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18.05.2005 General News

African women blame leaders for continent's poverty

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From: Linda Asante Agyei, GNA Special Correspondent

Nairobi, May 18, GNA - African women have accused leaders of the continent of being responsible for the poverty and numerous problems facing the continent.

The women made the accusation at the just ended two-day conference held in Nairobi to launch the first regional African Women's Millennium Initiative (AWOMI) on poverty and human rights conference dubbed, "African Women Speak On The Millenium Development Goals (MDGs): A call To Action For Gender Justice And Equality."

The Conference, attended by over 250 women from 18 African countries, deliberated on issues such as plundering of countries' resources, increasing poverty on the continent and ravages of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

This is the first forum where African women have spoken on MDGs and whether the goals will be achieved by the year 2015.

The women who spoke in a passionate tone said the borrowing of money from donor communities such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) had led the continent to "an immoral and odious debt" depleting and derailing the development agenda.

This, according to them, had denied hard working Africans of honest wage for their hard labour.

"We therefore demand that African governments stop paying the immoral debts they owe the IMF, WB and WATO, be it bilateral or multilateral, since we the women and children of Africa are paying the interest by way of starvation, poverty and diseases such as HIV/AIDS. The women also demanded the dissolution of WTO, IMF, WB and any other anti-people anti -development institutions or agenda. "We are tired, overworked, sick and fed-up and we are saying enough is enough," Mariam Matembi, a Ugandan Member of Parliament said. Mrs Matembi, who is also a member of the Pan African Parliament, said Africa 20 years ago, was even better off than now.

"Yet, our leaders continue to use the money they've borrowed in the name of defence when there is no war while there are other important issues like health, education and food security to take care of." Mrs Matembi said African governments had misused donor funds and their countries' resources sparking conflicts that resulted in the suffering of women and children and the time had come to be bold and say "no" to the giant moneylenders.

A communiqu=E9 issued at the end of the Conference also demanded equal participation in governance structures at all levels, immediate implementation of regional and international rights-based obligations and gender sensitive budgeting, taking into consideration the needs of women.

"We are also demanding that governments support AWOMI in the next G8 meeting in UN General Assembly," the communiqu=E9 stated. It also demanded that the different regional economic groupings were harmonised.

The Vice President of Kenya, Mr Moody Awori, who closed the conference noted that the MDGs framework offered an important platform for debate and social transformation and called on every individual to join in achieving the goals by 2015.

He said the empowerment of women and achievement of gender equality were a matter of human rights and social injustice and these are pre-requisites of achieving political, social, cultural and environmental security.

The Zambian Minister of Health, Professor Nkandu Luo, said Africa would not achieve its development goals if women continued to be marginalized.

Mrs Yassine Fall, President of AWOMI and Senior Policy Adviser to the United Nations Millennium Fund, said in anticipation of major world economic gatherings and initiatives and an international agenda setting in a world dominated by globalisation, power struggle, inequalities and impoverishment, the formation of AWOMI would strengthen African women's genuine participation in policy analysis, monitoring and evaluation.

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