NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 22 – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative to African Union Cosmas Chanda has rallied for support to end violence and displacement of persons which he said remains an impediment to the right to education.
Speaking during the 7th Annual Humanitarian Symposium in Nairobi on Thursday Chanda who also doubles up as the Representative to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) underscored the need for women and girls to have equal access to health, education and participate in governance without fear of discrimination.
“To ensure that we silence the guns by the year 2020, we must allow displaced women to earn decent wage, right to equal access to education and health facilities,” he said.
African Governance Architecture under African Union (AU) held the 7th Annual Humanitarian Symposium to address participation of the gender dimension of forced displacement in Africa.
Participation of women was described as a key pillar in the pursuit of Sustainable Development Goals by the year 2030, key among them gender equality, quality education, eradication of poverty as well as hunger.
The symposium focused on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), returnees and refugee issues particularly refugee women and children who make up half of the population in refugee camps in Africa.
Participants called for joint efforts to enhance the participation of women in decision making.
Many stakeholders including ambassadors from some of the African countries like Uganda, South Sudan, Togo noted the critical role good governance can play towards the promotion of peace and stability and hence addressing the challenge of displacement of persons.
Amuge Otengo Rebecca, Uganda’s Ambassador in Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to AU and UNECA noted women and children are the most affected in war situations.
She underscored the need for inclusion of this minority group voices in decision making in efforts to end displacement crises in Africa.
“Women and girls must be involved at every stage and sector and this is not asking for a favor, we are demanding for this as a right so that they can make their mark in this peace and security process,” said Otengo.
Africa is home to over 25.2 million forcibly displaced persons, comprising 7.4 million refugees and 17.8 million IDPs.
The increasing number of people that are displaced in Africa continues to present enormous humanitarian challenges especially with unending conflicts caused by political instability, natural disaster and inter-tribal wars on the continent.
The symposium aimed at providing a platform for policy discussions, interactions and experience sharing among various stakeholders especially refugee women and girls who are mostly affected by displacement.
The Commissioner for Political Affairs in the African Union Commission – Department of Political Affairs (AUC-DPA), Minata Samate Cessouma, assured the delegates the African Union is committed to putting an end to the root causes of displacement.
“We cannot achieve Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063 if we leave behind refugees, displaced persons and returnees,” Cessouma said in closing remarks.
The symposium paid close attention to vulnerability faced by refugee women as part of the Agenda 2063 by the African Union whose vision is an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens, representing a dynamic force in the international arena.
Foni Joyce, a young refugee advocate for women and youth rights, called upon governments to address vulnerabilities displaced children and women face.
“I am a woman, refugee, single. All this are my elements of vulnerability,” she noted.
She expressed desire of going back to her country of origin, South Sudan, to have a feel of cultural diversity urging the various stakeholders at the symposium to consider peace as the only durable solution for displacement.
“I cannot emphasis enough on need for peace as a durable solution to force displacement in Africa.”