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other relevant human rights instruments’ and the ‘promotion of gender equality’. The AU’s Constitutive Act marks a major departure from the OAU Charter for women’s rights. It seeks the promotion of social, economic and cultural development, an approach based on human-centred development, and a commitment to gender equality.

2. The legal framework: the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights reinforced by the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa

The ACHPR was adopted in July 2003 in Mozambique and came into effect in 2005 after being ratified by the requisite 15 AU member states. It was criticized, however, for the omission of women’s rights from its provisions, despite the fact that women brought issues on gender inequalities to the African agenda through their participation in liberation struggles, and also for the emphasis given to cultural values, which appeared to create a dualism of norms regarding women’s rights. The adoption of the Women’s Rights Protocol sought to address these omissions. The target of the Protocol was to achieve full enforcement and ratification by 2015 and domestication by 2020.

3. Reporting framework: the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA)

Adopted by AU Heads of State and Government at their July 2004 Summit, the SDGEA is divided into six thematic areas of action: Health, Peace and Security, Governance, Human Rights, Education and Women’s Empowerment. The heads of state and government reaffirmed their commitment to the principle of gender equality as enshrined in Article 4 of the Constitutive Act of the AU, as well as other existing commitments set out at regional, continental and international levels, and committed themselves to report annually on their progress in gender mainstreaming. In the case of the STC on Gender and Women’s Empowerment, meetings are held every year and the Committee monitors and evaluates mainly the African Women’s Decade, the reporting of the SDGEA, and the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation Convention, among others.

4. The policy framework: the AU Gender Policy and Action Plan

These were approved in 2009 and adopted in 2010. The Gender Policy provides the basis for the elimination of barriers to gender equality and fosters the reorientation of existing institutions by making use of gender disaggregated data and performance indicators. It also establishes measures to hold managers accountable for policy implementation. The policy commitments target eight areas. One of the commitments is the creation of an enabling and stable environment to ensure that all political declarations and decisions are geared towards the elimination of persisting barriers that militate against gender equality and women’s empowerment. Gender parity and representation is to be enforced in all AU structures and operational policies and practices are to be in alignment with AU gender policies.

5. The implementation framework: the African Women’s Decade

The declaration of the Women’s Decade (2010–2020) provides a road map for the realization of the objectives for the Decade and is intended to strength the Directorate through the funding of initiatives planned for the Decade and the Women and Gender Development Directorate (WGDD), as well as establishing a coherent dialogue on gender. The theme of the Decade was ‘Grass-roots Approach to Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment’, emphasizing a bottom-up approach to development. At national level, committees take responsibility for the development of annual work plans and budgets for the committees at all levels and the preparation of annual reports on the activities on the implementation of the Decade.

6. Financing mechanism

The Fund for African Women The Fund for African Women was created as a single mechanism to ensure policy implementation as well as the effective mainstreaming of gender in policies, institutions and programmes at regional, national and local levels. It became operational in 2011. The AU organs, RECs and member states in this regard are committed to allocate a budget for the implementation of policy (Member States are requested to devote 1 per cent of assessed contribution to the Fund.