African gender crusaders seek more from parliamentarians

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African women rights activists meeting here Wednesday ahead of the African Union (AU) heads of state summit have called for enhanced access to higher education, free basic schooling and effective follow-ups of A U resolutions.

The women rights activists, drawn from diverse organizations, including governme nt officials from Europe, have also under-scored the need for continued lobbying of international organizations, including the European Union (EU), on women rights affairs.

“We are not here to antagonize governments. Let us see practice in the declarations passed during these past meetings. These will have greater impacts on the ground,” said Grace Kabayo, the Executive Director of the Kampala-based Pan African Movement.

Women rights organisations, Kabayo said, should take the lead in championing con flict prevention methods across Africa, through bold initiatives such as visiting conflict zones to present the case of women caught up in the cross-fire.

African parliaments, the activists said, had let down the AU in the ratification of crucial agreements reached during important heads of state assemblies for several months.

“We should talk to our parliaments to discuss the AU heads of state declarations ,” said Afoussatou Diarra, a Supreme Court Judge and a member of the AU Women Co m mittee.

According to Diarra, African parliaments have been a let down to the continent in the implementation of the AU declarations, including the ratification of the n e cessary declarations.

“I was recently in our parliament to inquire about the actions taken in the impl ementation of the AU solemn declaration. I was promised the issue would be given priority after parliament’s recess, but when it resumed, the agenda was never di s cussed,” Diarra said.

The Fammes Africa Solidarite (FAS) has convened a series of meetings to prepare a pre-summit list of demands that it wants the African leaders to act upon.

African countries have made progress in the implementation of the AU solemn decl aration on gender, which seeks to galvanise greater participation of women in pu b lic affairs management and proposed conscious efforts to ease the suffering of w o men.

Belgium’s State Minister for Family and the Disabled, Gisele Mandaila, said African women remained vulnerable, especially on access to higher education.

Mandaila said computerization of schools in Africa was crucial for industrialization of the African continent, emphasizing that challenges remained, especially on the provision of free secondary education.

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