UNESCO to host discussion on freedom of information and African women's rights
UNESCO and the African Women's Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) are organizing a roundtable discussion during which the book Freedom of Information (FOI) and Women's Rights in Africa will be launched. The meeting will take place at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 16 March 2010 to explore the links between enhanced information flows, women's empowerment and gender equality, and to promote stronger involvement by women organizations in advancing freedom of information in Africa.
Freedom of information can substantially improve the lives of women, who often bear the greatest burden of poverty, corruption, economic breakdown and lack of access to essential information that is often held by governments. The event in Paris is part of the activities planned by UNESCO to celebrate International Women's Day 2010. It builds on an ongoing regional project launched by FEMNET and UNESCO, the goal of which is to foster women's engagement in the drafting, approval and implementation of FOI laws in Africa.
In this context, FEMNET and UNESCO produced a resource book offering a collection of case studies from Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Zambia. These case studies document and draw lessons from the experience of women organizations that have engaged in furthering freedom of information in their respective countries.
The resource book emphasizes the importance of FOI for women's well-being, their empowerment and fulfillment of their basic rights, as well as for strengthening the actions of organizations working toward these goals and holding governments accountable for their commitments. However, it also highlights the limited participation of women organizations in FOI-related processes in the featured countries, among which only South Africa has a FOI law, while campaigns advocating such laws are undergoing different stages in the others.
The roundtable will facilitate a debate on these issues between the researchers involved in the study, international experts and practitioners from other parts of the world. It is expected that the discussion will generate new insights and help shape strategies to advance the engagement of organizations focusing on women's issues in collective efforts to promote freedom of information in the continent. The meeting also aims to facilitate a more complete realization of African women's right to know.
FEMNET is a pan-African organization created in 1988 to further African women's development, equality and other human rights. It aims to do so by sharing experiences, information and strategies among African women's NGOs through advocacy, training and communications. One of the focus issues of its Communications Programme is the Freedom of Information and Women's Rights in Africa Project, supported by UNESCO. The abovementioned resource book was produced in the framework of this project.
The publication can be accessed here: <a href="http://www.unesco.org/webworld/en/women-rights-africa">www.unesco.org/webworld/en/women-rights-africa</a>.