|Event speakers call for more women in decision-making
Oct. 23, 2006
|A UMNS photo by Victor Babbage
Abigail Damasane greets Swedish Ambassador Sten Rylander at the annual Dag Hammarskj÷ld Commemorative event.
By Andra Stevens*
MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS)
— The equality of men and women is vital to having a just and developed
society, according to Zimbabwe's deputy minister of Women's Affairs,
Gender and Community Development.
Abigail Damasane urged
more participation of women in decision-making in her opening address
during the Oct. 9-13 commemoration of the life and work of Dag
Hammarskj÷ld. The event, co-hosted by the Swedish Embassy and United
Methodist-related Africa University, was attended by students, diplomats
and the university community.
listeners to advocate for stronger participation of women in
decision-making positions and processes. She also urged her audience to
emulate Dag Hammarskj÷ld, who was United Nations secretary-general from
1953 to 1961. An ambassador of peace and good will throughout his life,
Hammarskj÷ld died in a plane crash near Ndola, Zambia, in 1961. At the
time, he was trying to defuse a crisis that threatened peace in the
newly independent nation of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of
"The equality of men and women remains the only precursor to a sustainable, just and developed society," Damasane said.
She focused her remarks
on international legal measures that have been adopted to secure
women's right to vote, protect non-combatant women in armed conflict,
provide for more equitable access to education and health, and increase
the sharing of power and resources. She applauded the appointment of
women to decision-making positions in countries such as Zimbabwe, South
Africa, Liberia and Mozambique.
"We need to continue the process relentlessly to ensure our elevation is for posterity," she said.
The security of women
remains at the mercy of structural defects in society, she noted. As a
result of patriarchy, women are still subject to negative cultural
practices, such as early and forced marriages, wife inheritance and
female genital mutilation. "Even in the confines of their homes, women
are still subject to violence and abuse," and laws are needed that would
protect the rights of women, Damasane said.
A Zimbabwean response
to these concerns is the Domestic Violence Bill, which is in its second
reading in Parliament. It is an important step through which Zimbabwean
women would be protected by law, Damasane said. She urged Africa
University's students to lobby for the bill. "I have no doubt that it
(the bill) will be passed into law in the very near future and every
woman on this land will be protected against various forms of abuse."
Serving as a resource
In his welcoming remarks, Africa University's vice chancellor, Professor
Rukudzo Murapa, emphasized the school's desire to serve as a focal
point for expertise in issues of gender, peace and development.
The Dag Hammarskj÷ld
Commemorative Week 2006, he said, raised public awareness of these
issues and provided the opportunity for serious reflection on current
efforts to build sustainable peace and development in Africa. Seminar
presentations over the course of the week focused on peace-building
efforts in Darfur, northern Sudan, and in the Democratic Republic of
The Swedish ambassador
to Zimbabwe, Sten Rylander reaffirmed his commitment to working with the
government of Zimbabwe, amid recent claims in the independent media
that he has "given up" on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
Rylander said that as
the representative of the Swedish government in Zimbabwe, he is prepared
to "work with the president of this country" in building bridges
between Zimbabwe and the European Union.
Rylander described the
Swedish policy of non-participation in military alliances and noted that
his government has placed a high priority on the preservation of peace.
"Peace is more than
just the absence of war," he said. "It is about transforming our
societies and uniting our global community to work together for a more
peaceful, just and sustainable world."
In his remarks,
Rylander also highlighted Sweden's longstanding commitment to and
support for efforts to empower women. Issues pertaining to the
marginalization of women are given high priority in his government's
policy-making processes, he said.
"Sweden recognizes that women's equality is the cornerstone for sustainable peace and justice," he said.
The Swedish Embassy in
Zimbabwe co-hosted the Dag Hammarskj÷ld Commemorative activities. The
university's Institute of Peace, Leadership and Governance helped
organize the observance, which featured seminars, cultural performances
and presentations from senior government officials, diplomats, academics
and heads of organizations.
*Stevens is director of information and public affairs at Africa University.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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