Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Regional caucus Africa: meeting of regional civil society at the CSW

This afternoon was the moment for several regional caucuses. That means: civil society organizations from a specific region meet up and exchange thoughts. Unlike the negotiations between the government delegations, these meetings are open to anyone who wishes to join. We were very interested to hear how women from around the African continent strategize during the CSW. As you may recall, during last year’s session the representative of the African Group did not flourish in pro-gender statements…

An African Women Statement was presented on behalf of regional African women’s organizations. The organizations recall CEDAW and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (‘Maputo Protocol’ 2003). They underscore acceleration of the implementation of commitments made to women’s human rights. Hinders to women’s freedom of choice and mobility in the socio-economic context are mentioned. Even the persistence of patriarchal norms and rural women’s violation of their human rights, are included.

Regional organization FEMNET voiced worries about the nature of the negotiations between delegations. “In the past two years we have noticed that the conversation leans towards the conservative. For example on issues surrounding gender equality. Last year even the notion of gender equality itself was up for discussion by some governments. As African women it is important we are involved in the negotiations on the Agreed Conclusions outcome document. We must lobby for the points that we want to put and keep in.”

The African caucus fiercely moved forward, by selecting in democratic fashion a volunteers-panel to review the oral statement by the African Group (Tunisia); a lobby-group with government and non-government delegation members; and a panel to draft the amendments to the Agreed Conclusions. Furthermore, one of the feminist activists in the panel called on her colleagues to add reproductive health services, including family planning, to the Agreed Conclusions.

So, let no-one state that progressive statements can not be African (as happened last year). The African caucus represents African women (and some men), living life in Africa or as African diaspora, voicing the perspectives of African people. We look forward to align with African and other regional organizations to get the best out of the CSW56 outcome documents for gender equality and women’s rights.

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