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Women honour Wade, Mbeki: African women's long struggle to achieve gender parity will come under the spotlight this month during one of the continent's most important awards presentations. Anver Versi reports.

Presidents Aboulaye Wade of Senegal and Thabo Mbeki of South Africa will be the first recipients of the African Gender Award when the presentations are made in Dakar, Senegal, this month (May).

The award--to an African leader who has demonstrated outstanding achievement in encouraging peace and development through the implementation of gender-sensitive measures--is presented by Femmes Africa Solidarite and its partners.

Femmes Africa Solidarite (FAS), an NGO, was created in 1996 as a response to the horrors of violent conflict that were tearing African nations apart.

This was an initiative by African women, who are often the more productive gender in African countries but who also bear the brunt of violence and wars, to take the issues of peace and development in their own hands.

An international secretariat based in Geneva, Switzerland, coordinates its programmes in Africa and serves as a contact point for other international organisations. The award presentation will run concurrently with the first edition of the African Gender Forum. The topic for this two day event will be south-south dialogue between African and Arab women. The list of invitees reads like a who's who of prominent women from both worlds.

Some of those attending the event include: Gertrude Mongella, president of the Pan-African Parliament, Dr Dalamini Zuma, South Africa's foreign minister, Madame Viviane Wade, wife of President Wade of Senegal and president and founder of the Association Education Sante, Her Highness Shaikha Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al-Khalifa, wife of His Majesty the King of Bahrain and chairperson of The Supreme Council for Women, Sheikha Lubna Al-Qassemi, minister of economy and planning, UAE, Hilda F. Johnson, minister of international development, Norway, Graca Simbine Machel, president of the Foundation for Community Development, Mozambique and wife of Nelson Mandela, Nane Annan, wife of UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan and scores of other women all of whom hold important positions at national or international levels.

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The host and driving force behind the event is Bineta Diop, Executive Director of FAS. Mrs Suzanne Mubarak, wife of president Hosni Mubarak of Egypt will be President of the Forum while Ms Haifa Al Kaylani, founder and chairperson of the Arab International Women's Forum is co-host. "Leaders from the two communities (African and Arab) will identify obstacles, propose solutions and build bridges, inspiring a dual commitment to mainstreaming gender and ensuring women's participation," said Bineta Diop.

End of a long road

African women's networks, such as FAS and the African Women Committee on Peace and Development (AWCPD) had been working away steadily for years to promote gender equality throughout the continent. Their unrelenting campaign culminated in the recent adoption of the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa by the African Union in July 2004. The process began in Lome, Togo (July 2000) and was followed up with many activities in Sirte, Libya (March 2001), Tripoli, Libya (February 2001), and Lusaka, Zambia (July, 2001), where members of FAS and the AWCPD pushed forward an agenda to increase the inclusion of women at decision-making levels.

FAS invited other organizations to join this effort. These included the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), the Africa Leadership Forum (ALF), the African Women's Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), and Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF), among others, all of whom first met in Durban in 2002. However, efforts to mainstream gender would not have been possible without distinct leadership within the African Union.

At the June 2002 AU Summit in Durban, President Wade, on behalf of African women, proposed a gender parity policy recommending 50% participation of women in the leadership of the AU. African Heads of State and Governments unanimously adopted the proposal and it is now stipulated in AU statutes that at least one Commissioner from each region shall be a woman.

The AU, under the Presidency of Thabo Mbeki, took up the cudgels behalf of women's rights in with the implementation of the gender parity policy in July 2003 at the AU Summit in Maputo.

Five female Commissioners out of 10 were elected to the African Union Commission and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa was adopted.

In July 2004, the African Union Commission, under President Alpha Oumar Konare, adopted the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa.

The African Gender Awards will be made every two years.
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Title Annotation:EVENTS; African Gender Award; Aboulaye Wade and Thabo Mbeki
Author:Versi, Anver
Publication:African Business
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:May 1, 2005
Words:739
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