Uganda’s Presidency and Hosting of NAM Summit: A landmark gathering for the gender agenda.

February 20, 2024

Uganda’s Presidency and Hosting of NAM Summit: A landmark gathering for the gender agenda.

 By Esther Nassali Masanso

Recently, Uganda hosted the 19th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Heads of State and Government, a forum of 120 member states, from 15th – 20th January 2024 at Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort. The summit, themed, “Deepening Cooperation for Shared Global Affluence” highlighted the need for global cooperation to address the challenges of our time.

Heads of State of the NAM discussed progress made in the implementation of the outcomes of the previous summit held in Baku, Republic of Azerbaijan, in October 2019. They also considered new and emerging challenges and issues of concern to NAM member states and the broader international community.

In Baku, the women ministers participating in the International Conference on Advancing the Rights and Empowerment of Women committed to establish a dedicated Women’s NAM Network that brings together women leaders, activists, and organizations from NAM countries. They also committed to promote stronger collaboration and partnerships between NGOs, UN Agencies, and Governments to effectively address the challenges faced by women in NAM countries.

While Uganda hosting the NAM summit this year was, and continues to be an important milestone for Uganda diplomatically and politically, it is also a great platform for building on the commitments made in Baku on advancing the gender agenda. With Uganda assuming the Presidency of NAM, there exists a renewed impetus to advance women’s rights and empowerment within the movement.

From the Uganda NAM Summit declaration, the heads of state and government re-affirmed the importance of achieving the full realization of gender equality and empowerment of women and girls by 2030. They stressed that violence against women and girls, including manifestations of extreme violence, continues to be a major obstacle to the achievement of gender equality and empowerment of women and agreed to join efforts and continue combating all forms of violence against women and girls until its complete elimination, recognizing the importance of engaging men and boys.

At the sidelines of the NAM summit, women leaders across the globe underscored the urgent need to address gender inequality and empower women globally. A side event, co-organized by the Government of Uganda under the leadership of the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development and Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE) with support from UNAIDS, UNWOMEN and Uganda Women’s Network, convened to reflect on the progress made by NAM Member states towards the advancement of gender equality and the empowerment of women. The side event, dedicated exclusively to women within the NAM framework took place on 17th January 2024 at Skyz Hotel under the theme, “Strengthening Women’s Rights and Empowerment in NAM Countries”. It was a landmark gathering within the NAM framework, symbolizing the growing recognition of women’s instrumental role in the development of NAM countries. It focused on assessing progress, identifying challenges and opportunities, fostering dialogue and collaboration and formulating innovative approaches to overcome persistent obstacles.

By shining a spotlight on the critical issues that affect women, Uganda and the NAM community reaffirm their unwavering dedication to building inclusive and sustainable societies that empower women and girls.

Ms Patricia Munabi Babiiha, the Executive Director at the Forum for Women in Democracy that spearheaded the side event noted that promoting women’s representation in leadership roles across all sectors, including the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math’s (STEM), are areas that need immediate attention. The women leaders highlighted the gender digital divide as an area that needs critical concern as well.

The participants emphasized bridging this divide through promoting digital literacy, closing technological infrastructure gaps, and fostering women’s meaningful participation in the digital economy.

The communique released by the women activists underscored the importance of translating international commitments on gender equality and women’s rights into tangible actions at the national level. Governments were urged to align their respective policies and frameworks accordingly.

As a result of the NAM women’s side event, CSOs and the women’s movement call upon the government to spearhead the full implementation of the Baku Declaration on advancing the rights of and empowering women globally, to increase efforts to address the emerging challenges and obstacles that persistently undermine comprehensive gender parity and empowerment, including negative social norms and practices and operationalization and support of the NAM Women Platform to ensure visibility, recognition, and opportunities for collaboration within NAM Member States.

Overall, the NAM Summit in Kampala served as a significant step towards translating commitments into action and furthering the gender agenda. The outcomes of the NAM Women’s Side Event serve as a powerful call to action for governments, civil society organizations, and stakeholders around the world. It is imperative that we implement the recommendations presented in the communique, ensuring the full realization of gender equality and women’s empowerment. A sustainable and equitable future is within our reach if we prioritize these actions.

The author is a Senior Communications Officer at the Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE)

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