FAS New York Office Hosts Successful Panel Discussion: When Culture Becomes a Barrier to Gender Equality in Africa

New York, USA

22 October 2007

 

On 22 October, 2007, the New York office of Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS) hosted a panel discussion to celebrate the seventh anniversary of United Nations Security Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. The event, titled “When Culture Becomes a Barrier to Gender Equality in Africa” featured four speakers and examined obstacles to gender equality in Africa, as well as ways to redress imbalances by better understanding African cultures.


The guest speakers and attendees met in the morning in the second floor conference room of the Church Center at the United Nations in New York, and was attended by numerous civil society groups, UN missions and NGOs. Among them were the NGO Working Group on Peace, the Liberian Mission to the UN, and representatives of the United States Government.

 

Dr. Dawn Cooper Barnes, an academic expert on Liberia, African culture, and the media, spoke on how tradition in pre-colonial Africa actually favoured gender equality by placing women in positions of power, such as advisors to kings or emperors.

 

Mr. Paul Goa Zoumanigui, Counselor of the Guinean Mission to the UN, drew from the recent conflict in Guinea and West Africa. He stressed the need for peacekeeping to be gender sensitive so that countries emerging from conflict can ensure that culture becomes more gender-sensitive during reconstruction and peace time.

 

Dr. Marietou Haba Diallo, a medical doctor from Mali and treasurer of the Office Director and Officer In-Charge of Tin Hinan’s Health Division, highlighted the Malian experience. The UN Conventino on the Elmination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was actually included in the Malian constitution, so that the rights of Malian women are guranteed under an international covenant. The case of Mali is very innovative and a good example for other African nations.

 

Ms. Eugenie Mukeshimana, Outreach and Education Coordinator for Rwanda Gift For Life and a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, spoke about gender equality in Rwanda during and after the genocide. In Rwanda today, women are heavily involved in politics, public likfe and business in order to redress the inequality that existed in Rwanda before. They are working to ensure durable change in the position of women.

 

The panel was moderated by Adam Diop, the Coordinator of FAS’ New York office. The public also raised some very interesting comments for discussion. Several participants stressed the need to educate women in Africa about policy instruments like UNSCR 1325 that protect and promote their rights. Other participants were interested in learning more about how aspects of African cultures can be changed so that the barriers to gender equality are removed. From this topic, the idea was developed for an upcoming panel discussion on gender and religion in Africa.