4th AWLN INTERGENERATIONAL RETREAT FOR ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT, SUSTAINABILITY AND FINANCIAL INCLUSION
African Young Women Lead-Mobilizing Partnerships and pathways for Economic Empowerment, Sustainability and Financial Inclusion
The Young Women Leaders’ Caucus (YWC) of the African Women Leaders Network (AWLN) in collaboration with the African Union Youth Envoy’s Office, the Women, Gender and Youth Directorate, with the support of the AU Office of the Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security and UN Women, is organizing the Fourth African Women Leaders’ Network Intergenerational Retreat (IGR) themed, "African Young Women Lead-Mobilizing Partnerships and pathways for Economic Empowerment, Sustainability, and Financial Inclusion." The Intergenerational Retreat is hosted so far each year, as one of AWLN principles, by a Head of State. This year, the retreat will be hosted by H.E. Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, AWLN pioneer and Champion of Women in Trade under the AfCFTA. The retreat will also welcome the presence of H.E. Sahle-Work Zewde, President of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia, whose unwavering leadership and mentorship has been a cornerstone of young women’s leadership. The AWLN Young Women Leaders’ Retreat is also co-led by the AWLN elders and Pioneers, namely, Catherine Samba Panza, Former President of the Central African Republic, H. E. Dr H.E. Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, Former President of the Republic of Mauritius and H.E. Dr. Joyce Banda, Former President of the Republic of Malawi. In the same vein, the Deputy Secretary-General, H. E. Amina Mohammed, has also been a strong support system to the movement and to young women mentorship initiatives (YWMI). Therefore, as part of the pioneers’ group, the Elders will share their expertise with the Young Women Leaders and entrepreneurs, highlighting and underscoring their roles in the transformative process of moving women and girls from limited power, voice, and choice at home and in the economy to having the skills, resources, and opportunities needed to compete equitably in markets as well as the agency to control and benefit from economic dividends. The co-mentorship and co-leadership nature of the AWLN IGR, make it a unique tool. The women of Africa, including young women, have showcased their resilience, recovering from the effect of COVID-19 and the related shadow pandemic. Economically, they are amongst the hardest hit, being in the informal sector and heavily impacted by unpaid care work. To free the women of Africa from the shackles of poverty and to build back better, the young women of AWLN are emphasizing the need to implement policy frameworks such as the AfCFTA. To this effect, the 2022 IGR will discuss strategies to attain young women’s economic empowerment. In line with its annual planning, the AWLN’s first, second and third Intergenerational retreats occurred respectively, in August 2019, December 2021 and November 2021 under the patronage of the President of the Republic of Kenya, H.E. Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta and the Former President of the Republic of Liberia and Patron of the AWLN, H.E. Ms. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Strong commitments were made to continue to intentionally unite the leaders of the Network- young and senior women leaders, to be more inclusive in all aspects of decision-making and build a sustainable, innovative and cross-generational mentorship structure. This year, the Retreat will build on the previous three Retreat and further the mission and goals of the AWLN intergenerational ‘co-leadership’ and ‘co-mentorship’.
As the world slowly recovers from the harsh effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is increasingly evident that women, including young women and those in the informal and care sectors, have been disproportionately impacted. As a primarily marginalized group, women had to overcome existing barriers to business which were exacerbated by the pandemic’s effect on society and the economy, worldwide. The economic regression and the downward trend of all the achievements have been felt in all corners of the continent.
While women have been battling the scourges of our society and mobilizing to fight hunger and extreme poverty, many institutions, including UN Women and the African Union, have been at the forefront, advocating for gender equality and empowerment in Africa. The AU initiatives, such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), created in May 2019, have provided an impetus to women through trade channels. AfCFTA entered into force with a timely and ambitious initiative to bring 55 African Countries' economies together to form the world’s largest trading bloc of more than one billion people, with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) worth USD 3.4 trillion.
The agreement creates the foundation for a single continental market for goods and services with the free movement of persons and investments. The AfCFTA aims to positively impact on the continent's macroeconomic environment and poverty reduction efforts which will be of benefit to women and youth in informal trade, farming, SMEs, SSMEs, and those self-employed. The potential positive effect of AfCFTA in empowering the women workforce in Africa and the possibility of increasing opportunities for unskilled labor in Africa is tremendous; it will indeed bolster the socio-economic welfare of women on the continent.
Women in Africa face disproportionate barriers to financial access and sustainability and more must be done to narrow the gap and aid in the eradication of poverty and existing inequalities. Viable collective efforts by leaders and other critical actors at decision-making levels are needed to mobilize the financial literacy of women and girls, credit advances, and management of funds. It has been demonstrated over the years that financially knowledgeable women generally make better financial judgments and more objective assessments of their creditworthiness.
As the youth represent a large population of the African continent, it becomes more pressing to factor in young women, when speaking of women's economic empowerment. We must recognize that including Young African Women in the AfCFTA is imperative and should be intentional from all levels. The agreement envisages bridging the gender gap and highlighting the significant transformational impact young women hold, in building the continent’s economy and eradicating poverty. Young women will need access to Intergenerational co-leadership within the AfCFTA to have access to training opportunities and information on trade networks, entrepreneurship, financial inclusion, and other opportunities and to maximize the benefits of the Agreement.
To that effect, the fourth IGR is convened under the theme: "African Young Women Lead-Mobilizing Partnerships and Pathways for Economic Empowerment, Sustainability and Financial Inclusion."
The Fourth IGR will serve as a stepping-stone and opportunity to build and strengthen synergy and advance the young women’s initiatives under the Economic Empowerment Pillar of AWLN. It will be an opportunity to engage with the Champion of the AfCFTA, H.E. Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, and AWLN Elder to propose youth-led initiatives and galvanize support towards implementing the mission of the champion.
Specifically, the Retreat will aim to:
1. Identify areas of synergy within AWLN National chapters and expand the position of the Young Women Leaders Caucus at the national level
2. Propose concrete actions for Young women's contributions in making AfCFTA work for women through access to trade training opportunities, information on trade networks, business mentorships, national workshops, funding, and community engagements.
3. Identifying technical and funding needs and gaps in advancing young women leadership and propose a pathway for AWLN YWLC's contribution to the implementation of AfCFTA
4. Identify regional and national partnerships with existing organizations with a similar and shared vision and financial institutions, such as the AFDB, to promote young women’s economic empowerment
5. Follow up on agreed recommendations and call of action from the past three Intergenerational Retreats to identify and actively pursue funding mechanisms, seek pledges and opportunities for multi-year funding to support the overall caucus work.
The retreat will take place from 2-4 December 2022 in Zanzibar, United Republic of Tanzania. Attending will be young and seasoned women leaders and the government of the Republic of Tanzania. The opening session and plenaries will be held in a hybrid format.