UNICEF appraises women's lot in Somalia, Rwanda

Nairobi- Kenya (PANA) -- Observers have warned that unless women's specific needs were addressed, efforts towards their post-war rehabilitation in Somalia and Rwanda are unlikely to make any meaningful impact.
Women in the war-ravaged countries, observers note, require immediate material and institutional support to begin to put their lives together and at the same time take care of families and the community.
In the long run they would have to be empowered through education so that they can defend their rights and put end to the subjugation and violence they face in times of crisis.
Such were the conclusions reached by two officials at the end of a week-long mission to assess the situation of women and girls in Somalia and Rwanda, under auspices of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
Briefing reporters in Nairobi at the weekend, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former UNDP staff and Elizabeth Rehn, Finland's former minister of defence and equality, said it would be hard to achieve rehabilitation and reconstruction work in the two countries without the contribution of women.
"Already women run most shops and life-support business in Somalia and need to be empowered to achieve more," Rehn said.
"Firstly they need to get support to enable them to feed their families but in the long-term women need to be empowered through education to stop the subjugation and constant abuse they suffer especially in crisis situation," added Sirleaf.
UNIFEM, which maintains that 80 percent of people displaced by conflict or human rights violations are women, last April assigned Sirleaf and Rehn to assess the situation of the world's women, especially those involved in crisis situations.
The team is consulting women, leaders and other stake holders in Columbia, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, East Timor, Rwanda, the DR Congo, Sierra Leone and Somalia.
They said the situation of women in Rwanda remains particularly acute in a country where some 10,000 of them are among 120,000 people currently being held in prisons awaiting trial for genocide.
"There was intense victimisation of women and rape was commonly used as a weapon of war, a situation which has compounded the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the country," Sirleaf added.
Given this scenario, there was urgent need for wide-scale sensitisation on the situation of women, girls and children in countries in conflict, they said.

10 september 2001 13:33:00

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