Luisa D Diogo

Women for a Better World - March 7, 2008

Luisa D Diogo
March 07, 2008— Madrid, Spain
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PALACIO MUNICIPAL DE CONGRESOS, Parque de las Naciones (Madrid)

Your Majesty Queen Sofía of Spain,
Madame President of Liberia Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf,
Madame Vice-President of the Spanish Government
María Teresa Fernández de la Vega,
Excellencies, Madame Minister, Distinguished Guests, Heads of Delegations, Ladies and Gentlemen:

May I in the first place extend a warm greeting to Her Majesty Queen Sofía, and to all the illustrious Spanish and African personalities present at this Second Spain-Africa Meeting, whose motto is “Women for a Better World”. I participate in this important occasion with deep satisfaction and emotion. Some 300 African women have gathered who are involved in decision-making at different levels and who come from 45 countries. During these two days, along with our Spanish sisters, we will debate matters worthy of our greatest respect, and I am certain that they will have great impact in each of our countries and in our relations of friendship and co-operation with Spain. May I express our profound thanks to the Spanish Government for this invitation to participate in this significant event, bringing together Spanish and African women, and also for their great hospitality toward me and my delegation since our arrival in this beautiful Kingdom of Spain.

Your Majesty, Ladies and Gentlemen, the current situation in Mozambique is very difficult, because of a series of natural disasters: intense rain, hurricanes, floods and cyclones affecting some 500,000 Mozambicans, 110,000 of them at this time living in reception centres. In these circumstances, we have found that those most affected are the women, who have played a major role in the maintenance, the unit and cohesion of the family, even in extremely difficult situations. The Mozambican Government acted to alleviate the impact of these natural events by housing the affected populations in shelters and relocation centres, providing drinking water, food, domestic utensils, medical and pharmacological care and humanitarian aid. Our international partners and our friends, countries like Spain, provided inestimable support, enabling us to respond to this situation, and we would like on behalf of all the people and the Government of Mozambique to express our most sincere gratitude.

The meeting which begins today coincides with the celebration on 8 March of International Women’s Day, a symbol of homage and of solidarity with all the world’s women, through various public actions and demonstrations constituting and continuing to make history in the fight for women’s human rights. March 8 is not just a day to claim and demand, but also one to celebrate the successes we have achieved, which strengthen and inspire us to confront tomorrow’s challenges. The motto of International Women’s Day is “Ending impunity for violence against women and girls”, confirming the efforts which have been made worldwide to eliminate any form of discrimination against women and girls. I would like to emphasise that in Mozambique awareness is constantly increasing of the need to combat all forms of violence, specifically domestic violence and the sexual abuse of minors. We are engaged in debate on a draft bill against domestic violence, involving civil society and, in parallel, action is under way to respond to cases of such violence.

Your Majesty, Ladies and Gentlemen, where women have no rights there are no human rights. We note with satisfaction that African governments successfully adopted action plans for the application of the Beijing Platform and approved the protocol of the Charter of African Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa. The practical application of these instruments has led us to create legislation on gender equality so that women are represented in significant realms of government and are able to access health services, and girls are able to receive primary education.

In relation to the participation of women in political leadership, we can refer with great pride to the case of the Rt. Hon. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia, who is here with us. She is an illustrious woman, an outstanding daughter of mother Africa, and we would like to congratulate her very specially. At the same time, the Speaker of the Pan-African Parliament is a notable woman, the honourable Gertrude Mongella. In our region, in southern Africa, we have two Vice-Presidents, in Zimbabwe and in South Africa, my beloved sisters Joyce Mujuru and Phumzile Mlambo. In the field of activity on gender, Mozambique has been involved in a drive to enhance girls’ access to education, and I wish to highlight the following results: a significant reduction of gender disparity in all indicators relative to access, frequency and completion of education; increased numbers of women in training and primary teacher courses (64% in 2006), and the preparation of new school texts which include feminine models.

Access to healthcare is a right of women and one of the priorities of African governments. In 2005, African Union Member States approved the continental sexual and reproductive health policy, designed to reduce maternal, neonatal and infant mortality. The following year, African Union Health Ministers drew up the plan for the operation of that policy. National policy on health and sexual and reproductive rights began to be implemented in Mozambique, its results reflected in cuts in maternal mortality rates, from 900 to 408 per 100,000 live births; in fact, in addition to the maternal deaths, many women are left with after-effects like fistulas, urinary incontinence or sterility. There was also a reduction in infant mortality, from 147 to 124 per thousand live births, and a significant improvement in family planning and maternal-infant health indicators. Despite everything, these successes are threatened by the challenge of the prevalence of the AIDS virus in our country, affecting 16.2% of the population. Your Majesty, Ladies and Gentlemen, this New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) assigns special importance to women’s full participation in national development agendas. In this context, particular attention is given to access to information and financial resources, indispensable conditions for women’s involvement in the fight against poverty and to secure their economic empowerment. We have to reach the Millennium Development Goals, which form a component of gender equality and the empowerment of women in the world in which we live.

In Mozambique, the results of empowerment are visible and yet insufficient. In the field of women’s status and their ratio in all legislative and executive bodies at the level of the public administration, great efforts have been made to ensure that gender balance. The Mozambique Parliament is one example of that, 36% of its 250 members women, making our chamber a point of reference not just in Africa but worldwide. We know that Ruanda is well ahead, and I must congratulate them for that.

Apart from the Prime Minister, 26% of our Executive comprises women ministers and deputy-ministers. We have progressed, because all these ministers and deputy-ministers hold portfolios with power, such as Justice, Foreign Affairs, Labour, etcetera. We have also made great strides forward at the provincial level, with two provincial governors and a considerable number of women in various district administrations and in the Mozambican judicial system. These apparently modest data assume great scope when it is remembered that, until quite recently, in our society women occupied a secondary position.

Considerable successes have been won in other spheres of society such as the law, the economy and social affairs, the result of uniting the forces of government, civil society and communities to promote and give more power to women. So in August 2004, our Parliament passed the Family Act, according to the Republic’s Constitution, adapted to the remaining instruments of international law, of course with respect for the culture and identity of the Mozambican people, eliminating the base provisions underlying inequality in the treatment of family relations. There remains however a long path to the attainment of the objectives set. Your Majesty, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Maputo meeting was held a year ago today. This occasion must also be a moment for reflection and to take stock of the progress made, to enable us to decide how to move on in our struggle, setting the right perspective for the changes necessary to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.

In the framework of application of the agreements reached earlier in Maputo, it is considered essential to continue investing in women’s qualification, through literacy, education, professional training, the promotion of equal rights and opportunities for work and access to it, the clear adoption of a policy of quotas to foment the empowerment and full participation of women in all spheres of life, improvements to sexual and reproductive healthcare, women’s involvement in the management and protection of the environment, the prioritisation of questions of gender in development plans, in an integrated fashion and, finally, promotion of the conditions of access to information and the media, to ensure complete participation in all development processes. The second international Spain-Africa meeting is of the greatest importance for our peoples, which is why Mozambique has sent a delegation of 34, members of the Government, parliamentarians and representatives of civil society, a civil society by the way which is highly active and competent in Mozambique. The focus on matters such as women’s empowerment and rights, education for girls in Africa, guarantee of human rights, access for all women to healthcare, economic development in Africa will, without any doubt, speed the process of women’s struggle to achieve their empowerment.

May I in conclusion congratulate you for this excellent agenda, and salute the illustrious participants in this second international Spain-Africa meeting, “Women for a Better World”. We hope that this encounter will serve to reaffirm our commitment to the process of women’s participation in all spheres of political, economic, social and cultural life, combating all obstacles affecting the world’s women and adopting strategies for their greater involvement in the development of our peoples. Just as the Maputo meeting was historic, launching the movement of Spanish and African women, now the Madrid encounter represents a historic milestone for us, symbol of the movement’s consolidation.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.

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