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Q&A: 'Our Voices Have Been Heard'

Interview with Letty Chiwara, UNIFEM Cross Regional Programmes Manager

ACCRA, Sep 5 2008 (IPS) - As the Third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness draws to a close in the Ghanaian capital, gender activists are reflecting on the way ahead.

Letty Chiwara Credit:

Letty Chiwara Credit:

Having successfully raised the visibility of gender equality and women’s empowerment on the Accra Agenda, attention is now turning to the International Conference on Financing for Development to Review the Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus in Doha, Qatar in November and the women are preparing to take forward their successes.

IPS Regional Director Paula Fray spoke to UNIFEM Cross Regional Programmes Manager Letty Chiwara on the road ahead.

IPS: Women’s groups met to prepare their activities ahead of this High Level Forum. Why was there such a mobilisation of gender activists for Accra?

Letty Chiwara: We realised that the Paris Declaration and the Accra Agenda for Action debate have a lot of implications on funding for women’s organisations and also on the way governments plan, budget and monitor gender equality results. Yet there was very little knowledge and awareness among women’s activists on the whole agenda.

UNIFEM set out to increase knowledge among women’s groups and activists as well as jointly strategise with them in order to ensure women’s voices were heard on these issues.

We sought to mobilise local women’s organisations, donor gender experts, women’s ministries and UN agencies with the idea that a collective voice would help us achieve our objectives.

IPS: There have been many discussions during the three days of the HLF3. Did gender activists achieve their objective to raise women’s voices?

LC: Yes, very much so. One lesson learned through this process is that the Accra Agenda for Action (AAA) has revitalised the concept of women’s lobbying and the power of movements. It brings us back to the struggle of Beijing and the success we saw then. This has been a long road but I think that our voices have been heard.

Throughout the dialogues here at Accra, I have seen a thread of gender equality running throughout. The issue is being spoken about – not just by us but by other people … one delegate told me it was interesting to hear male delegates talking about gender and women’s empowerment.

IPS: Are you satisfied with what has been agreed on with the AAA?

LC: We are very gratified that one of the key issues coming from the Accra Agenda is the recognition that here we are talking not only about the quality of aid but also about the quantity of aid. The AAA also recognizes the role that the Doha Conference (the International Conference on Financing for Development to Review the Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus in Doha, Qatar in November) and the African Union's Economic, Social and Cultural Council could play.

Promoting more resources for women is a critical rallying issue. So we would want to continue this momentum ahead of Doha and support women’s groups and strategise around the six elements of the Monterrey Consensus.

IPS: How will you build on the momentum of the Accra Agenda for Action?

LC: Accra has given us the political leverage. Political leaders have accepted that gender equality and women’s empowerment are key to achieving sustainable development results so we want to harness and take it back to countries and support those who want to take it forward.

Moving forward, our activities now would include supporting countries who want to strengthen or initiate gender responsive budgeting. We would also want to further strengthen the technical capacity and knowledge of women’s organisations and ministries of women around the issue of aid effectiveness.

Accountability mechanisms were discussed at length here and UNIFEM would want to assist in setting up more participatory accountability mechanisms at country level by strengthening the expertise and capacity on monitoring and evaluation and the use of strong gender sensitive indicators – some of which have already been drawn up and were released at the women’s forum ahead of the HLF.

We are recommending that countries can pick on a select number of these indicators and use them to monitor implementation and track the achievement of these. We would also continue to work with bilateral donor partners with ongoing lobbying and advocacy for more resources for gender equality and women’s empowerment as well as the setting up of systems to track allocation of such resources.

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