The Nobel Women’s Initiative just wrapped up an extraordinary trip to the 20th Summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa as a part of the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict delegation. A group of 25 women including grassroots activists from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, South African, Zimbabwe and Kenya attended the Summit, and called on the Heads of State and the African Union to make stronger commitments to stop rape in conflict.
Campaign member and Executive Secretary of South Kivu Congolese Women’s Caucus for Peace Solange Lwashiga Furaha struck at the heart of the delegation’s mission:
“We are here to tell the African Union, enough is enough, sexual violence is continuing to tear people, families, and communities apart. Now women activists from across the continent have come to tell their leaders that they must be accountable to the women and girls of Africa.”
The delegation hit the ground running earlier this month in Addis Ababa. Delegates participated in the Gender is My Agenda Campaign’s Pre-Summit Consultative Meeting, strategizing with more than 200 participants on gender mainstreaming in the AU. The delegation also held a meeting with Soyata Maiga, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa. Last but not least, the delegation also attended the opening ceremony of the Summit and held an impromptu event in the halls of the AU headquarters, speaking to the press about sexual violence.
A highlight of the delegation was the high-level side event with delegate Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, the AU Gender Directorate Litha Musyimi-Ogana and the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura. Zainab Bangura’s words at the side-event speak volumes about the delegation’s message to stop rape in conflict:
“This is a crime with a long and infamous history, but after listening and speaking here today, and seeing all of you in the audience, I know that we can break the back of this plague and make it a thing of the past.”
In his address, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urged Governments to take action:
“We especially need to speak out against rape and sexual violence in conflict. Governments must support victims and end the culture of impunity.”
Ban Ki-Moon reiterated his point the next day stating:
“I call on African leaders to join me in raising our voices on behalf of victims [of sexual violence]. They need our help.”
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma spoke perhaps the most eloquent words in support of women, quoting Mozambican revolutionary leader and former president Samora Machel by stating
“The emancipation of women is not an act of charity, the result of a humanitarian or compassionate attitude. The liberation of women is a fundamental necessity for the revolution, the guarantee of its continuity and the precondition for its victory. The main objective of the revolution is to destroy the system of exploitation and build a new society which releases the potentialities of human beings and this is the context within which women’s emancipation arises.”
As the Campaign delegates return to their respective homes, there is much to celebrate in the midst of still more work to be done.
UN Special Representative Zainab Bangura Addresses Permanent Representatives Committee Of The African Union, Covorioko, 24 January 2013.
Ban calls on African leaders to end cycle of poverty and violence, UN News Centre, 27 January 2013.
Celebrating the African Union’s first female leader, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, 28 January 2013.
Welcoming ‘Africa on the rise,’ Ban urges achievement of development goals, UN News Centre, 28 January 2013.
‘Protect Women from rape, violence’, Times of Zambia, 29 January 2013.