Brussels, 6 March 2015/ ACP: Strong messages from the ACP Secretary General, Head of UN Women and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) added to a vibrant programme at ACP House on Thursday 5 March marking International Women’s Day.
Secretary General Dr. Patrick I. Gomes launched the commemoration programme with a statement that “men need to stand up for women.” UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka welcomed the new ACP Secretary General’s commitment as a “he-for-she” – coined to describe men and boys who stand against gender inequality – and stressed that the struggle for gender parity requires more rigorous efforts.
“In ACP countries much has been done to increase access to education for girls at primary school… but women are still grossly under-represented in decision-making bodies. Much has been done to fight women’s poverty in all ACP countries but too many women still do unpaid care work which arrests their progress,” she told the audience in a pre-recorded message.

At the current pace it will take an estimated 80 years to close the gender gap in economic participation and 50 years to achieve gender parity in politics. Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said that the current global negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for ACP countries to lead the change in targeting substantial progress on gender equality by 2020.
MEPs speak out
Echoing the prevalent message on violence against women and children, invited guest speaker MEP Ms. Isabelle Durant condemned the use of rape as a weapon of war, highlighting the work of Congolese gynecologist Dr. Denis Mukwege in the treatment of women who have been gang-raped by rebel forces. Mukwege was awarded European Union’s prestigious Sakharov Prize for this work.

Italian MEP Ms. Kashetu Kyenge also shared her experience as the first female minister of African-descent in Italy, including the shocked reactions and insults she received from some of the public.
Ms. Kyenge focused her presentation on the role of cinema and the arts in changing the mentality of the public, especially in norms related to the role of women in power as well as violence against women.
“I also underline the role of public figures. People who have [high-profile] roles in institutions, people who are political leaders – they have a great responsibility in cultural change and education because they have a very strong impact on the public,” she added.
The evening wrapped up with a presentation by the President of the ACP Ambassadors’ Spouses Association, Ms. Lilian Leuelu of Tuvalu, on recent projects in rural ACP communities which the group has supported through fund-raising activities.
Participants had the opportunity to watch the award-winning African modern dance group Compagnie Baara with a live performance titled “Femme: tout simplement”, a fashion show by Tanzania’s Bongo Style to raise awareness for disadvantaged youth in Tanzania, music by Mr. Jonathan Napon, and finally a feast of authentic cuisine from African, Caribbean and Pacific regions.

– ACP Press
(Photos from top: ACP youth model Bongo fashion in support of Tanzanian disadvantaged youth; MEP Isabelle Durant; ACP Secretary General presents long-service award to ACP Secretariat staff member Ms. Brenda Montah, who received prizes along with colleagues Ms. Esther Tanon-Starkier, Ms. Valerie Adodo-Dao and Ms. Romaine Baghnyan.)