9 March 2009

Africa: International Women's Day in Liberia


Monrovia — Nadine Hack is president and CEO of beCause Global Consulting, a New York-based company aiming to "bring causes to life." Long engaged in international development, women's issues and Africa-related initiatives such as the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation, she was inspired to become a first-time blogger by the International Women's Colloquium in Monrovia. Her complete blog is on the beCause website.

Half a dozen concurrent thematic sessions – each with a half dozen panelists and a moderator before tea; another dozen break-out sessions – also with panelists, moderators and rapporteurs delving deeper into the themes before lunch, each charged to develop concrete action steps; an afternoon session with several remarkable segments including, among more:

  • Presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Tarja Halonen signing a new type of Monrovia Declaration, building on that historic commitment by African Heads of State and Government in July 1979 "to promote the economic and social development and integration of our economies to achieve an increasing measure of self-sufficiency and self-sustainment" www.nepadst.org/doclibrary/pdfs/monrovia_declaration.pdf;
  • Honorable Elisabeth Rehn, the first woman Defense Minister in Finland, reading this new Call to Action on UN Security Council Resolution 1325  www.un.org/events/res_1325e.pdf  just before she left for NY to deliver this document to UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon, after reminding us that UN SCR 1325 was born in Africa at a conference in Windhoek, Namibia a year before being brought to the UN;
  • Dr. Thelma Awori, Director of Sirleaf Market Women's Fund http://smwf.org, leading us in prayerful solidarity with our sisters in Zimbabwe while we all donned white cloths on our heads; and a summation of the action steps developed by each thematic exploration. Then we ended with an evening concert with all of us singing and dancing, it would be impossible to detail the remarkable amount that was accomplished today – especially since it's 3am in Liberia!  Suffice to say: it was a remarkable way to spend International Women's Day!

So, I will use one session as a lens into the proceedings: Ambassador Swanee Hunt, founder of the Institute on Inclusive Security www.inclusivesecurity.org, facilitated "Sharing Best Practices on National Action Plans," which was one of five break-out working groups under the theme of UN Security Council Resolution 1325.

Deftly guiding a dialogue among women ranging from a member of the German Parliament to an opposition leader from the Sudan, these extraordinarily gifted and brave women each shared insights they'd learned from their respective experiences.

After intense, highly focused dialogue, Ambassador Hunt concisely summarized the essence of what each woman had conveyed.  What I personally drew out of the richly informative and profoundly inspiring suggestions from this highly diverse group of accomplished women, including a gifted youth leader – a component of every session was to have at least one if not more emerging young women leaders present – was their collective wisdom and power. I felt so strongly the need to maintain a connection among the participants of this Colloquium beyond its formal end.  It will be in our ongoing interactions with each other through which we will increase the effectiveness of efforts in different countries: strength in numbers.

[Learn more about the Call to Action www.realizingrights.org/?option=content&task=view&id=396 and www.unifem.org/news_events/story_detail.php?StoryID=845 also and UN SCR 1820 www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2008/sc9364.doc.htm ]

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