ARTHUR MWANSA, Lusaka
VICE-PRESIDENT Inonge Wina has implored Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) member states to quickly address ills associated with gender inequality to reduce the high personal, social and economic costs.
Speaking when she officially opened the 8th meeting of COMESA ministers responsible for gender and womenâ€™s affairs yesterday, Mrs Wina said gender should be thoroughly integrated in all COMESA policies, programmes and budgets for the region to succeed in its gender agenda.
â€œLet me stress that as a region, we cannot afford the costs associated with gender inequalities as these impose high personal, social and economic costs on the people and cultures.
â€œNo country or community, irrespective of context, will reach its full potential while drawing on the skills of only half of its population,â€ Mrs Wina said.
The Vice-President also said it is important for the COMESA region to address limited access to production resources such as finance, land, credit, unemployment, education and training by women, including access to information and womenâ€™s capacity to participate effectively in trade.
Mrs Wina said despite good progress and initiatives, the journey towards gender equality and empowerment of women is still ongoing.
She observed that research clearly shows that growth in Africa has not been sufficiently inclusive and equitable for all segments of the population.
Mrs Wina is also concerned that lack of social protection has exacerbated exclusion of the poorest and most vulnerable groups of the population because there is no mechanism to assess the depth and forms of exclusion.
Earlier, COMESA acting secretary-general Kipyego Cheluget commended Zambia for hosting the meeting and member states for their continued support and commitment towards the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women and the youth.
Dr Cheluget also congratulated Mrs Wina on her appointment as the first female Vice-President of Zambia.
â€œIt is a pleasure to note that this high profile gender meeting comes at this historical time in Zambia whereby your appointment is celebrated by gender policy- makers and experts from our region,â€ he said.
Dr Cheluget said Mrs Winaâ€™s appointment demonstrates that despite all odds and challenges, especially in policies, women can still scale the heights to highest levels of decision-making.
ARTHUR MWANSA, Lusaka