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Africa launches Womens Decade with keynote address from deputy UN chief

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“Empowering women is a moral imperative, a question of fundamental rights,” Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro told an AU forum in Nairobi, Kenya, in a keynote address. “It is also sound policy. This is our chance to put principle into practice… Investing in women and girls is one of the greatest investments we can make. “Gender equality and women’s empowerment are not add-ons – they are integral to development. Furthermore, they will have a multiplier effect on sustainable growth, and provide resilience to future challenges. Let us therefore work to empower Africa’s women and girls.”She recited a litany of discrimination faced by women, especially those in rural areas. They do most of the agricultural work, yet endure the worst working conditions, with low pay and little or no social protection. They produce most of the food, yet are often excluded from land tenure, credit and business services. They are the primary users and custodians of local natural resources, but seldom have a voice on the bodies that decide how these resources are managed. “They are the care-givers and managers of households, but rarely share these responsibilities equally with men or have a say in major household decisions,” Ms. Migiro declared. “We need to right these wrongs. We must ensure that rural women can access the legal, financial and technological tools they need to progress from subsistence agriculture to productive agriculture.”She called for better income-generating opportunities and education for women, noting that women make up over two thirds of the 800 million adults in Africa who cannot read and write.“This is denying women the chance to work, to prosper, to assert their rights and take their place as equal participants in society,” she said. “It also denies their countries an invaluable asset.”More than half of Africans infected of HIV/AIDS are women, up to three-quarters of those aged 15 to 24. “The statistics tell a shocking story,” she added. “Young women are powerless in negotiating safer sex. Let us empower them. Healthy women and girls means healthy societies, healthy nations.”Turning to violence against women, she called it “a topic that pains me – that should pain us all… It is endemic in our societies. We must unite to end it. It comes in many forms: domestic violence; the abuse of vulnerable young girls; genital cutting; rape. Such crimes can never be rationalized as culture or tradition. Wherever they occur they should be condemned. They should be prosecuted. And most of all, they should be prevented.”African leaders must take their commitments seriously, Ms. Migiro underlined. “We need national and local action to make women’s rights a reality, to end discriminatory traditional practices, and to end impunity for gender-based violence,” she said. “Let us accept in our minds, and in our laws, that women are rightful and equal partners – to be protected, to be respected, and to be heard.” 15 October 2010The African Union (AU) today launched the African Women’s Decade, with a top United Nations official calling on the continent’s leaders to seize the opportunity to eliminate a raft of ills, from exclusion from land tenure, credit and inheritance to violence and genital mutilation. read more

Tangalle boat attack suspects remanded

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The 12 and 10 year old were handed over to a children’s home while the 6 year old was freed and temporarily handed over to a children;s home. The 14 suspects were arrested in Australia and deported last Saturday after a copy of a court warrant was handed over to INTERPOL.The 14 suspects were wanted over the incident in Tangalle where fishermen on a multi-day fishing trawler were attacked and the trawler was then stolen. The trawler was used by the 14 suspects to head to Australia to seek asylum. Among the 14 suspects arrested after being deported from Australia, was a 12, 10 and 6 year old. The Tangalle Magistrate has remanded 10 of the 14 suspects arrested over the Tangalle trawler attack, the police media unit said today.The police said that another two suspects have been produced before an identification parade. read more

UN agency calls for safeguards to protect fish stocks in developing countries

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“Some developing countries with reasonably healthy levels of stocks have, in their search for foreign, external, earnings needed to pay off debts and to stimulate economic growth, entered into fishing agreements which allow foreign fleets into their waters,” said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. He noted, however, that the studies conducted in collaboration with UNEP in Argentina and Senegal indicated that unless strict safeguards were in place, “this can be a costly mistake.” In Argentina – a “stark” example – exports grew by 478 per cent between 1985 and 1995 as the number of fish caught mushroomed. But the price was high: the quantity of fish caught has, since 1997, “fallen dramatically” as a result of over-exploitation of key stocks, UNEP noted. Between 1997 and 1999, the catch dropped by a quarter and revenues declined during that period by 14 per cent.Negative impacts were also found in Senegal, where trade liberalization “has had a devastating effect on some key stocks, especially those deep-living, coastal species, favoured by European consumers,” UNEP said, warning of a risk that Senegal’s own market supply could face shortages in the near future as fishing efforts shift from locally consumed species to those destined for export.Among other recommendations, the studies propose a range of measures that could be taken to address the situation, including the possible institution of quotas and higher prices for foreign fishing fleets, as well as a suspension of agreements if stocks become seriously depleted. read more

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