Friday, September 30, 2011

African Women Urged To Take Part in Good Governance

African woman talking at a meeting. Photo Credit: NAFI World.

30 Sep 2011 06:50 Africa/Lagos

African women urged to take part in good governance

JOHANNESBURG, September 30, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The 2011 Women's Platform for Action in Africa opened here at the Pan-African Parliament today. The Conference was officially opened by the President of the Pan-African Parliament, Hon. Dr Moussa Idriss Ndélé, who pledged the support of the Pan-African Parliament to women participation in peace negotiations and conflict resolution and decision making in Africa. “Even though awareness of women's vulnerability is widely shared by the world at large, women and young girls continue to be socially excluded from the point of view of security and insecurity,” he said.

African women were urged to take part in democratic processes, as part of efforts to promote peace and prevent conflict that affects women and children. This call was made by the former Second Vice President of the Pan-African Parliament, Hon. Mary Mugyenyi from Uganda, while addressing the 2011 women's platform for action in Africa with the theme “women, peace and security”, in a two day conference at the Pan-African Parliament in Midrand, South Africa

In her remarks, the former Second Vice President of the Pan-African Parliament, Hon Mugyenyi recalled that Uganda conflict lasted for about 24 years and that presently the country is enjoying relative peace. She said women are not represented in missions that are resolving conflict. Women, she cited, should try to “indentify the causes of conflict and also influence their government in terms of building good democracy in Africa”.

The Vice President of the High Communication Council of Chad Achta Saleh Damane emphasized that the theme for the conference is very relevant for the women in Chad, as they are working towards the democratic process after 30 years of war. She added that in 1996, Chad women established a women's union for peace which mobilizes women on women's issues and also plays an essential role in policy setting, promotion of culture and peace and also in applying mechanisms for conflict prevention and resolution and social cohesion between different ethnic groups.

The Director General of Social Promotion at the Ministry of Social Protection of Colombia, Susanna Helfer Vogel, said Colombia has the largest population of internally displaced people in the world and the majority are women and children, and that one of the consequences of conflict is displacement.

The first President of the Pan-African-Parliament Ambassador Gertrude Mongella noted that equality could not be realized if there was no peace and development. “Is Africa free, independent and safe? Are women leaders going to let down Africa or say no to violence,” she added.

The opening ceremony was chaired by the Second Vice President of the Pan-African Parliament, Hon. François Labelle, who said that out of 40 million displaced people in Africa, the majority are women and children.

Ms. Mary Njeri Wanjira, Executive Director of the Coalition on Violence Against Women and Ms. Thandi Modise, the Premier of Northwest Province in South Africa advocated peace and building alternative non-violent methods of resolving conflict. They argued for dialogue between heads of state in order to find a solution and hoped that this conference will put pressure on them to implement plans that will effectively protect women and children. “To this day, basic women's rights seem a distant dream for most African women,” Wanjira said. “Food insecurity, gender inequality, sexual violence, gender-based violence, traditional and political violence are a harrowing reality for millions of women and children,” she added.

Wanjira called upon women to work hard to take their position among the decision makers in their countries, rather than playing the victim's role. She warned from the post-election violence phenomenon, and from involving young boys in the armed conflict around the continent.

For decades, armed conflict has ravaged the continent and claimed the lives of millions. The United Nation's refugee agency estimates that at least 8 million people are displaced with 70-80 percent being women and children. With no assistance from government, they are vulnerable to the persisting violations.

Sexual violence is the most insidious of them all and is often used as a weapon of war, and as a form of ethnic cleansing. This includes rape, forced pregnancy, slavery and trafficking. An eye witness from Kenya, who was a victim of such violence during the post-electoral violence in 2009 stood before the house and shared her story. “They found me in my house during post-election; I got hit on my head and...There was something like 200 men who came to my compound...they raped me, after raping me they poured acid all over my body.” The armed men set her house alight then left her for dead.

Thandi Modise warned about the increased number of displaced women and children in Africa, which reached 13 million. She called upon civil society to play a role with their governments in solving these problems, and committing the government to the application of their commitments to eradication of sexual violence, rape and human trafficking in women and children. Modise called for women “to speak in a collective voice”, adding that more should be included in the peace deciding process. However she condemned those who are already in parliament but "fail to speak on behalf of women."

She observed the need to sensitize soldiers about the rights of civilians, as one way to reduce the challenges related to armed conflict. She noted that Ghana, South Africa and Nigeria have been able to reduce the incidence of violence against women, through education of people involved in armed conflict on civil rights.

Hon Marie Louise Baricako, the Chairperson of the Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS), advised African women to form partnerships bringing together activists from civil society organizations, women in business and parliament to have a collective voice on issues affecting women. She also proposed the establishment of a select committee comprising women from each of the five regions. The committee will present a joint response on the concerns of African women to the Pan-African Parliament as well as to the African heads of state.

The President of the PAP Women's Caucus, Mavis Matladi appealed to African leaders to ensure that elections are peaceful and fair, to minimize chances of conflict that often lead to violence against women. “Women are the most affected during warfare because they are victims of sexual violence. Even long after the war is over, they still have the burden of looking after their families and those who are wounded,” she said. Matladi also called for better representation of women in national parliaments as well as in other leadership positions, where they can take part in decisions that could prevent war or mediate conflict.

Source: Pan-African Parliament (PAP)

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