The President of the Pan-African Women's Organisation (PAWO), Assetou Koite, says Africa must recognise and honour the contribution of women to the decolonisation of the continent and take action to advance gender equality.

¡§Our continent historically has been blessed with numerous female revolutionaries. Moreover, what is evident is that PAWO has become a transnational feminist movement. This movement has been instrumental in forging international consensus on a rights-based approach to women's rights,¡¨ Koite said on Tuesday, 31 July 2018.

She was speaking at the 2018 Pan-African Women¡¦s Day held at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) in Tshwane.

The event was hosted by DIRCO in collaboration with PAWO under the theme ¡§Celebrating a Legacy of Liberation by the Pan-African Women: Taking forward the Struggle for Gender Equality¡¨.

The celebration marked the 56th anniversary of the formation of PAWO and was an opportunity to highlight its achievements. It focused on revitalising PAWO, as well as building a progressive women¡¦s movement in Africa.

The celebration coincided with the 100th year commemoration of the formation of the Bantu Women¡¦s League and came on the eve of South Africa entering Women's Month in August.

Change comes from within

Koite said continental and subregional influences seemed to have a bigger impact on driving the agenda for changing the status of women.

¡§They are perhaps more important than global transnational influences as a vehicle for changing the status of women. Today, most of the impetus for change comes from within Africa and from regional-level networks.

¡§This may explain why there is greater openness to these changing norms at present, even as resistance to advancing women's rights continues. Africa has, for example, emerged as a global leader in promoting women's leadership in politics,¡¨ Koite said.

She stressed the importance for a formation like PAWO to unite and organise women who were skilled, educated and gifted with leadership and organisational skills, to ensure that gender equality truly manifested itself in society.

¡§We must ask ourselves what it means to move the baton from Queen Nzinga, Jean Martin Cisse, Maria Ruth Neto, Winnie Madikizela Mandela, Gertrude Mongella, Wangari Mathaii,

Albertina Sisulu and many others to the next generation.

¡§How do we recalibrate the women¡¦s movement so that it can continue to champion issues which relate to the plight of women? What does it mean to reimagine a society [that can] achieve real gender equality?¡¨ Koite said..

Mainstreaming gender politics

PAWO Secretary-General and Communications Deputy Minister, Pinky Kekana, called on women organisations to support government in its programmes aimed at addressing gender issues.

¡§We now have to make the gender agenda an agenda for everybody,¡¨ Deputy Minister Kekana said, adding that sufficient resources must be put behind women¡¦s programmes.

The Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, expressed her appreciation to the women who took part in the struggle for emancipation, saying this paved the way for today¡¦s generation, who were now beneficiaries of the struggle.