International Women’s Day 2016 at AfricaRice

Rougie Thomasi, Head of Legal Unit, AfricaRice speaking on behalf of the AfricaRice women staff on the occasion of the International Women’s Day 2016 at AfricaRice HQ, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire.

Our distinguished guest, Dr. Kanayo Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and his delegation 
The Director General of Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), Dr. Harold Roy-Macauley and Members of Executive Management
Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor and privilege for me to represent the women of AfricaRice and speak on their behalf on this auspicious occasion marking the first visit of the IFAD President to the AfricaRice Headquarters in Abidjan on this special day of the year, “International Women’s Day”, when we celebrate and show appreciation for all women around the world. Institutions, big and small, all over the world (including AfricaRice in Benin, Senegal, Tanzania, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Madagascar and Cote d’Ivoire) are galvanized and come together on this day to recognize the accomplishments of women and to congratulate them on their achievements.

The campaign theme for this year’s 2016 International Women’s Day celebration is “Pledge for Parity”. We are calling on everyone—men and women---each in our own spheres of influence to commit to taking pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity. What we are calling for today is:
1. Pledge to help women and girls achieve their    ambitions (i.e. encourage daughters, wife and female colleagues to reach their full potential)  
2. Pledge for gender balanced leadership, (i.e.  In your positions of leadership give women the opportunity to lead) 
3. Pledge to value women’s and men’s contributions equally (i.e. respect and value our differences)
4. Pledge to create inclusive flexible cultures (i.e nurture a home and workplace environment which recognizes our needs) 
5. Pledge to challenge conscious and unconscious bias (i.e. Root out work place bias and help women advance to higher positions)

IWD 2016 is extra special because we have in our midst the presence of one of the most distinguished sons of AfricaRice, Dr Nwanze, coming back home to celebrate this day with us. Dr. Kanayo Felix Nwanze, President of IFAD, Akwaaba, welcome home. We are thankful for your visit to witness AfricaRice transition from Cotonou, Benin, to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. AfricaRice is very proud and honored to be associated and working closely in partnership with your institution. On behalf of all the women of AfricaRice, I wish to seize this opportunity to acknowledge the significant strides made by IFAD under your able and dynamic leadership. Your record of achievements at IFAD suggests that Women from the developing world cannot have a better patron to champion the cause of “Parity for Women”. 

Distinguished guests, colleagues and my dear sisters let me take a little time to also acknowledge the important strides made by AfricaRice under the leadership of the DG, Dr Harold Roy-Macauley, to respond to the concerns of gender inclusiveness and parity. AfricaRice has a gender action plan which progresses well. The Board of Trustees has set a target of a minimum of 30% employment of female scientists by the year 2018 and we celebrate the appointment of Dr. Rita Agboh-Noameshie as Country Representative, heading the AfricaRice Cotonou Station. This is the first time in the history of AfricaRice that a woman is heading an outstation. We thank Dr. Roy-Macauley for this groundbreaking decision.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the African Union has declared the years 2010-2020 as the African Women’s Decade, which aims to accelerate the implementation of the education focused Dakar Framework for Action and the gender equality focused Beijing Declaration. Yet as we celebrate IWD 2016 recognizing the global effort to lift our women folk, challenges still remain. The 2014 World Bank report and ONE campaign revealed deep rooted gender gaps in African agriculture and pointed out the dramatic differences between how much men and women farmers in 6 African countries produce. They identified the factors holding back women farmers, who constitute almost half of the agricultural workers across the continent. No time to list them here but the conclusion is: If given equal access to productive resources and the existence of policy interventions (e.g., securing land rights), women farmers could increase farm yields by as much as 20-30%, meaning 100-150 million fewer people globally will go to bed hungry.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to remind this gathering that despite all the hard work and dedication of numerous institutions towards the empowerment of women, we still face challenges and have miles to go before we reach our destination. That is why we the women of AfricaRice want all those present here today to join us in taking the pledge for parity and give half of humanity a chance. Let us all pledge to value women and men’s contribution equally and to reflect this in our homes, offices and communities. 

I say loud and clear, “Let’s step it up for gender equality as we pledge for gender parity here at AfricaRice, at IFAD and in Cote d’Ivoire.

A happy International Women’s Day to one and all. God Bless You!

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