Thursday, 16 August 2012

gains of African first ladies’ summit

THE recently concluded summit of African first ladies has come and gone. Surrounding the event was a pool of controversy. When local political colouration is removed and the culture of Jonathan bashing is set aside, certain facts emerge that must attract the attention of the worst of cynics.

Many are unaware of the fact that the Nigerian First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, was not the founder of the African First Ladies Peace Mission. Rather, the body was established as a fallout of the 1995 Beijing convention which, among others, sought to institutionalize the role of first ladies in tackling the many protracted conflicts ravaging the continent. The other fact was that Nigeria was first elected into the presidency of the mission in 2008, meaning that the present first lady only inherited the office from her predecessor.

The controversial summit thus attempted to place the role of women in African politics in proper perspective. For example, many reports, even from advanced democracies, had noted the powerful influence wives of office holders have on their husbands. The only difference, analysts noted, is that in settled democracies, such influences are subtle and largely unseen by the public. Even here, exceptions existed, as was the case of Hilary Clinton who was so powerful during the Bill Clinton presidency that she was placed in charge of health policies.

For the peace summit, however, a surprising aspect was the massive attendance by the majority of the first ladies and the representation from those who were not in attendance. Equally noteworthy during the summit was the very light manners the first ladies took the controversies, as most of them even saw Nigerians as very tolerant. The third observation was the concrete conclusions reached which many experts in the field agreed are comforting in the drive to raise the role of women in African development.

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