African women agenda not pronounced at AU Summit -- Activists

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - Africa’s leading gender activists said here Monday that the African Union Summit on “shared values” was weak on gender issues because no particular emphasis had been put on the protection of women in conflict and the need to create an improved environment for education.

The women activists said “gender specific views” on the need to improve the quality of education for children, the protection of women in conflicts and the need to improve the health of African women, were not strongly reflected in this year’s Summit theme, “Shared Values.”

“The African leaders are meeting to discuss the Shared Values. But you do not have many women in the Summit. This is not a reason for the Summit not to discuss women’s issues. It has to bridge the gap through other avenues ,” Gertrude Mwongela, a former President of the Pan African Parliament, told PANA.

The Fammes Africa Solidarity (FAS), which coordinated a gathering of several international civil societies, raised doubts on the place of women's issues on the Summit agenda.

"The Summit is still dotted with only one female voice, are the Shared Visions for African women. Do the issues under discussion include women. We know Cote d'Ivoire is the place where women's rights have been violated, where the issue of women's rights have been regressing," said Beneta Diop, the FAS Executive Director.

She said African countries had failed to act upon various international agreements to protect women, adding "Are the women part of the shared values?. We used to say that we protect women, we always say we prevent violence against women."

Former Finnish Defence Minister Elizabeth Rehn, said women had progressed from just targets of war and conflict, to a "tactic of war" being targeted by armed groups, militias, paramilitary units as was the case in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"In the DRC, women targeted by rapists do not want to be called victims, they want to be called survivors. What is most difficult is that those who have been raped have been stigmatized. This may be more brutal than the rape itself," Rehn, now a UN gender activist, stated.

She said there was the need for authorities to work on the issue of rape and stigma.

The gender activists, convening here for the "Gender Is My Agenda (GIMAC)" pre-summit meeting, want the issue of protecting women in conflict made a priority issue.

“The biggest burden for women is that most of them do not have good education, that is why women in Cote d’Ivoire and elsewhere in Africa have only one agenda, the education of their children,” said Salimata Porquet, an Ivorian gender activist.

Porquet, leading a group of 15 Ivorian gender activists to lobby African leaders to move fast to safeguard the rights of the women in the strife-torn Cote d'Ivoire, said the rights of women were being violated in the West African nation.

"The women are being targeted. The group of 15 are here to raise the alert that the women's rights are being violated,"she said.
-0- PANA AO/VAO 25Jan2011


25 january 2011 14:19:08




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