Varying degrees of security threats and challenges continue to pose danger to the sustenance of peace and consolidation of development on the African continent.
President Goodluck Jonathan made this observation yesterday at the opening of the 7th African First Ladies Peace Mission in Abuja yesterday.
Jonathan said despite several challenges with which people of the continent have to contend, “new threats such as drug and human trafficking, climate change, kidnapping, terrorism, poverty, sectarian conflicts and others take center stage.”
“All these undermine our determined efforts to work towards achieving sustainable peace and development in our various countries,” he said, adding that there was need to take serious steps to tackle the challenging political and security situation facing several countries on the continent.
According to him, this feat could be attained if adequate attention is given to the issues concerning women and children, especially the girl-child, who the president described as victims of the unfolding security breaches in many countries.
Said the president: “They are not only subjected to dehumanizing conditions, they are often times the targets of abuse, resulting in the violation of international conventions on the rights of women and girls, to which African countries are parties,” he explained.
“The countries of Africa must intensify efforts to remove all barriers that limit women and the girl-child from actualizing their dreams. Our women must be protected against all forms of discrimination and be given equal opportunities and access to education, politics and the economy,” he admonished.
Professing gender equality as the antidote to the stagnation of Africa, he said premium must be given to women empowerment politically and I the areas of career advancement.
“I believe that the most sustainable way to support womanhood and guarantee peace is through empowerment. In this respect, our transformation agenda as a nation goes beyond the 30 – 35% of political offices being demanded by women, but creating various opportunities for women empowerment,” he noted.
“In my cabinet of 42 Ministers, 13 are women. The coordinating Minister of the Economy who also doubles as the Finance Minister is a woman. For the first time in our country, a woman occupies the position of Minister of Petroleum Resources.”
“Also for the first time, we have admitted women into our prestigious Nigerian Defence Academy to prepare women as full combatants in the Army, Navy and Airforce. Eight days ago, precisely on the 16th July 2012, I appointed the first female Chief Justice in Nigeria. Our Permanent Representative in the United Nations is a woman, so also is our Commissioner in the African Union and the Nigerian Commissioner in the ECOWAS Commission.”
He expressed optimism that all these encouragement to the womenfolk will spur them to “inspire the younger generation,” adding that: “his Administration will remain resolute in the implementation of its policy on effective representation of women in all aspects of government.
Turning to electoral matters, President Jonathan said: “Our commitment to electoral reforms and justice has ushered in an era where women can deploy their numerical strength to ensure that their preferred candidates win elections at all levels. This has been made possible in every instance by our administration commitment to the electoral principle of one man one vote, one woman one vote, and one youth one vote.”
He suggested that one of the ways to tackle the problem is the promotion of advocacy, sharing of information and advancement of rights. “There is no doubt that the prevailing circumstance requires strong advocacy, cooperation, human development, the sharing of knowledge and the protection of basic rights. Credible voices that draw attention to the dangers of conflict, the plight of women and children under difficult circumstances need to be heard more loudly,” Jonathan emphasized, urging the first ladies to unite and cooperate to promote the cause of peace, love and harmony in the continent.
Noting that the theme of the summit: “The Africa Woman: A voice for Peace” is pertinent to overcoming contemporary challenges in Africa, the president called on the First Ladies, to invoke their roles as wives, mothers and leaders, to bring peace and security to the continent.
Echoing the current trend of the contribution of women to ECOWAS mediation efforts that led to the resolution of the civil war and political crisis in Liberia and Sierra Leone, Jonathan insisted that the: “AFLPM must continue to serve as a voice for the disempowered, the dispossessed, and the violated, especially women and children. More importantly, it must continue to stand firm as a special advocate for peace and the growth of our mother continent.”
He enumerated ways in which this can be achieved as intensive lobby of governments by the AFLPM to implement existing international legal frameworks that promote peace, blowing the whistle on human rights abuse and security breaches summoning; and mobilizing the populace to stand by it as vanguards so as to raise
the standards of survival in Africa.
“The African First Ladies Peace Mission has committed itself to the cause of peace and the advancement of women in Africa and we must support you to realize your vision,” Jonathan said.