Source: Afrique en ligne
Liberia has won the African Gender Award 2011 for its efforts in the enhancement of women's rights with strong emphasis on girls' education, economic empowerment and legislation to curb violence against women, the award nomination committee has announced here. Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf will be presented the symbolic honour award on the sidelines of the 16thAfrican Union (AU) Assembly of Heads of State and Government being held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, next week, officials of Gender is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) said.
Liberia's nomination for the award is the fourth since 2005, when Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade and former South African President Thabo Mbeki were named its first recipients.
The following year the award went to Rwanda's President Paul Kagame and in 2010 GIMAC picked Mozambican President Armando Guebuza for the same award.
Heads of state receive the award on behalf of their countries because they hold the first responsibility to ensure implementation of the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA) that reflects the progress made on gender mainstreaming by every member state of the AU.
"The award is given to a country and shouldn't be personalised," said Gertrude Mongela, chair of the GIMAC award recipient selection committee.
"We hope that Liberian men and women will be encouraged by this award to carry on with what they have been doing to improve governance, peace and security, human rights, health, education and economic empowerment of women. They haven't been working in some kind of a shadow and their achievements have been recognised," said Mongela, who is the past president of the Pan-African Parliament and a veteran politician in Tanzania.
"By this award we are honouring the women of Liberia and the private sector that is contributing to the development of their country," she said, noting that presidents of the award recipient countries were always ready to be appreciated for the results achieved towards implementation of the SDGEA.
According to Mongela, the award is given to a country with a very strong commitment to gender equality.
"We don't discriminate countries by the level of their development but we look at actions taken towards realisation of the SDGEA," she added.
Meanwhile, GIMAC is holding its 17th Pre-Summit Consultative Meeting on Gender Mainstreaming as a shadow event of the AU Summit, focusing on: Elimination of violence against women; Gender and climate change/climate justice; and Gender and social economy.
The issue of violence against women is a pressing one in African societies, spanning across borders and perpetrated in various forms such as physical, sexual, emotional and psychological while it tends to increase dramatically in conflict and post-conflict situations.
GIMAC, a network of more than 40 civil society organisations, is committed to working towards prevention of these abuses and the protection of women.
Speaking on the theme of the AU Summit: 'Towards Greater Unity and Integration through Shared Values', Bineta Diop, founder and executive director of Femmes Africa Solidarite (FAS), said GIMAC wants to link these values to women's issues in Africa.
Though African countries have worked out and adopted various instruments to ensure gender equality, "it seems that gender issues are dificult to deal with," said Diop.
"Heads of state and government have ratified instruments on gender equality but they don't implement them. We don't see any impact of their action. Violence against women is rampant and we don't see all countries giving women space to take part in decision-making positions," she said.
Finland's former defence minister, Elisabeth Rehn, now a UN activist on women's rights who has just returned from a tour of the DR Congo, said the biggest burden for women was the lack of education.
"We are stressing very strongly the provision of free education. School fees and school uniforms cost too much for mothers and parents in general who have many children to afford. Those sexually abused have only one wish of education for their children. They say education will empower their children not to suffer the same abuse," Rehn said.
The GIMAC consultative meeting is also discussing protection of women in conflict countries, including Cote d'Ivoire, and the participation of women in peace processes as well as training in techniques on peace negotiation, mediation and conflict resolution.
Ireland's former president Mary Robinson told the meeting that women in many countries "are adversely affected by the impact of climate change, but they are also powerful agents of change taking action at global, national and community levels."
The 24-26 January meeting is coordinated by FAS in partnership with the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice (MRFCJ), the International Labour Organisation, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and UN Women (Unifem).