April 20, 2024

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Count Her In- Women’s Economic Empowerment through Agribusiness

Nairobi, Kenya

“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”

By Gloria Steinem, renowned feminist, journalist and activist.

As we conclude the debates, statements, and promises made during the just-ended 68th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68), African Women Agribusiness Network Afrika (AWAN Afrika) successfully hosted a pan-African webinar today titled “Count Her In: Women’s Economic Empowerment through Agribusiness”. The main objective of the webinar was to have a conversation between AWAN Afrika women owned Agri-SMEs champions and African women in media. 

The panelists and participants drawn from the five  sub-regions of the continent, were backed up by the testimonies of the AWAN Afrika Champions. According to Beatrice Gakuba, founder and  Executive Director of AWAN Afrika, the lack of inclusion for women and young women in agribusiness in rural Africa is alarming. 

“Money has no gender,” she said.  “It is about how women access money that is an issue,” she added. “We need actions to the statement, and the time is now.”

While everyone agrees that women deserve equal rights, the tensions, geopolitics and emotions have energized the talks on these basic human rights since the beginning of March 2024. 

“I always say the worst form of violence against women is economic violence,” says Ms Gakuba.  

This view was echoed by the four Champions; Yao Ndri from Ivory Coast, Finella Iams from South Sudan, Joseph Lucie Atangana from Cameroon and Nandi Mkwanazi from South Africa, who pointed out the lack of  affordable finances, resources and the absence of affirmative policies as some of the barriers faced by young African women in agri-SMEs.  

“We have the capacity, but lack the resources,” said Finella Iams.  

The webinar was attended by sixty-nine (69) participants from all over the world. The panelists were drawn from among AWAN Afrika Champions representing various agribusiness value chains. They were followed by a group of experts in Financial Inclusion, Market Access and Climate Change/Smart Agriculture. 

The panel on women in media was comprised of experienced and seasoned African women journalists joined by a ‘He-for-She’ proponent, Ken Bosire, who is also a senior journalist and strong proponent for women’s inclusion and visibility in the media. 

In her policy recommendations, the FAO Agribusiness Officer in the sub-regional office for Eastern Africa, Dr Nomathemba Mhlanga, emphasized that the conversation on financing was critical for women’s agri-SMEs, considering that 60% of women in Africa are engaged in agri-systems , “Therefore, we need to scale up finance, investments and partnerships that are tailormade for women’s agri-SMEs,” she added. In his concluding remarks, veteran Kenyan journalist Ken Bosire said:  “This  conversation is breaking the silence on women’s exclusivity on the lack of consistent and significant  support.”  He added,  “It that it was imperative that we support and activate opportunities for young women in agribusiness.”

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