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Pres. Sirleaf addresses 2nd WAW in Tokyo

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has reflected on the struggle of women across the globe that continues to prevent them from “shining” and praised Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for organizing the World Assembly for Women (WAW) and all that he continues to do to promote the advancement and empowerment of women both in Japan and other parts of the world.

An Executive Mansion dispatch quotes President Sirleaf stressing that “if the world is to move ‘Towards a Society Where Women Shine’, we must continue to tackle with more forcefulness a world in which 30 percent of women around the world experience either physical or sexual partner violence; where 20 percent of women in sub-Saharan Africa suffer from non-sexual partner violence- a world in which 1.3 billion women do not have an account at formal financial institutions.”

According to the dispatch from Tokyo, the President made the remarks when she delivered the Keynote Address at the opening of the 2nd World Assembly for Women (WAW 2015) at the Grand Prince Hotel Takanawa on Friday, August 28, 2015. The WAW 2015 was held under the theme: “Towards a Society Where Women Shine.”

President Sirleaf indicated that while recognizing unprecedented success in a few countries, just as Rwanda which has the highest world-wide participation, it is noted that in sub-Saharan Africa, women account for only 22 percent of seats in National Parliaments, admitting that both Japan and Liberia have much catching up to do at 9 percent and 10 percent respectively.

The dispatch also quoted her as noting that 43 percent of women in the agricultural workforce have limited personal access to credit, land and information, although they play the dominant role in ensuring food security for the African region.

She acknowledged that WAW 2015 comes at a time when advocates and pro-pounders of gender equality and women’s rights are undertaking critical reviews and assessments of the level of implementation of key women’s rights and participation as enshrined in the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform Action and UN Security Council Resolution – 1325 on Women’s Peace and Security, indicating that the reviews and assessments indicate clearly that women have made significant progress in all areas and levels of society, but that it was also equally clear that women have not arrived yet.

President Sirleaf further noted that the call of global action is a call to global leaders and to the people whom they lead to act with courage, to deliver, at a historical crossroad on the timeless promise made at the birth of the United Nations.

She told the WAW that the Assembly provides the opportunity to look back and examine the world today, an opportunity for all regions to express and to join the call for action, to declare what they want in the world of tomorrow, further reflecting that similar call is made in the Common African Position on the Post-2015 Agenda building upon the lessons obtained this year 2015: “The Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development Towards Africa Agenda 2063,” adding that it is an Agenda which expresses the Africa we want, a peaceful and secure Africa, an Africa with strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics, and Africa where development is people driven, unleashing the potential of woman and youth.

“The struggle to emancipate women from social and economic repression across the globe must start with us individually. Today, if each of us makes the commitment to denounce the subordination of a woman or a girl child in the household, your action will lead to increased equity for women. Our determination to impose confidence in our women and girls at the household level will not only increase productivity, but will lead to increased autonomy and self-esteem, which are cardinal to everyday decision making by women,” she told her audience.

She also encouraged men to see women’s participation in the economic, civic and political life of community and nation as an opportunity or an investment to foster complementarily development for the benefit of society.

President Sirleaf called on the Assembly to build on the trait of the Angie Brooks International Centre’s award winning Women’s Situation Room(WSR) which she champion as it utilizes women’s natural nurturing ability plus their abilities to negotiate and keep peace in a country.

As a way of sharing her personal experience, the President also reflected on her personal life journey which she said epitomizes the struggle and determination of women worldwide. “It tells the story of activism, opposition political leadership, banker, administrator and international civil servant with deep focus on a firm determination to realize life’s goal. It speaks of the deep concern about the social, economic and political inequalities that existed and still exists in Liberia today,” she stressed.

She also referenced her participation in political contestations in 1985, 1997, 2005 and 2011, and the awarding of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize as the first African women as major steps along the way in the struggle for justice, freedom and empowerment.

President Sirleaf also used the occasion to tell Liberia’s story about the deadly Ebola virus disease and the impact it had on the nation and its people, and also pointed out the many constraints and challenges faced by the country as it seeks recovery, expressing grief and sorrow for the 10,400 victims of the disease in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone and announced that as she spoke, Liberia was ending a second 42-day countdown and was expected to be declared Ebola free by the World Health Organization for the second time. She also told the Assembly that Sierra Leone has also released its last patient and has commenced a 42 days countdown.

“It was truly a horrifying situation, as you saw on your television screens. In the midst of deaths, fears, sanctions, departure of friends, companies and citizens, closure of schools and markets, and the confused cries of our people, I strongly rejected the horrifying predictions that Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone would face a 1.4 million infections before the end of January, and that 20,000 of the citizens in our three countries would die within months,” she said.

She praised Japan and other members of the international community, including countries that deployed their citizens to help fight the virus for their support that enabled the country contain the further spread of the virus and requested that the world still stand by Liberia’s side as it implements its recovery plan and effort.

Many personalities, including the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe; Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngueka; IMF’ Managing Director, Christine Lagarde; and the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman made remarks.

Other panelists at the Assembly who made remarks in person or via video recording, included the United States First Lady, Michelle Obama; the wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Clarie Blair; the wife of Kenya President, Margarett Kenyatta; Rula Ghani, Helen Clarke, Linda Hill, among others.

Earlier, President Sirleaf held talks with the Japan/AU Parliamentary Friendship League made of members of the DIET (Parliament) of Japan and discussed cooperation with Liberia and the African continent.

She also held talks with the President of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Akihiko Tanaka and delegation. They discussed JICA’s activities in Liberia with emphasis on fast-tracking the resumption of work on the Somalia Drive Road and a plea to expand the Somalia Drive project to 4 lanes.

The 2nd Assembly, which has brought together about 140 leaders of various fields from more than 40 countries and seven international organizations are discussing in a comprehensive manner various issues surrounding women. It also provides an opportunity for leaders who are active on the frontline in the political, economic and social arenas to have a frank exchange of views in their own words notwithstanding their country of origin and affiliation.

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