Ayele Addis Ambelu (Ayeleradio@gmail.com)

President Sahle-Work Zewde attended the 4th African Women Leaders’ Network (AWLN) Intergenerational Retreat under the theme “African Young Women Lead-Mobilizing Partnership and pathways for Economic Empowerment, Sustainability and Financial Inclusion ‘’ held in Zanzibar, Tanzania from 2-4 December. The 1st AWLN retreat was held in person in 2019 in Nairobi under the patronage of the HE former President Uhuru Kenyatta and former President of Liberia and Patron of the AWLN H.E Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the past two retreats were held virtually. The only two sitting female presidents on the continent and former female presidents were in attendance. Ethiopia Chapter of AWLN was launched in October 2019 by President Sahle-Work.

The retreat was an excellent opportunity to highlight some of the significant initiatives undertaken by the President, such as the Presidential Leadership Training Program, which benefited 200 mid-level women leaders from cross-sections in less than a year- Presidential Mentorship: a two years program for 3rd and 4th-year university female students planned to reach 1,500 students in 5 universities across the country. The aim is to have a national mentorship program.- Presidential Tutorial is a program for female students from low-income families / 1/3 of the students are male/. The President is a pioneer member of AWLN. The gathering was a perfect platform to share experiences with and inspire amazing young women from across the continent.« There always exists a ladder of opportunity that you have to climb. It increases self-confidence. However, It has to be on safe ground. Not all ladders are safe… especially if you are not given the means to succeed ». She added, « we succeed standing on the shoulders of those before us. I offer you mine. Use them to reach your dream, your full capacity ».

The African Women Leaders’ Network (AWLN) has concluded a three-day retreat of its National Chapters and Youth Caucuses, convened to strategize on expanded pathways on women mobilization, advocacy, and enhanced action on gender equality and women’s empowerment. The retreat called in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, brought together the current thirty (30) National Chapters of the women’s movement that deliberated on, among other vital issues, the strengthening of the AWLN National Chapters, including the establishment of governing systems at the Continental and Regional levels; resource mobilization; and enhanced synergies among the members through mapped out key activities for joint implementation.

The retreat, held from the 29th to the 31st of August 2022 was also a platform for the members to share experiences of successful strategies in advancing the priorities of National chapters and the youth caucuses. The retreat reviewed the governance structure of AWLN, its Constitution, and operational modalities at the continental level and made recommendations on their localization and strengthening linkages with the National Chapters.

In the last five years, AWLN has grown significantly, leading to 30 National Chapters across the continent, with six new national chapters completing their respective preparatory activities for the official launch in 2022. The existing National Chapters are implementing their Action Plans developed in the context of their national priorities and aligned to the six priority areas of AWLN’s core intervention centered around empowering rural women and agriculture; Political participation; peace and Security; Youth leadership; Financial Inclusion; and Social mobilization”.
Through their flagship initiatives, the Youth Caucuses have seen the young women establish Intergenerational dialogues and mentorship platforms to ensure young women effectively and meaningfully participate in leadership roles of the network. With a growing membership of young women leaders from Africa and the diaspora, with its members drawn from the civil society, political sphere, private sector, and academia, the Youth Caucuses have been instrumental in leading innovative ways to support the implementation of AWLN’s activities.

Despite progress across the continent on gender equality and women empowerment, the picture remains mixed as implementation continues to fall far below levels that would allow transformative participation of women. African countries are also lagging in gender equality in public service, executive positions, the judiciary, and private sector leadership. Women’s leadership and representation in public and private sector decision-making bodies are still low.

African Union Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security Mrs. Bineta Diop, equally in her capacity as the AWLN Co-convener, underscored the relevance of the retreat in ensuring the voices and ideas of the African women and girls are amplified in the strategies and actions plans developed, for more impactful delivery of the commitments made on women empowerment. She stated, “from this retreat, we have great outcomes that will lead to enhanced collaboration among national chapters; we now have a roadmap and innovative strategies to strengthen the AWLN National Chapters; we have discussed avenues for funding and technical needs to enhance the capacities of the national chapters, and we have shared best practices from the various work the National chapters are doing. This has been a timely and successful retreat.”

UN Women Special Representative to the African Union and the UNECA, Mrs. Awa Ndiaye Seck, reiterated the commitment of the UN Women to support the realization of the goals of AWLN fully. “We will continue to support AWLN as a women’s movement, and it’s National Chapters that are doing a lot of work in convening, mobilizing, advocating, and influencing women and the women’s movement. Individually and collectively, we want to amplify, scale up, and raise women’s profiles, propelling them to higher leadership roles and gradually increasing the pool of women leaders on the continent. She stated at the decision-tables in the realization of the AU-UN joint frameworks on peace and security and development”.

The African Women Leaders Network National Chapters were also received at the African Union Headquarters by the Deputy Chairperson, African Union Commission, Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa; the Deputy Chief of Staff in the Cabinet of the Chairperson Amb. Alex Ratebaye; and Amb. Josefa Sacko, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy, and Sustainable Environment, addressed them virtually.

Note to Reader.
The African Women Leaders Network (AWLN) was launched in 2017 under the leadership of the African Union Commission (AUC) and the United Nations (UN) through the Office of the AU Special Envoy on Women, Peace, and Security (OSE) and UN Women. AWLN seeks to enhance the leadership of African women in the continent’s transformation, in line with the Africa Agenda 2063 and the Global Sustainable Development Agenda 2030.