08 Feb Women campaign to be heard at African Union summit
“We know that the African Union summit is still very masculine but we are trying to bring in the voices of women,” said Gertrude Mongella, former president of the Pan-African parliament, explaining the rationale behind the shadow summit organised by the Gender is my Agenda Campaign (Gimac) in Addis Ababa on 24-26 January. A difficult proposition in a forum where, at the very highest level, there is only one female representative, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia.
The women gathered here, including Elisabeth Rehn, Finland’s first female defence minister, and former Irish president and UN high commissioner for human rights Mary Robinson were truly on the margins, tucked away in the UN headquarters across town from where the preliminary AU summit meetings were taking place. Using the summit’s theme of “shared values” as a starting point for discussion, the Gimac meeting deliberated on the elimination of violence against women, gender and climate change, female participation in the economy, and women’s involvement in peace and security issues, focusing on the situation in Ivory Coast.