African time spoils AU’s chance to shine

CityPress - - Voices - Stella Wil­liams voices@ city­press. co. za

Afive-hour de­lay in pro­cess­ing ac­cred­i­ta­tion. That is what marred the start of the sec­ond African Union (AU) high-level panel on gen­der equal­ity and women em­pow­er­ment in Jo­han­nes­burg this week. And it seems no one knew what was hap­pen­ing. That, among other things, was my per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence.

We had to wait for close to five hours be­fore we re­ceived ac­cred­i­ta­tion to at­tend the meet­ing. Lo­cal or­gan­is­ers blamed the AU for a lack of in­for­ma­tion on par­tic­i­pants. Af­ter tire­somely go­ing back and forth, par­tic­i­pants were fi­nally ac­cred­ited.

Those with ac­cred­i­ta­tion went to the venue, the Sand­ton Con­ven­tion Cen­tre, and those with­out were trans­ported to get theirs. The meet­ing’s par­tic­i­pants in­cluded AU min­is­ters of gen­der and women’s af­fairs, academia, schol­ars, re­searchers, busi­ness, me­dia, youth, women in agribusi­ness and devel­op­ment part­ners.

The open­ing cer­e­mony was de­layed for sev­eral hours be­cause the in­ter­preters were not present, so the meet­ing could not pro­ceed. Af­ter mid­day, the sit­u­a­tion was fixed and the meet­ing fi­nally got go­ing. This re­sulted in the agenda be­ing changed to re­flect the new norm. Did this dis­ap­point­ment in­di­cate a lack of or­gan­i­sa­tion? There were two pan­els of pre­sen­ters. The two ses­sions were very in­ter­ac­tive, with par­tic­i­pants given op­por­tu­ni­ties to ask ques­tions.

I guess par­tic­i­pants re­acted to the dis­ap­point­ment of the first day and failed to ar­rive on time for the meet­ing.

A meet­ing that was sup­posed to have started at 9am did not start un­til hours later. Again, there were four pan­els. The high­light from the sec­ond panel was great, with pre­sen­ta­tions by three young peo­ple – all fe­male he­roes. Each of the three pre­sen­ta­tions of­fered a wel­come ad­di­tion to pro­ceed­ings. They in­cluded:

A Ma­sai woman who started with one cow and now has 10. She is di­vorced and, de­spite her chal­lenges, is flour­ish­ing.

Two young women from South Africa, each experiencing is­sues with land prob­lems – but both were still work­ing hard to achieve their goals.

Aside from the chal­lenges at the start, the par­tic­i­pa­tion at the sum­mit was ex­cel­lent. How­ever, our chal­lenge as par­tic­i­pants is to get gov­ern­ments from the 54-mem­ber states to fol­low up with the rec­om­men­da­tions taken, pri­mar­ily for in­ter­min­is­te­rial groups to meet and im­ple­ment the rec­om­men­da­tions. This is a daunt­ing chal­lenge. So for me it was just an­other talk shop.

Wil­liams at­tended the sec­ond African Union high-level panel on gen­der equal­ity and fe­male em­pow­er­ment as part of the African Union sum­mit,

which will end in Sand­ton to­mor­row

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