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PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER ATTENDS JOINTAFRICA-EU STRATEGY CONFERENCE IN BONN -GERMANY ON PARTNERSHIPS FOR THE POOR PDF Print E-mail
Written by Cornelia Amoah- Public Affairs Office   
Tuesday, 26 January 2010 00:00
Conference in actionIn November 2009, the National African Peer Review Mechanism was invited to attend the international conference on the Joint Africa-EU Strategy: Partnerships with the Poor, held in Bonn, Germany.

The conference was organized by VENRO, the umbrella Association of independent and church-related NGOs working in development co-operation, emergency assistance, development education and advocacy. It was held in conjunction with CONCORD, the mother organization of VENRO and Deutsche Welle. The focus of the conference was on Governance and Gender, Sustainable Energy for Africa’s Development and Regional Integration and Trade. The conference was held to take stock of progress made by the Africa-EU Strategy meeting held in 2007 by African and European Heads of State and Government as part of efforts to attain the Millennium Development Goals. The three Major topics were “Local Power and Women’s Rights: Potentials and Constraints of Decentralization for Gender Equality.”

“Ways out of the Fossil Dead-End Sustainable Energy for Africa’s Development,” and Get modern or get out – How can Trade, Regional Integration and Infrastructure Contribute to Poverty Eradication. Participants were from Nigeria, Uganda, and Mozambique, Kenya, Cameroun and South Africa and Development Partners.

ParticipantsI was a member of the Panel on Local Power and Women’s Rights with the Director of the Gender Empowerment and Development in Cameroun, Tilder Kumichii, Founder and Board member of the Centre for Women in Governance in Uganda, Dr. Maria Matembe, senior programme manger of GTZ, Jutta Barth, Joanna Maycock of Concord and Ute Schaeffer, Head of African Languages DW-Radio, Deutsche Welle Germany.

There were some insightful revelations .The participant from Cameroun, Tilder, shared the difficulties women go through to get into mainstream politics and talked about women like her who inspite of their equal efforts with male contestants on election campaigns get to become shadow parliamentarians who get to speak only when the men are absent or choose to give their subordinates a chance if they “behave”. She noted that although there is a Women’s Ministry, it comes in the news only on international women’s day in March when people are virtually forced to buy custom-made celebration cloths with the proceeds obviously going to other interest groups who are not women. She concluded that during political campaigns, the conspicuous role of women is to sing the praises of male contestants!  Dr. Maria Matembe of Uganda also presented the case of women who are saddled with traditional practices like bride price and female genital mutilation among others which affects their political growth. She emphasized that women have not been centralized so there certainly can be no discussion on the decentralized of women in local politics. This she said brings up strongly the need for women to work harder to bring change. Dr. Matembe commended Ghana for her democratic achievements and wished the country well.

When it came to the turn of Ghana, I acknowledged that the Chief Justice is a woman, the Speaker of Parliament is a woman, the Head of the National Development Planning Commission is a woman and the CEO of the Chamber of Mines is a woman but there is still a cry for the government to fulfill its campaign promise of giving 40% of appointments to qualified women.  I shared the innovation of the National African Peer Review Mechanism Governing Council where a new wind of change is blowing in the communities with its empowerment of the grassroots to play their expected roles in the local governance system.

ParticipantsWith its introduction of District Oversight Committees, who perform the monitoring and evaluation of activities on behalf of the Governing Council, many in the communities have moved from oblivion into the limelight and are very excited and confident about their new participatory roles. I emphasized the fact that the APRM Governing Council insists on gender equality in the membership of the Oversight Committees, without which the Committees will not be inaugurated into office. This no doubt has brought about a re-awakening which will change the old story of male-dominated institutions and positions to equal representation which will eventually affect national politics. The striking significance is that, if men choose to go it alone, the APRM will ask them to go back and bring their women counterparts.

At the end of presentations it was agreed that women need to hold hands tighter and embark on new and effective strategies that will help to nurture more women to push the agenda of women on the front burner.  The need for transparency, accountability, capacity-building, greater partnership with the media and closer networking even across boarders came up strongly. This way, women advocates would travel to another country to support women to participate and win elections to bring real change in election results.

The need for Africa to focus on regional integration and intra-trade will address the sidelining and heartaches experienced at global gatherings where Africa’s contributions go unrecognized. The example of the successful trade amongst countries in the southern region was shared alongside the need for strong leadership on the continent to direct the path.  

Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 February 2010 16:36