ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PRESIDENT GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN, GCFR, AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE 7TH SUMMIT OF THE AFRICAN FIRST LADIES PEACE MISSION (AFLPM), ABUJA, JULY 26, 2012
1. I am delighted to welcome you all to Abuja, our capital city, for the 7th Summit of the African First Ladies Peace Mission (AFLPM). The convening of this Summit is a great honour and privilege for the Government and people of Nigeria. I am confident that you will have a pleasant stay in our country.
2. Let me specially thank Her Excellency, President Joyce Banda of Malawi for her insightful and inspiring keynote address. Her thought-provoking contributions on the important role of the African First Ladies Peace Mission (AFLPM), and the value of our collective search for peace and security in Africa, sets the right tone for further reflections on the subject.
3. Madam President, we are grateful.
4. Today's summit reaffirms the sense of urgency that we all feel about the challenging political and security situation facing several countries on our dear continent. As we grapple with old challenges, new threats such as drug and human trafficking, climate change, kidnapping, terrorism, poverty, sectarian conflicts and others take center stage. All these undermine our determined efforts to work towards achieving sustainable peace and development in our various countries.
5. It is of great concern that women and children, especially the girl-child, are the main victims of this unfortunate situation. They are not only subjected to dehumanizing conditions, they are often times the targets of abuse, resulting in the violation of international conventions on the rights of women and girls, to which African countries are parties.
6. There is no doubt that the prevailing circumstance requires strong advocacy, cooperation, human development, the sharing of knowledge and the protection of basic rights. Credible voices that draw attention to the dangers of conflict, the plight of women and children under difficult circumstances need to be heard more loudly.
7. We must work together as individuals and countries to promote the cause of peace. We have a duty to promote love and harmony in our continent.
8. I therefore consider the theme of your Summit: "The Africa Woman: A voice for Peace" pertinent to the main contemporary challenge in our land. As wives, mothers and leaders, Africa's First Ladies, have important roles to play in the promotion of peace and security on the continent.
9. Our history is rich with examples of the enviable role that our women played in maintaining peace and stability in our societies. In recent times the contribution of women to the ECOWAS mediation efforts that led to the resolution of the civil war and political crisis in Liberia and Sierra Leone is particularly noteworthy.
10. The AFLPM must continue to serve as a voice for the dis-empowered, the dispossessed, and the violated, especially women and children. More importantly, it must continue to stand firm as a special advocate for peace and the growth of our mother continent.
11. To achieve these goals, AFLPM must encourage governments to implement existing international legal frameworks that promote peace, security and human development. It must also summon the will to speak up wherever and whenever these frameworks are abused. But the task is not for you alone, raising the standards of survival in Africa is a collective task.
12. The African First Ladies Peace Mission has committed itself to the cause of peace and the advancement of women in Africa and we must support you to realize your vision.
13. Nigeria shares the laudable objectives of the AFLPM and will continue to lend support to the attainment of its goals. As a demonstration of that support, we are hosting the interim Secretariat where this meeting is taking place and providing facilities to enhance its work. A parcel of land that will host the permanent site of the AFLPM Secretariat here in Abuja has also been provided.
14. I am happy to note, that the commissioning of both the Interim Secretariat and the Foundation Stone Laying of the Permanent Secretariat and Tree planting ceremonies were successfully held yesterday. We look forward to the completion of the building project as scheduled.
15. Madam President, Your Excellencies, the countries of Africa must intensify efforts to remove all barriers that limit women and the girl-child from actualizing their dreams. Our women must be protected against all forms of discrimination and be given equal opportunities and access to education, politics and the economy.
16. If Africa is to move forward and be competitive in the 21st century, then gender equality must be a major component of our national policies.
17. Thus, I believe that the most sustainable way to support womanhood and guarantee peace is through empowerment. In this respect, our transformation agenda as a nation goes beyond the 30 - 35% of political offices being demanded by women, but creating various opportunities for women empowerment.
18. In my cabinet of 42 Ministers, 13 are women. The coordinating Minister of the Economy who also doubles as the Finance Minister is a woman. For the first time in our country, a woman occupies the position of Minister of Petroleum Resources.
19. Also for the first time, we have admitted women into our prestigious Nigerian Defence Academy to prepare women as full combatants in the Army, Navy and Airforce. Eight days ago, precisely on the 16th July 2012, I appointed the first female Chief Justice in Nigeria. Our Permanent Representative in the United Nations is a woman, so also is our Commissioner in the African Union and the Nigerian Commissioner in the ECOWAS Commission.
20. Our expectation is that these women will encourage other women and inspire the younger generation.
21. My Administration will remain resolute in the implementation of its policy on effective representation of women in all aspects of government.
22. Our commitment to electoral reforms and justice has ushered in an era where women can deploy their numerical strength to ensure that their preferred candidates win elections at all levels. This has been made possible in every instance by our administration commitment to the electoral principle of one man one vote, one woman one vote, and one youth one vote.
23. Your Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, your deliberations are important to a world in search of peace.
24. On behalf of the people of Nigeria, I want to once again thank you for coming and it is on this note that I declare the 7th Summit of the African First Ladies Peace Mission open.
25. I thank you.