The continent is home to 1/3 of the world’s refugee population, and the highest proportion of these are refugee children and females, 51% and 59% respectively. Amongst the top 10 countries hosting refugees, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia house a greater proportion of refugee girls than boys. So, while boys and girls are affected by crisis and conflict, the face of displacement in Africa is undoubtedly and disproportionately that of a girl.
Although as a region Africa has demonstrated political will and actionable commitments to address the need of displaced populations, the 32nd AU Summit and preceding 33rd meeting of the Gender Is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) were opportunities to hone in on the gender dimensions of displacement.
The 2019 AU theme marked the 10th anniversary of the African Union’s Kampala Convention, a first of its kind instrument that also influenced the development of the recent Global Compact on Refugees, as highlighted by the UN Secretary General.
The Summit commemorated 50 years since the Organization of African Unity’s Convention (predecessor to the AU), which governed specific aspects of population displacement in Africa, including refugees. Together these landmark regional policy commitments complement the AU Protocol on Free Movement of Africans across continent and the Continental Free Trade Area. Highlighting the complex cross sectoral nature of migration and displacement.
Bridging the humanitarian and development divide for girls - from bold political commitments to accountability
The 33rd GIMAC, under the theme “Towards Gender-Responsive Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement” provided a unique Pan-African platform for civil society to leverage its influence and their partners’ on the African Union gender equality agenda across six areas (governance, peace and security, human rights, health, education and economic empowerment). As an accountability platform, GIMAC also monitors the implementation of the AU’s Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA).
Similarly, with the continent nearing the end of the African Women’s Charter and its decade Plan of Action and celebrating the 15th anniversary of protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' rights on the rights of women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), this GIMAC carried additional significance.
A session led by FAWE, which included GPE, Save the Children and IGAD, enabled regional and global education partners to examine hindrances to education opportunities for displaced girls and women in crisis situations, discussed restoring education infrastructure and school environment in emergency situations, and alternative approaches of enhancing the learning outcomes among survivors of conflict situations and natural disasters. This and other sessions included powerful testimonies by youth activists and survivors of displacement left to find their own means to support their education.
This was followed by the AU’s 3rd High Level Dialogue on Gender, Education and Protection of Schools in Humanitarian Settings, which engaged African ministers of Education, Gender and Defense, as well as global education and development actors, and called on governments to address the vulnerability of displaced girls and boys to ensure their continued schooling in humanitarian and emergency situations.
Specifically, this can be done by using a gender responsive approach that involves women and girls in decision making in camps and resettlement, strengthening sex disaggregated data, coordination and partnership, and by bridging the humanitarian and development divide so education services don’t stop in times of crisis and displaced girls and boys can continue to receive an education.
Governments were called on to mainstream gender-responsive education sector planning in these contexts to reduce the number of out-of-school children living in conflict, humanitarian crises, and encouraged countries to sign up and implement the Safe Schools Declaration.
Young people hold governments accountable
Central to GIMAC and the 3rd High Level Dialogue was the voice of displaced youth and young leaders, who are building their capacity as influencers and citizens to hold governments accountable for the commitments made. FAWE and the AU liaison office of Plan International co-convened a training session on enhancing the capacity of civil society, including youth, to monitor and report on the Maputo Protocol and Solemn Declaration, and to influence policy and decision making on issues that affect them.