Women’s Rights Critical to Development


Moving toward Implementation: Busan Joint Action Plan for Gender Equality and Development at the 56th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women

By Mama Koite Doumbia and Roselynn Musa


On Thursday March 1, 2012 The United States of America, the Republic of Korea, and the OECD DAC Network on Gender Equality organised a roundtable discussion on The Busan Joint Action Plan for Gender Equality and Development at the 56th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Panellists at the session included Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues, USA Kum-lae Kim, Minister for Gender Equality and Family, Korea, Penny Williams, Global Ambassador, Women and Girls, Australia, Aine Doody, and Litha Musyimi-Ogana , Director, Women, Gender and Development Directorate of the African Union and Roselynn Musa, Program Manager, FEMNET.

The round table was convened to critically analyse the purpose, scope and implementation of the Action Plan and the role of gender equality plans in development strategies within the Building Blocks that emerged from Busan.

Lead by the United States and Korea, Busan Joint Action Plan for Gender Equality and Development is to ensure that gender equality is at the top of the aid/development effectiveness agenda, especially as the partnership expands to include new stakeholders.  It is exciting that gender equality was elevated to the level of a plenary session in Busan, yet it is evident that high level political commitment is only one key ingredient to advancing our goals.  Through a group of supporters that will include donor and partner countries, development partners and CSOs, partners are pushing for inclusion of gender equality indicators in the Global Partnership and in the building blocks and country-level indicators.  They are also promoting mutual learning on integrating gender equality goals in development and efforts to increase the existence and availability of sex-disaggregated data.

Speaking at the session on behalf of BetterAid, an umbrella organization bringing together more than 1,700 CSOs all over the world and represented by APWLD, AWID, Coordinadora de la Mujer, FEMNET and WIDE, Ms.Roselynn Musa stressed the need for a right based approach in implementing the Busan Joint Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation.

Ms. Musa congratulated the partners, particularly the US, Korea, Gendernet the UN Women and other partners for their insight and the initiative which is as an attempt to operationalize the gender equality commitments in the Busan Outcome Document, hoping that it will lead to the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and substantive equality. She noted that several global and regional mechanisms such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Form of Discimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Platform for Action (BpFA) exist that explicitly frame any commitments made to increase development effectiveness and development cooperation. These should be used as launch pads.

She pointed out that women’s rights, including women’s empowerment are cornerstones for sustainable development and this should be the guiding principle as moves are made to operationalize Busan. Noting that increasing focus on economic growth as a focus of development has not resulted in empowerment of women in all their diversity, particularly the most marginalised. She underscored a rights-based approach to development as imperative to drive development for women.

Experience has shown that the definition of empowerment that works for women’s rights include the achievement of physical, economic and political autonomy of women as well as promote collective empowerment of women organizations and women movements. Collective empowerment is strategic for transforming the dominant development paradigm and promoting democratic citizenship needed to make significant impact on the lives of millions of women. Moreover, isolated economic individual empowerment of women through microcredits has proven to just multiply the burden of work that women carry out. Women’s rights will not be fully enjoyed by women in all our diversity simply by facilitating entrepreneurship of women. Evidence of many women’s organizations suggests that this approach can instead exacerbate inequalities and rights violations.

BetterAid believes in development as a Right and that international solidarity through sustainable international cooperation has a crucial role to play in fulfilling states’ responsibility to ensure that all people realise their rights. This human rights-based plan should be developed in dialogue with women’s rights organisations and gender equality advocates among others to contribute to democratic ownership, accountability, participation and be informed by the collective expertise of women globally.

Critical engagement of CSO, in particular Women Rights organisations and gender equality advocates enabled by governments leading and partnering in any initiative about women empowerment, including this one, is crucial to guarantee ownership and accountability at all stages of the plan and to take stock of the accumulated “value on knowledge” and expertise that women’s organization, women empowerment and gender equality advocates can share to ensure impacts, outcomes and processes that really transforms the life of women.

She concluded by urging states to recognize that empowerment of women requires fundamental shifts in social, political and economic structures. The enjoyment of women’s rights should be a central objective of development strategies which should be fully funded, include specific indicators and focus on shifting structural, entrenched power imbalances patriarchal attitudes, multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and inequalities. 

Ms. Musa welcomed any efforts of states to increase funding to women’s rights and empowerment and urges governments to make substantial financial commitments to the advancement of women’s rights and called on the governments supporting the Joint Action Plan to both continue and intensify  use internationally agreed standards and processes as its foundation.



FEMNET (The African Women's Development and Communication Network) is a pan African, feminist organisation working to advance the rights of women and girls in Africa. FEMNET has carved a niche in Informing and mobilizing African women in order for them to participate and influence policies and processes that affect their lives. FEMNET has hundreds of members in over 40 countries in Africa as well as in the diaspora. It has played a critical role in building the women's movement in Africa since inception in 1988.

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