Women from various countries in the Great Lakes Region yesterday held the first meeting of the transitional steering committee that is working out mechanisms for the setting up of a Regional Women’s Forum.
The two-day meeting that was organised by the secretariat of International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) in partnership with the United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the Rwanda National Coordination Mechanism (NCM), is being held at Sports View Hotel, Remera.
This initiative is in line with the implementation of the pact on Security, Stability and Development of the Great Lakes Region of which the women’s forum is inclusive.
During the official opening of the summit, the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, Dr. Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, welcomed the delegates adding that Rwanda attaches great importance to any working knowledge that aims at attaining lasting peace and development in the region.
“The forum for women is responsible for transforming the region into an area of peace and development through promotion of participation and self reliance of women as endorsed by the heads of states and governments in the region,” she said.
“Signing of this pact reflected unconditional commitment by the regional members to live in a region devoid of human suffering and conflict. Therefore, the women’s forum should be a platform for a dialogue where women’s participation will take root in governance and the development process in the region,” Mujawamariya added.
Delegates came from across the African continent, representing countries that include, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia, the United Republic of Tanzania, Kenya and Burundi.
The Executive Secretary of the ICGLR, Amb. Liberata Mulamula, outlined major achievements of the steering committee in relation to the yet to be launched women’s forum, but stressed that for the forum to be fully functional all countries must move at the same implementation pace.
Dr. Josephine Odera, the Regional Programme Director, UNIFEM, Central Africa office, also noted that the convention will help take forward the organisation’s commitment to advance women’s rights, priorities and gender equality in the region.
“This meeting will put in place a mechanism and a work plan that will forward women’s priorities as elucidated in the pact so we want to make sure that women’s voices are heard,” Odera said.
Citing that sexual gender-based violence is still at a high level in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo in the sub-region, Odera also emphasised the need for a credible interlocutor like the women’s forum which will work as a mobilisation structure.
“Such a structure will ensure that follow up on issues that are raised regarding women’s priority, rights and problems is done for achievement of security, stability and development in the region, “she added.
The women’s forum will be launched during a pre-summit meeting that is expected to take place in May this year. Once established, it will address the current challenges of absence of a regional consultation and harmonising mechanism of laws, policies, programmes and practices.
In relation to increased participation of women in the region, it is also envisaged that the forum will harmonise strategies of sensitisation and advocacy, thus promoting solidarity between women of all ages and establish alliances as well as mutual support networks.