Africa and International Women’s Day

Today, March 8th, as you probably know, is International Women’s Day . It is a day to remember both the importance of women in all spheres of society and life, and the unequal situation in which many women worldwide findthemselves; and also to demand an improvement of this situation . Women suffer not only the general problems of society (those that affect men too), but those specific to women – health and sexuality issues, submission to patriarchy, gender violence, lack of recognition of their work – both related to the work done for the maintenance of the family and home, as to the professional sphere – reflected in a lower pay to that of men -, an unequal representation in public institutions, and so on.
As it might be expected, in many parts of Africa where the quality of life and the situation of a large proportion of the population leaves much to be desired, this is even more uneven and often these deficiencies endanger the lives of many women and girls. I have here neither the space nor the knowledge to give an overview here of this situation, or to comment about it. But you can see the latest United Nations report on “Progress of the world’s women, 2008/2009 “, which provides detailed information about this.
I can note on this post however, that although in many African countries – and other less developed countries – the status of women is very precarious, we should not feel that here in Europe everything is on the right path. Some African countries in fact may serve as an example to us, for example the well-known case of Rwanda, the country with the lagest percentage of women parliamentarians worldwide – 56%. And where, at present, political tensions see a woman, Victoire Ingabire, as directly criticising some of the shortcomings of Kagame’s government. This is clearly, not the only case, for there are many African women in many fields, that have emerged as symbols of the overcoming barriers and have become true role role-models for African women – and for those in the rest of the world.
Of all these, I will highlight just one, not because her story is more exemplary than all the oters, but because this woman currently holds one of the most important and symbolic positions in the world of politics and international relations – a world dominated by men, and my professional bias ;). I am talking about the vice-secretary of the United Nations, the Tanzanian Asha-Rose Migiro , who has been in office since February 2007. A lawyer and univerity professor, educated in Germany and Tanzania, Asha-Rose Migiro was previously Minister of Community Development, Gender and Children’s Affairs (2000-2006) and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (2006-2007) (here you can see her biography). Since her appointment Dr. Migiro has worked to improve the situation of women, for instance by focusing efforts on campaigns against violence against women. Precisely in a recent intervention , Dr Migiro said that “Violence is the most blatant manifestation of discrimination against women, but it is not the only one. Injustice and inequality persist in developing and developed countries and in all regions.” . She also stated that “while we have seen advances in the past 15 years, we have not seen enough… More and more people now understand that gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is not just a goal in itself, but a key to sustainable development, economic growth, and peace and security”.
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Vice-secretary of the United Nations, Asha-Rose Migiro

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