High praise for out­go­ing Liberian pres­i­dent

Cape Times - - WORLD NEWS -

AS VOTES were be­ing counted across Liberia to de­ter­mine the coun­try’s next pres­i­dent and leg­is­la­tors, South Africa’s Speaker of the Na­tional As­sem­bly, Baleka Mbete, yes­ter­day com­mended out­go­ing Pres­i­dent Ellen Sir­leaf John­son for her suc­cess­ful pres­i­dency.

“We owe thanks to our mother, sis­ter and leader for the calm and de­ter­mined way in which she helped to sta­bilise the coun­try and made Liberi­ans feel at home in their own coun­try,” Mbete told the 10th An­nual Con­fer­ence on Women’s Rights dur­ing the fifth ses­sion of the Pan African Par­lia­ment (PAP), at the Gal­lagher Con­fer­ence Cen­tre in Midrand, Gaut­eng, yes­ter­day.

“Bring­ing real and last­ing so­lu­tions are in the hands of the PAP. We can’t rest un­til there is peace and se­cu­rity on the African con­ti­nent,” Mbete told the au­di­ence.

Turn­ing to the theme of the con­fer­ence, Mbete ex­pressed grat­i­tude that or­gan­is­ers were ad­dress­ing the is­sue of Fe­male Gen­i­tal Mu­ti­la­tion (FGM), de­scrib­ing it as de­grad­ing to­wards women and girls, and a form of dis­crim­i­na­tion and vi­o­lence.

The con­fer­ence was of­fi­cially opened by Haidara Aichata Cisse, the chair­woman of the PAP’s Women’s Cau­cus, who said African women would re­spond to the mis­man­age­ment in­flicted on Africa by un­fair de­ci­sions such as the travel sanc­tions placed by the US ad­min­is­tra­tion on Chad, and the pro­posed sanc­tions on the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo (DRC).

“Africa shall no longer ac­cept veiled coloni­sa­tion,” said Cisse.

Her com­ments on the dis­crim­i­na­tion African women faced were equally strong.

“Africa’s pri­or­i­ties must fo­cus on women and youth for the con­ti­nent to de­velop.

“How can the con­ti­nent’s full po­ten­tial be reached if over half its pop­u­la­tion is ex­cluded from full equal­ity?” asked Cisse.

“As wives and moth­ers we must also fight the prac­tice of FGM, which is un­ac­cept­able in the 21st cen­tury.”

Jus­tine Coul­son, the UN Pop­u­la­tion Fund’s Re­gional Di­rec­tor for east­ern and south­ern Africa, told at­ten­dees that end­ing FGM, gen­der in­equal­ity and vi­o­lence was im­per­a­tive for Africa’s de­vel­op­ment.

“If we don’t in­vest in health and ed­u­ca­tion for all Africans, the con­ti­nent won’t ad­vance. Gen­der em­pow­er­ment is es­sen­tial, and coun­tries won’t reap the ben­e­fit of gen­der div­i­dend if dis­crim­i­na­tion against women is not elim­i­nated,” said Coul­son.

She said the world still had a long way to go, with 200 mil­lion women and girls around the world liv­ing with the con­se­quences of FGM.

“Only 24 African gov­ern­ments have laws against FGM.”

How­ever, Coul­son said there had been some progress in fight­ing FGM, with more than 3 000 African com­mu­ni­ties com­mit­ting to fight­ing the prac­tice since 2008.

“These re­sults wouldn’t have hap­pened with­out the PAP. How­ever, it can still do more to help the 300 mil­lion women and girls across Africa who still face FGM.”


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