African Union

07/31/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/30/2021 17:07

Africa’s Women’s Day

About Africa's Women Day.

Africa's Women's Day is observed annually across the continent on 31 July and is a day earmarked to recognise and affirm the role of women's organising in achieving the political freedom of Africa and advancing the social and economic status of women on the continent.

Africa's Women's Day was proclaimed as a day to be commemorated during the first conference of the Pan-African Women's Organization (PAWO) which was held in July 1962 in Dar es Salaam Tanganyika (now known as Tanzania).

Africa's Women's Day offers a national, continental and global opportunity to recall and affirm the significant role of African women in the evolution of a strong Pan-African identity, with shared values, objectives and vision for the future, as well as women being key contributors towards achieving Africa's inclusive growth and sustainable development agenda anchored in the AU vision of an integrated prosperous and peaceful Africa

Africa's Women's day 2021
In 2019, the African Union Heads of State and Government designated 7th of July of each year as 'the African Integration Day' to celebrate major achievements attained in regional and continental integration process, and also, to deliberate on critical lessons learned, with a view of addressing challenges faced.

Africa's Women's Day 2021 will be celebrated under the theme, 'African Women in Arts, Culture and Heritage'.

Arts and culture are two sides of the same coin. The former constitutes the artistic and collective production reflecting cultural reality of a society whereas the latter moors the society and constitutes the basis on which social and heritage capital is formed. Together arts and culture are part and parcel of a heritage of a country - though culture may be in turn be regarded as depository and vehicle of heritage.

The African Union (AU recognises the role arts, culture and heritage can play as catalysts for the socio-economic development and integration of the African continent through the Creative Industries and in addition to the 2021 Theme of the Year being dedicated to the sector, the AU has included culture in all major development blue prints, such as the Lagos Plan of Action 1980-2000 and the African Union Agenda 2063; as well as adopting various legal instruments pertaining to culture including the Cultural Charter for Africa (1978) the Charter for African Cultural Renaissance (2006), the Statute of the African Audio-Visual and Cinema Commission (2019) and the AU Model Law on the Protection of Cultural Property and Heritage (2018).

The 2021 theme draws inspiration in the African Union Agenda 2063, Aspiration 05 which envisages:

  • An Africa with a Strong Cultural Identity, Values and Ethics;
  • Strengthening the African cultural identity, values and ethics as a critical factor for Africa's emergence on the global stage.
  • African people imbued with a sense of their fundamental cultural unity, a sense of a common destiny and African identity and Pan-African consciousness.
  • An Africa where work is a key ethic and value, where women play an important role, and in which traditional and religious leaders, including the youth as drivers of change is recognized.

All cultural and creative industries including: visual arts, cinema and audio visual, music, literature, African gastronomy and cuisine; arts and crafts, fashion and design will be given greater visibility in line with the theme of the year.

Join the online discussions and activities using the hashtags #AfricasWomensDay and #AfricanHeritage

Women in Arts, Culture and Heritage

The commemoration of 2021 Africa's Women day 2021 under the theme, 'African Women in Arts, Culture and Heritage' is significant in according African women an opportunity to rally support and advance actions towards the implementation of commitments on gender equality and women's empowerment. Gender inequalities persist in Africa and in the creative economy sector where resources and factors of production are unequally distributed affecting the productivity and growth of women. Women are far from being treated fairly in the sector shrinking their ability to undertake or fully maximise their abilities in social or economic activities.

The African Union Strategy for Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment (GEWE) is a framework document that aims to strengthen women's agency in Africa and ensure that women's voices are amplified and their concerns fully addressed through, among others, effective implementation of legislation and proper financing of gender equality work.

The commemoration is also aligned to the declaration of years 2020 to 2030 as the Decade of Women's Financial and Economic Inclusion. The overall goal of the Decade of Women's Financial and Economic Inclusion is that every women must be able to work, be paid and participate in the economy of her country. This will involve examining the regulatory, legislative and policy context to determine the changes needed to foster the financial inclusion of women and to assist financial institutions in adopting approaches tailored to women, as separate market segment as well as their participation in key economic sectors of which is include the Creative and Cultural Industries

Get involved

The Africa's Women Day will give an opportunity to celebrate and recognize the role and contribution of women in creative economy and the Creative and Cultural Industries and to encourage women to join the sectors as well as to rally support on how to address the challenges and unexplored opportunities for women.

There is much that can be done to amplify the voices and the visibility of women in the creative industry, including but not limited to;.

  • Combatting gender-based stereotypes and harmful social norms through arts, culture and heritage in order to increase retention.
  • Leveraging different components of culture to disseminate the message on protection and promotion of girls' and women's right.
  • Promote the use of culture and arts to demystify & de-stereotype the creative economy sector.
  • Nurture girls and women's participation in the creative economy through gender sensitive humanities studies.
  • Encourage exhibitions and galleries or museum to accord women equal opportunities by exhibiting work by female artistes as well as acquiring more art produced by women
  • Advocate for women to access and occupy leadership positions in the creative economy sector.
  • Advocate for conducive environment that supports the growth of professional women artistes including through academic

Extend resources to women in the creative economy especially financial and technical resources.

About the Pan African Women's Organisation

In July 1962 in Dar es Salaam Tanganyika (now known as Tanzania), African women from across the continent gathered in the Conference of African Women, a monumental meeting and the first of its kind and decided to unite and create a common platform for solidarity and mobilisation of their efforts for the rights and freedoms of Africans in their fight for independence and liberation from the yokes of colonialism, elimination of apartheid and segregation in all its forms as well as advocating for the participation of African women in political decision making structures.

Fourteen countries and a dozen of the resistance organisations participated in the July 1962 meeting and a new organisation known as 'the Union of African Women was created; a year before the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). The same meeting proclaimed an African Women's Day to be celebrated on 31st July of each year. In 1974, 'the Union of African Women' was renamed as 'the Pan-African Women's Organization'.

PAWO is a representative organization of women on the African continent having presence in all 55 Member States of the African Union, with five regional offices. Its objectives are, amongst others are

  • to strive to achieve effective and responsible participation of African women in the socio-economic and cultural development of Africa;
  • to pursue the struggle for the representation of women at decision-making levels;
  • to fight for women's empowerment and for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.

Four countries have so far hosted the headquarters of PAWO since its formation: Mali (1962- 1968); Algeria (1968-1986); and Angola (1986-2008). Since 2008 its headquarters are located in Pretoria, South Africa.

PAWO has an observer status in the African Union. The organisation receives material assistance from the African Union and in turn, it also supports programmes undertaken by the AU. In January 2017, during the 28th Ordinary Summit of the AU the Assembly decided to grant the status of a specialised agency to PAWO and on 21 February 2019 a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the African Union Commission (AUC) and PAWO was signed signalling a key step towards consolidating the AU efforts in achieving gender equality and women's empowerment on the continent as outlined in Agenda 2063 and other instruments. The MoU states the objectives of PAWO in its interactions of with AU including:

  1. Support and contribute to the overall efforts of the AU to achieve the goals and aspirations of its Agenda 2063, particularly in strategic areas pertaining to the achievement of political, social, economic and cultural empowerment of women, gender parity, and the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women
  2. Leverage its reach, agency and convening power to mobilise communities of women within the membership of the PAWO, and in Africa more broadly, to actively contribute to the effective translation of the AU's objectives, principles and policies into concrete programmes. that positively advance the status and lives of African women and children;
  3. Leverage it's political capital with Member States and Regional Economic Communities (RECS) of the AU to ratify, domesticate and implement commitments under continental treaties, and implement all national policies and programmes that contribute to the protection, promotion and realisation of the AU's vision and objectives as it pertains to women and children;
  4. Leverage its international networks to expand and amplify the AU's voice in international fora by advocating for the rights of women and children in Africa in a manner consistent with the Common African Position in this respect;
  5. Support the implementation of programmes of the AUC as it pertains to women's empowerment and gender equality in Africa, including by generating and sharing data and knowledge, contributing to policy and programme design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation, and strengthening the, technical capacity needs of the AUC, as required.

Resource and Reference materials

Africa's Women's Day 2021


Africa's Women's Day 2020


Africa's Women's Day 2021 Blog

Jeanne Flora Kayitesi | Programme Officer | Women, Gender and Development Directorate | African Union Commission | E-mail [email protected]

Ms. Doreen Apollos | Communication | Directorate of Information and Communication| African Union Commission | E-mail [email protected]