It is a very special honour for me as a non-African, non-UN participant to receive the floor for the last word at this seminal retreat.
And it is a particular pleasure for me to follow the invitation of Her Excellency President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, whom I know as a true champion for the empowerment of women and girls in Africa and the ideal patron for the African Women Leaders Network.
Of course, once again we are forced to convene virtually, as we have done so many times during this challenging year. By now I am sure you will agree with me that we are tired of webinars, online conferences and digital roundtables. While we have quickly adapted to these new formats, they have also quickly become quite repetitive. The truth is: Knowledge on the ground is the soul of the service.
So, not surprisingly it’s good to see you bring more soul to the digital sphere by including “fireside barazas” or poetry and dance interludes.
Secondly you are providing a new and different perspective:
Very often we mention the importance of addressing the needs of “women and youth” in society, or to include these groups in peacebuilding processes.
However, we usually address women and youth as being two separate groups, and rarely make an effort to interlink them, neither conceptually nor practically.
This retreat gives the necessary holistic approach and has widened the perspective.
Some individuals whom I met come to my mind and I thank all of you working day to day for peaceful und equitable societies.
Let me point out the young Women Ilwad Elman. She received the German Africa Award a few weeks ago. And I had the great pleasure to welcome her at the Federal Foreign Office.
At 30 years, Ilwad is at the forefront of empowering and protecting women and girls, while actively helping to heal the wounds of Somalia’s young population from decades of conflict.
Ilwad’s work shows: The voice of the youth brings about change, and this change is urgently required.
Dear friends and collegues,
2020 has made one thing very clear: In times of crises like this one, women and girls still carry the largest burden.
Due to the pandemic, the gender gap in low wages and unemployment, health care and education has again widened. Domestic violence has surged.
Youth tend to be more open to positive change. And they are not afraid to walk new paths and use the different tools of digitalization for good.
We therefore must open spaces and ensure the meaningful participation of young people in all aspects of peacebuilding, to make sure these efforts are effective and sustainable.
With the AWLN approach, Africa has already created a best practice on how to apply an intersectional lens to peacebuilding, to bring women from all walks of life to the table.
To widen this lens in an intergenerational exchange, teaching and learning from the youth, is the logical next step.
For all this reasons Germany is so proud to be a longstanding supporter of the African Women Leaders Network.
I am looking forward to continuing our work in 2021 and hopefully with the spirit of personal exchange. Have a merry and peaceful Christmas.