Saturday, June 26, 2010

Africa: Annual Conference on Women in Political Leadership in Africa

Participants at the Annual Conference on African Women in Politics held on the 7th – 9th June 2010, organized by the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET)have called on governments to, among other things, strengthen legal and policy frameworks in their countries by aligning them with international and regional principles and standards of democracy in particular those supporting equal participation and representation of men and women in political leadership.

Communiqué from the Annual Conference on Women in Political Leadership in Africa

We, the participants gathered in Lusaka, Zambia on the occasion of the Annual Conference on African Women in Politics held on the 7th – 9th June 2010, organized by the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) in collaboration with the Zambia Association for Research and Development (ZARD), the Zambia Non – Governmental Coordinating Council (NGOCC) and the Zambia National Women’s Lobby;
Having come together in the spirit of sisterhood and guided by our common agenda of promoting respect, protection and fulfilment of women’s rights and women’s empowerment as essential elements for the achievement of sustainable development in Africa;
Recognizing that the leaders of our countries represented at the Conference namely Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius, Malawi, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan, Zambia and South Africa have at the international, regional and national levels made various commitments to promote women’s rights and in particular the right to equal participation and representation of men and women in leadership and decision making at all levels;
And taking cognisance of the fact that by making these commitments through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, the Covenant for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and by endorsing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA) of 1995 and the 2000 Millennium Declaration and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) the state parties have the primary responsibility to ensure the fulfilment of all the rights entrenched therein;
Appreciating that the African Union as the main standard setting organ on the Continent has in the last 10 years taken leadership through its supreme body the Africa Union Heads of states and government Summit to adopt two key human rights instruments namely the Protocol to the Africa Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, 2003 (the Protocol on Women’s Rights) and the Africa Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, 2007 (Democracy Charter) that require member states once they become party thereto to take measures and actions to promote the achievement of gender parity in leadership and decision making at all levels;
Further Acknowledging with appreciation that many African countries have taken a number of commendable steps, measures and actions at the national and local levels to implement some of these commitments that have led to increased numbers of women in national parliaments and local government councils and several occupying key political leadership position;
Concerned that half of the countries represented at the Annual Conference have not ratified the Protocol on Women’s Rights which specifically requires state parties in Article 2 (d) to combat all forms of discrimination against women that hinder or obstruct their full and equal participation by taking corrective and positive actions in those areas where discrimination against women in law and in fact continues to exist;
Noting with concern that despite of the measures and actions taken to promote gender equality and women empowerment none of the countries represented at the Annual Conference has achieved gender parity in decision making structures and the key democratic institutions like parliaments at national and sub- regional levels and neither at the local government or administrative levels;
Greatly Concerned that the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance which sets out standards for the promotion, nurturing, strengthening and consolidation of democracy and good governance in Africa has not come into force more three years since its adoption in January 2007 and more importantly noting that if the Democracy Charter was to be fully enforced by all African countries it will greatly contribute to achieving the objectives and principles of the Constitutive Act of the African Union particularly Articles 3 and 4 which emphasize the significance of good governance, popular and equal participation, the rule of law and human rights;
Determined to promote and strengthen women’s participation in building strong democratic societies in Africa as one of the strategies for reducing wars, civil conflicts and insecurity in Africa;
Convinced of the need to entrench a culture of democracy as a way of life across Africa;
Reaffirming our commitment to work together with African leaders and governments, women in politics, and our partners operating at different levels, to promote the Africa Union standard of gender parity in leadership and decision making structures as an indicator of good governance and sustainable development in Africa;
Urge key actors mentioned below to urgently take the following measures and action:
African Governments
1. Strengthen legal and policy frameworks in their countries by aligning them with international and regional principles and standards of democracy in particular those supporting equal participation and representation of men and women in political leadership.
2. Aim to achieve universal ratification of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa and its full implementation by the year 2015 as part of the framework for the achievement of the goals of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the global agenda for development articulated in the Millennium Development Goals;
3. Ratify the Africa Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance as a clear demonstration of their political commitment to achieve universal values and principles of democracy, good governance, human rights and the right to development;
4. Ensure that the political environment at local, national, sub- regional and continental levels is conducive for both men and women’s participation in the democratic processes of their countries by promoting a culture of peace and democracy, and securing a level playing field that is free from any form of discrimination, threats and intimidation;
5. Take preventative measures to protect all citizens, most especially women active in mainstream politics from all forms of violence, sexual harassment and intimidation;
6. Apprehend, adjudicate and subject all perpetrators of political related violence to appropriate punishment according to the law including those engaged in violence instigated by state security agents against political opponents;
7. Take corrective measures and affirmative actions to address the gaps and obstacles that hinder women’s equal and full participation in political leadership and decision making focusing attention to the need to overcome social norms, prejudices and practices that negatively portray women in political leadership.
8. Ensure that electoral laws in place make it an obligation for political parties to adhere to the gender parity principle in appointing or electing representatives to the governance bodies and choosing party candidates at different levels, development or review of their party constitution and manifesto, and the equal involvement of members in the party affairs;
9. Promote the use of ICTs to ensure citizens’ access to critical information on the democratization processes in order to facilitate citizens’ involvement and participation giving attention to information needed by different categories of women, the youth and special interest groups.
10. Condemn the killings of innocent civilians, the atrocities and human rights violations in the Darfur Region in Sudan affecting large numbers of innocent women and children and fully support the implementation of the Africa Union decisions made on Darfur particularly the recommendations made by the High Level Panel on Darfur and the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) adopted on the 29th of October 2009 at its 207th Meeting held in Abuja, Nigeria. The AUPSC decisions specifically focus on the urgent need to restore peace, justice, security and reconciliation among the people of Darfur and Sudan as a whole and the need to ensure that the peace process remains peaceful, inclusive and expeditious.
11. Support the implementation of the Plan of Action submitted by the Chairperson of the AUC to the HOSG Summit in January 2010 in order to achieve the goals of the 2010 Year of Peace, Security and Stability in Africa including building the momentum for achieving concrete results on the security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Somalia.
12. Continue to put pressure on the government of Zimbabwe to fully implement the Global Partnership Agreement, avoid the use of excessive force and abuse of human rights when dealing with political opponents and above all respect the rights of women and children and punish all those in its ranks that abuse women’s and children’s rights with impunity;
Governments in the SADC and East African Community
13. Take all measures to achieve the universal ratification of the SADC Gender Protocol by the launch of the Africa Women’s Decade which is scheduled to take place in October 2010.
14. Ensure that the countries in the East African Community that have not ratified the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa rise up to the occasion to accede to this Protocol and embark on its domestication and full implementation for the benefit of all the people within the Community.
Political Party leaders
15. Make amendments to the Party Constitution to incorporate the democratic values and principles particularly those that support equal representation and participation of men and women in the affairs of the party.
16. Ensure that women leaders within the Political party have equal access to the resources of the party.
Women in Politics
17. Recognize the progress made in the last ten years in changing the landscape of leadership in Africa and learn from what has worked for women to deliver on the common agenda of promoting peace, equality and development;
18. Build and strengthen networks within countries and across borders through which peer support and solidarity, learning and experience sharing and access to the much needed resources (including information, material and financial resources) can be enhanced;
19. Speak out strongly against any form of violence in the public or private and that which is instigated by state that is directed to any woman in politics irrespective of her party affiliation.
20. Join hands with African women’s rights activists to celebrate the successes of courageous African women politicians that are currently occupying or held in the past high ranking political positions and effectively used their presence and power to strategically promote the women’s rights agenda of transforming society by dismantling patriarchy, its cultures and practices and all forms of oppression and discrimination against women;
21. Enhance skills and knowledge on the strategic use of the media and ICTs for organizing successful campaigns, maintaining linkage with the people and the issues affecting the constituency, organizing on common issues of interest and concern to women irrespective of party affiliation, and engaging with civil society actors to secure their support and technical input on issues where they have demonstrated expertise and experience.
22. Reach out and encourage young gender – sensitive women with leadership qualities and potential to join political parties and be active in shaping the policies, manifestoes, and practices of the political parties.
23. Recognize the role of civil society and the women’s rights movement in mobilizing women as a constituency to support and propel the 50/50 campaign and take steps to create or strengthen strategic linkages and partnerships with the key actors, networks and organizations;
24. Explore and take advantage of insurance schemes and other social security arrangements available to create personal safety nets as a strategy for minimizing the risk of women taking part in mainstream politics;
Sub – regional and Regional Organizations
25. Profile women in high ranking positions including among others the first female president H.E Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf of Liberia; the former vice president of Uganda Specioza Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe; the Vice president of Zimbabwe Joyce Teuri Ropa,Mujuru; the two former vice presidents of South Africa, Pumzile Mlambo Ncquka and Bleka Mmakota Mbete; the vice president of the Gambia, Isatou Njie-Saidy; and the Vice president of Malawi, Joyce Hilda Banda.
26. Facilitate and remain engaged with the process of establishing an Africa Women’s Fund whose main function will be to provide financial and technical support to women in politics particularly those vying for the presidency to organize their election campaigns, rally the support of women as a strategic constituency for their leadership and develop and build strategic partnerships;
Africa Union Commission
27. Put more pressure on member states to ratify the Protocol on Women’s Rights in order to achieve Universal ratification by the Women’s Day celebration in 2013 as a milestone to mark the end of the first three years of the Africa Women’s Decade (2010 – 2020).
28. Call upon all countries that have or have had elections at any level or a referendum in 2010 which have not ratified the Africa Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance to take all necessary steps to complete the ratification process so that the Africa Democracy Charter comes into force in 2010, the Africa Year of Peace, Security and Stability;
29. In addition to suspension issue sanctions against any country in the Africa Union that illegally changes its political leaders and government and where human rights violations occur as a result of the chaos the AUC should undertake thorough investigations and all members states put pressure on the concerned leaders and government to restore democracy, the rule of law and punish perpetrators of such violence.
30. Accelerate the process of establishing the Africa Court of Justice and Human Rights, streamlining its functions, jurisdiction and engaging its staff team in addition to the Court Judges so that it is operational by the end of 2010 and in position to adjudicate cases where governments fail to make those accountable for human rights violations during elections, referenda and other democratic processes in their countries.
Partners, the private sector and friends of women in Africa
31. Support the efforts of Regional women’s organizations and national initiatives to establish a Special fund for African women aspiring to be candidates in public offices – presidential and parliamentary - to ensure that we deliberately address the resource limitations that female candidates face.

32. Create mechanisms through which younger and upcoming female politicians can benefit from leadership training and mentorship available through government and party training programmes and those provided by regional and national civil society organizations in Africa involved in women’s leadership development;

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