An African Women Leaders Network has been launched in New York to harness the wealth of African women’s experiences in inspiring the next generation of leadership.

As a culmination of a three-day Women Leaders Forum, UNWOMEN has partnered with the African Union Commission and the Federal Government of Germany to launch the network that seeks to enhance women’s leadership in the transformation of Africa, particularly in the governance, peace and security sectors.

The network intends to push for the advancement of more women through peer learning and mentoring to achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

It was a celebration, with some 80 women leaders from around the continent who are joining forces to strengthen female leadership in Africa.

Ghana’s Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Otiko Afica Djaba, officially launched the Network.

She says, “We were born leaders, to be a woman is to be a leader. We will not be behind but we will be side by side with our male folk. This high level women leaders network must be tailored, designed, manufactured, financed and calibrated to give meaning to our collective resolve of one woman, with one voice for one Africa, to avoid retrogressions and close the inter-generational gaps.”

She adds: “On this note, I have the singular honour of launching the call to action for the African Women Leaders Network – long live African women, long live UNWomen and long live Africa.”

The Network includes Zimbabwe’s former Vice President Joice Mujuru, Pan African Parliament’s first President Tanzania’s Gertrude Mongella, former Malawian President Joyce Banda and former South African MP Lindiwe Mazibuko.

To be a woman is to be a leader

UNWOMEN’s Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka says, “The African women leaders network as it evolves will ensure that we work collaboratively with all other existing networks around Africa, that we make an impact at local and grassroots level, that we deal with the issues at the highest level of Africa, that we engage with leaders to make sure that we implement all of the decisions that we have taken in Africa that are critical for the development and the progress that is needed in Africa, that we ensure that the UN, the AU and other multilateral and regional bodies work collaboratively to ensure the development of Africa.”

The UN has called for African countries to include more women in their troop and civilian contributions to peacekeeping contingents.

The UN under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix says, “Allow me to call upon you since you are all gathered here and you’re all energized and have power and influence, I would like to ask you to make a special effort to convince your country, the authorities in your country, your government to do anything they can, to do more than what they are doing now if possible to increase the presence and the number of women in peacekeeping operations.”

“We don’t have enough women today even though some progress has been made but we, and I insist on that, we need female personnel, civilian or military, in both categories, because believe me, women make a difference on the ground.”

A task force has been set up to fine-turn the roadmap with the Network expected to reconvene in Addis Ababa in February next year.

– By Sherwin Bryce-Pease, New York