Africa is a continent which is unfortunately quite infamous for its oppressive systems against women. In Africa it is common for young girls to be robbed of the opportunity to attend school - for example, the Human Rights Watch states that over 49 million girls in sub-Saharan African countries aren't in school.

This undoubtedly means that women ultimately become less empowered both in terms of skills and their economic position. 

Why? Because not educating young women limits them to only qualifying for low-paying jobs with very little room (if any) to grow.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) also notes that the lack of education opportunities for women compels women in African countries to take on even more laborious work.

But that doesn't necessarily mean they become more financially stable as a result of taking on more labour. Instead, the little they make contributes to household needs.

Moreover, the ILO confirmed something we all already know; the inequality between men and women "persists across a wide spectrum of the global labour market."

This is what Graca Machel - whose Trust has launched the Women Advancing Africa (WAA) Forum - is referring to when she says "a significant gap in the economic advancement of women remains a huge challenge."

The Women Advancing Africa Forum has therefore set out to bring some of the continent’s brightest minds together to shape a common agenda to accelerate the economic advancement of women in Africa.

Women can no longer be secondary or marginal, and through Women Advancing Africa the Trust wants to enable women to take center stage in the economic advancement of Africa.

WAA is of the strong and valid opinion that women can no longer be secondary beings to men or continue to be marginalised in the workplace.

Another well-known fact is that even when women are in the same professional positions as men, yet they earn less or are treated as though they are not eligible for the same benefits as men.

Read more: What I’ve learnt as the only woman in an all-male team

But the Graca Machel Trust aims to change that status quo slowly but surely by creating a platform whereby women can "claim their right to sit at the table where the decisions are made and to shape the policies, plans and strategies for our futures and those of the generations to come.”  

Africa is in a second liberation era – the economic liberation. Women can no longer be secondary or marginal, and through Women Advancing Africa the Trust wants to enable women to take center stage in the economic advancement of Africa. 

In light of this, one can't help but commend the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama and Rihanna for recognising the importance of educating young girls not only in Africa, but across the globe too.  

When Oprah Winfrey opened the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for underprivileged girls in South Africa in 2007, she told international media that she did it because she believes educating girls can help "change the face of the nation."

Michelle Obama's Let Girls Learn programme is a multi-year programme aimed at getting young girls in developing countries into and staying in school. 

Read more: Can someone please explain why Donald Trump is scrapping the "Let Girls Learn" programme?

And when Rihanna received the 2017 Harvard Humanitarian of the Year award it was in recognition of all the charity work she's been doing for children and women since she was 18 years old.

But we need more African organisations doing this for their own African women, which is probably what makes WAA a unique forum. The forum, together with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the Graça Machel Trust will also be launching a study on “The Female Economy in Africa”.  

This study analyses the participation of the women’s work in Africa focusing on gender gaps in the economy, participating in national politics, financial inclusion and sectoral segregation.

Ultimately what WAA aims to be is a "catalyst for much larger movement of women centred around the economic advancement of women who will collectively shape and drive a development agenda that is measurable and sustainable.”

You can find out more about this initiative and register here.