Mrs. Ezinwa N. Okoroafor
FIDA INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS REPORT
FIDA International Conference under the patronage of the Minister of Womens’ Empowerment and the Family at the Conference CenterYaounde from the 6th of Nov. 2013-9th Nov. 2013
THEME: AFTER SO MUCH ADVOCACY, WHAT NEXT?
Opening address by Barrister Mbuya Gladys
In her welcome address, Barrister Mbuya Gladys, regional vice president Africa, presented the raison d’etre of the conference to be an avenue of experience sharing on best practices in fighting discrimination and poverty amongst women. The conference also offers a forum to evaluate the advancement of women’s’ rights in our various countries. She emphasized that although there may be different shades of opinion, the main purpose is to build a better world for all. This can only be achieved by working in partnership with men for progress and development. That explains the presence of men in the conference.
She acknowledged the fact that despite all the efforts made so far, the timeline of the achievement of the MDGs is at hand but yet much more is still to be done in the area of poverty alleviation, violence against women and all forms of discrimination against women. She summed it all by saying we need strong institutions to fight a successful war in favor of women. That, as legal minds, we are endowed with the skills to achieve our dream of a better world especially for women.
Music by Richard Kings on the theme of the congress.
Goodwill message from FIDA International President
The FIDA president, Mrs Sheela Anish in her good will message, said the congress is offers a milieu to seek for solutions to solve existing and new challenges faced by women and girls today. The battle has been going on for a long time and fought from different dimensions ie political participation, economic equality but yet there are new challenges coming up daily for instance, new technologies, rather than solving some of the women’s problems bring new challenges- women are abused through mobile phones, internet etc.
Modern medicine, which has come to solve some of the challenges faced by women, also presents new challenges. Surrogacy for instance, is problematic because it amounts to hiring a woman’s womb. The fact that money is involved exposes poor women to health hazards and exploitation without the necessary checks and balances. There is the need for legislation to regulation the operation of surrogacy
The work seems not yet done because each new stage of human development comes along with new challenges and therefore we do not have to relent in our efforts to seek for solutions for the new challenges as they emerge. (In a demonstrative mode, she told a story about a little girl who prayed daily for solutions to her problems. She wrote letters insistently to “God” asking for more money. She did not even know who “God” is but she kept on writing. Her persistence paid off because after so many letters, the post master started sending her money for the needs she listed in her letters) we women have been fighting for our freedoms and status for more than two centuries since 1903. The fight at this time was for voting rights but after achieving that, it was not sufficient.
She said partnering with men has to commence at an early stage in life and so threw the baton on women to use their positions as mothers to inculcate the essence of equality in their sons during the tender ages of their lives. She commended that as lawyers, we are in a position to help people who need help and so we have to reach out to all who need help- unfortunate sisters from diverse backgrounds.
In sum, she said there is need for legislation and the establishment of sustainable and credible institutions to foster the cause of women. Persistence is a vital tool for the battle, so we have to keep on for we are asking just for the recognition and protection of the human rights of women and children. She concluded her message with an invitation to all FIDA members of the Africa Region to the FIDA International Congress in Bengalore in November 2014.
An opening Remark by Chairperson of FIDA Cameroon
Justice Betty Luma welcomed participants and remarked that taking off time on their busy schedules to be here, is a mark of the value that they give to the congress. The theme is not mere rhethoric but carries with it the importance it needs. In the new world economy, it is important to share knowledge in order to progress in what we all set out to do. Knowledge management is a systemic attempt to plan the future. She cautioned that we need to be armed with the necessary tools to face challenges. She appreciated the cooperation of everyone for the success of this congress and said the results will chart a pathway for our success in future plans and the fight for equality.
Music interlude by Richard Kings
Formal Opening of the Congress by the Minister
The minister expressed satisfaction as patron and congratulated FIDA for bringing women together to discuss issues that impact women’s lives. She said, the promotion of women’s rights is gaining ground progressively. She cited some of international human rights instruments such as CEDAW, ICCPR, CRC, MAPUTO PROTOCOL ratified by Cameroon, and the creation of MINPROFF is evidence of government commitment to protect the rights of women. Its adherence to international conference on women’s rights cannot be over-emphasized. Women occupy the pride of place in the community. The Head of State pioneers the inclusion of women in decision making positions. His actions advance the visibility on the national and international scene. MINPROFF ensures the recognition and protection of women’s rights through advocacy and strategic planning. Giant strides have been made such as getting women appointed in the command positions. The attaining of gender quotas is proof that we are making in-roads. It is as a result of concerted efforts of the government, FIDA and other partners who have been working tirelessly in the advancement of women and children’s rights.
To conclude, she said it is time to think and re-think better strategies in protecting women’s and children’s rights. I join my voice to say THE TIME FOR ACTION IS NOW.
A vote of Thanks by Regional president by the vice president, FIDA Nigeria
Special thanks were addressed to the Honourable Minister for making it the conference in spite all the anniversary celebrations. She thanked everyone for making it to the conference. A special vote of thanks was addressed to all international delegates and more particularly to the Nigerian delegation who braved the odds to arrive Yaoundé at 2am. Mami Weledji was recognized and appreciated as first English speaking barrister and pioneer FIDA Cameroon president.
Introduction of the Governor General of the Bank of Nigeria
President FIDA Nigeria
Appreciate his resilience in spite of the travel challenges to be here at this congress
His profile was presented with a rich repertoire of awards and was conferred the FIDA GENDER CHAMPION AWARD 2013.
In his key note address, he highlighted that for the last 50years1959-2009, only 4 women had risen to the rank of director. He remarked that the discrimination was not only vertical but also horizontal-some areas that were no go zones for women. He therefore embarked on solving the problem and by 2013 there were up to seven women directors. It is not about promoting women just because they are women but rather because they deserve it and can even do better. When men sit around the table to discuss financial issues, they donot discuss women not because they hate women, but because they are ignorant about women’s issues and unconscious about taking them along. Including women in the financial sector will make managers think of women’s challenges when drafting strategic planning. There are workplace practices do not take women’s labor at home into consideration and consider her overperformant. For instance; while other commercial bank staff stay to work after normal work time, they have to go home to do homework which is not taken into account. There are many suttle ways of discriminating against women and most of the time it is done unconsciously. Getting more women in decision making positions is one of the major steps towards solving women’s challenges.
There is the queen B syndrome which translates into women who are barriers to women’s interest. They adopt attitudes which is called kicking away the ladder. It is therefore essential to teach women the same way men are taught. Lifting a man out of poverty while his wife remains poor is not helping the family. Women need to get the necessary education, healthcare and others in order to lift the world out of poverty.
The way we treat our secretaries or female staff is impacts in the development of the institution. Get women-friendly men to work with them to create the space for women to break down the process and be the voice of the voiceless. “Poverty is lonely”. They are not seen because they do not go to school, they donot use the same roads as us, no social network, no friends and hence isolated. This is even more grim for the woman who is forced into early marriage. Policy and increased participation by women will fight the battle for women.
The governor was presented the FIDA Gender Champion award.
A vote of thanks is presented by Ezinwa Okorafor. ‘Res Ipsa Locutur’ –
PLENARY SESSION: Gender and Justice
Session Chair: Justice Mbah Acha Rose-President administrative court NW Administrative court
Speaker: Justice Ngassa Vera, Justice of the Court of Appeal SW Region.
Discussants: – Magistrate Nkamgoh Rose, CFI Tiko
- Mrs Moto Young Francisca., sub-director in charge of gender, MINPROFF
Started in a light mood with jokes.
In her initial opening she begins with the question: Does gender matter to justice?
GOAL 3 of the Millenium Development Goals.
Women in policy making positions will definitely make a huge difference. She pays tribute to justice rita arrey (ma judge) and said prior to 1989 ma judge made sure that the policy making decdions in the judiciary should be given to women because then she was a CJ. She gave practice directives for the domestication of CEDAW in the adjudication of local cases. She went ahead to give examples of several cases in which female judges amongst whom were herself, Justice Acha Mbah Rose etc had gave positive decisions to overturn social and cultural barriers in the camertoonian society. She equally cited landmark international cases in favour of women.
For democratic reasons more women shd be on the bench
Women think differently
She concluded by saying that …………………..
Mrs Moto- the ministry of women’s empowerment has been carrying out training on women’s access to justice, women’s rights, legal aid clinics as well as legal assistance.we equally assist in the execution of court decisions.
Magistrate Nkamngoh Rose: what next? This is a challenge to us. The ratification of international instruments is a tool that has been given to us.
Ruth Aura, FIDA KenyaMen are still very threatened by women’s empowerment. There is a judge who criticized women going to Beijing and deprived a woman from going
Hauwa Shekarau, FIDA Nigeria: when u find women judges u think that women wear the she and will know where it pinches but in Nigeria its not the case rather men are rather more sympathetic. You find few wonen in parliament and you find that the women therein do not want to identify themselves with it.
Hawo Ijuoma, FIDA nATIONal Financial Sec: our mothers subdue these issues and say it’s a family issue e.g in a case of rape a mother will say lets not take it to court we shd settle it in the house. We need to still see what we can do.
Speaker: sensitization and advocacy is very important. Achieving gender equality will just not come on a golden platter. We went out once to educate women in a community on the importance of signing marriages. When we were done
Benin- in benin we are developing. In 2004 we adopted the family code. In the said law the boy and girl child has the same rights esp inheritance they all have the same rights. The rights of the woman have also been well taken care of. The surviving spouse is entitled jto ¼ of the share of the estate and the children have the rest. The association of women lawyers has made sure that the womnen does not have to fight with the inlaws. You have to fight to have the laws written and also fight to get them implemented.
FIDA UK: effect representation matters a lot in advanceing women’s rights.
Florence etanana-Rivers Nigeria: s. 12 of Nigerian constn makes it mandatory for inter conventions to be domesticated. If a judge does that is it a problem?
How do we push for laws in the house of assembly? It is a huddle to first of all get a law in place. In the rivers house of assembly theres a bill on married women inheritance. Advocacy must continue because in Africa tradition is a problem. Today in Nigeria women are included on the traditional council.
Answer: Nigeria with a typical English is dualist. This means it must be passed into law. in Cameroon we belong to the monist regime. Here there is the assumption anfy such inter conv is automatically law in Cameroon. See article 45 of the constitution.
Again we’ll never outgrow advocacy. Where there is no law they go to the constitutional court and even to an international fora.
SESSION 2: BUILDING INSTITUTIONS
Session Chair: Mrs. Mercy Agbamuche,
1st Speaker: Chiefs Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs
Imperative of institution building for sustainable development.
Women face divers challenges. Not for profit organisations work to bring light to such victims. The key is not to set up an org but to build that institution.
Focus on four pillars:
- Vision-the care for life programme (elderly people).every citizen should enjoy a decent quality of life.
- Organizational structures
- Access to clean water and purification programme
- Campaign for Christ
Passion is important in starting any organization. It keeps you going even when you face challenges.
Chair: Its all about building strong and sustainable structures.
2nd Speaker: Mrs. Lilian Ekeanyanwu
Building transparent, accountable and sustainable institutions. Do women have a stake?
Are women the cleaner gender? A world bank study as proven that this is the case. Rwanda is increasingly becoming cleaner because of the vast number of women in parliament. The other side of the coin holds that few women are in positions of authority so it cannot be said that women are clean as they have had less opportunities for corruption. A Ghanian study showed that women said they will use government money if a child is sick for example.
But then corruption impacts women the more severely.
The “body currency corruption” is said has the woman’s face. The effects of corruption are reflected in her body.
- Several impediments must be removed. Lack of transparency and accountability must be addressed.
- Continue to promote inclusive policies
- Access to information and the right to know
- Proactive accountability-continuous risk assessment
- Institute integrity plans
Chair: lack of transparency and accountability leads to corruption.
Question: how to go about being passionate to do work for the vulnerable
A: In every other home there are needy people. You can always reach out to any of these.
Q: how do you go about funding and getting partners.
A: you don’t need to be a millionaire to impact the lives of people. Here we are about a hundred and if one person were to adopt one old mother or father it will make a difference. It takes just about N10,000 to feed an old person a month. Start the little way you can. If you have the passion do it yourself first and then help may come.
Q: There is the perception that b/c of the work you do, gov’t may tend to do less.
A: We decided not to involve the government except when necessary. If you start looking for help then you do not have a passion for what you are doing. Assistance or no assistance we continue our work.
Mrs. Minang Veralyn
Good governance is a pre-condition for all forms of development. democracy, good governance, human rights are key. What are the institutions?
- Institutions that guarantee citizen’s rights. This is important for women.
- Institutions of representative accountability-guarantee citizens the right to choose their leaders.
- Institutions of over-sight of governance.
- Educational institutions.
- A strong and pro-active civil society.
- Navigating political realities
- Capacity building
The time for action is Now.
Q: What is your position with regard to men or women being better-off with regard to integrity?
A: my position is that women have a greater propensity for integrity.
Q: Why should we not have an equal opportunity committee?
A: this is a good idea and we can advocate for this.
Comment: a legal framework is necessary to enable us benefit from international laws. we should take a different approach to this because sadly because of some provisions we lose out on these laws.
5th PLENARY SESSION: Women’s Health, Sexual and Reproductive Rights
Chairperson: Justice Helen Fon Achu
We need good health to be able to participate in all the areas we want to strive in. health is a vital role for women.
1st Speaker: Hauwa E. Shekarau
This is a controversial issue yet occurs to women on a daily basis. Women shd be the ones addressing issues that affect their lives. It starts from reproductive rights and then to others. If you cannot take decisions affecting your own lives so how can you take decisions in other areas?
“Deadly Silence – Unsafe Abortion in Africa.”
Maternal mortality and morbidity- A critical global problem.
Abortion: as old as human kind so it is not actually a western issue. Abortion is as old as the 1150.
What is unsafe abortion? Unplanned, unwanted pregnancy performed by individuals without the necessary skills or in an environment that does not conform to the minimum medical standards.
Why do women seek abortions?
- Personal reasons
- Health reasons
- Socioeconomic reasons
- Cultural reasons
- The desire to stop childbearing/space births
- Rape or incest
- Pregnancy may not be supported by woman’s partner, family or community
- The pregnancy may threaten the woman’s health or survival
- The fetus may have an abnormality
Where safe abortion is unavailable women seek unsafe abortions:
Alligator pepper, chalk, alum, bleach, Bahaman grass, hangars, cassava plant etc.
Restrictive laws do not stop abortions they rather increase the rate of unsafe abortions.
Access to safe abortion is a human right.
The Maputu protocol is instructive.
2nd Speaker: Hajia Jummia Babangida – 1st Lady of Niger State.
Discussant: Barrister Atemnkeng Elizabeth
Cameroon has ratified Maputo.
Q: Where is the right of the unborn child?
A: There’s no woman who will want an abortion but its about the circumstances. In Nigeria the right of the unborn child begins at the age of one. But when you make a choice you bear the consequences. The person I can see and touch take precedence over one that I cannot see.
Contribution: The woman should be able to make a choice on whether to have a child or not. In each case the woman should be allowed to decide. The society should not have a say on this.
Contribution: Post rape emergency HIV prevention is very important. Sensitize the women to do this immediately within 72 hours after sex.
Contribution: There are cases where one is faced with her duty and at the same time faced with her religion. In Cameroon by law the state prosecutor has to authorize any medical abortion and I was actually fronted with this.
6TH PLENARY SESSION
Session Chair: Justice Florence Rita Arrey
Speakers: -Barrister Gladys Mbuyah
- Barrister Laura Nyirinkindi
Discussant: Justice Florence Fru Awasom
The Chairperson invites the other speakers and discussant to join her on the high table.
Chair; remarks that so far time has not been of the essence in the congress. As legal minds we should respect time, pay close attention to what will be said and avoid side meetings.
1st Speaker: Barrister Gladys Mbuyah
She begins by defining Strategic litigation and cited the example of FGM wherein a girl child who suffers FGM and the matter is referred to court. When there’s an outcome it is for the benefit of every girl child.
In order to have strategic litigation it is in a case where constitutional rights and international human rights instruments have been violated for example.
Repercussions of FGM/rights affected…………..
Domestic Laws on FGM……………………
Chair: look at particular cases and take to court.
2nd Speaker: Barrister Laura Nyirinkindi
Prior to 2003 in Uganda we used e.g resolution of disputes. But the challenge was not every body may come.
In 1995 the Uganda constitution was adoptd and gave comprehensive rights to womjen. It was a good legal framework. The divorce act was discriminatory. FIDA took the case to the constitutional court in Uganda held that it was impossible to reconcile both acts.
Another the suceession act and the penal code act. The court held that it perpetuates the rights of women.
Chair: the worst consequence of FGM is that the women never reach orgasm.
-lack of access to legal services.
In countries such as Cameroon where there is a legal aid system, the procedure is so cumbersome.
-reluctance to take pro-bono work.
-most often it is the state that is challenged and the government is either hostile or indiferent.
Inexistent or weak institutional implementation mechanisms for human rights and more particularly women’s rights
Overbearing traditional beliefs are a challenge
-budgetary constraints-gov’t has a lot to do.
-sometimes to get the victims involved it’s a problem.
-the lawyers have a very crucial role to play as far as PIL is concerned, prompt the judiciary.
Engage the media to come along with us.
Q: can a case not be strategically violated when a national law is violated?
A: it can
Q: When the constitutional court takes a decision what next?
Q: what do you do to keep the momentum?
A: partnering and networking with media and other women’s rights advocates is essential.
Contributions: public interest litigation is important because we have been talking for a long time. India is leading in the public interest litigation. It started since 1973. In order for it to be successful, there need to be proactively in the judiciary. There should be no excuse that the case is action of a busy body. FIDA should be the leader of this litigation.
Most of the matters related to sexual violence and before prosecution is hard because of pressure on the victim who more often than not, wants to withdraw. What can be done in such a situation?
It is possible to create the office of the public litigation for women.
2nd Speaker: Barrister Laura Nyirinkindi