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Voice of the Commonwealth - The Global Influencer

Voice of the Commonwealth - The Global Influencer

A unique opportunity to streamline a common future, especially for women

KIGALI (CU)_The Commonwealth Women Forum, which is running alongside three other forums focused on youth, business and civil society, commenced on Monday (20 June), bringing together individuals from various stakeholder groups to promote policies aimed at achieving gender equality and human rights and providing women with opportunities to interact with Commonwealth leaders. More than 500 delegates gathered for the event which is being held under the theme ‘Delivering a Common Future: Transforming for Gender Equality’. 

Commonwealth Secretary-General the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC delivered her opening remarks on Monday, describing this year’s Heads of Government Meeting, as well as the Women’s Forum as a unique opportunity to bring together political leaders and policymakers to streamline a common future, especially for women. “Rwanda is a living example of what we truly need,” she said in her address. “I salute Rwanda’s achievements in ensuring women and girls are central to the development of the nation. The political will & commitment to bring these achievements remains the exception and not the rule,” she added.

For her part, the First Lady of Rwanda Jeannette Kagame, delivered a strong and powerful message affirming the efforts that must be enforced to achieve gender equality. Her remarks particularly emphasised widespread violence against women and girls and the effects of the climate crisis on the female population. “Together we can, must and will end violence against women and girls,” she said, while also declaring a commitment to “do our part” to mitigate adverse effects of climate change, especially on women and girls.

The first panel discussion was held under the theme ‘Women in Leadership: Beyond Numbers’, during which panelists shared views on how women’s representation in decision-making would have a real and lasting impact for the betterment of society. The speakers included Cherie Blair CBE, QC, founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, who highlighted the impacts of stereotyping and negative messaging faced by women and girls, and called on them to not let their confidence be undermined by what people say they can’t do. Dr Margee Ensign, President of the American University of Nigeria, and Hon Shandana Gulzar Khan, Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan and Chairperson of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians, was also among those who addressed the gathering.

In her remarks, the Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs for South Africa and the Chairperson of the Commonwealth Women in Local Government Network, Hon. Thembisile Nkandimeng, told the delegates of the Women’s Forum don’t quit, don’t take any pity and don’t forget women of yesteryear. British MP and Global Co-Chair of the International Parliamentary Network for Education, Hon. Harriett Baldwin, was among the speakers of the discussion, whose address focused on the critical role of education in achieving gender equality. She called on the participants to commit to ensuring both boys and girls are fully educated in order to attain sustainable gender empowerment.

Other events on the agenda for Monday included a discussion under the theme ‘Engaging Men and Boys: Ending Violence Against Women and Girls, as well as a discussion focused on intergenerational celebration, focused on recognising the contributions and diversity of women and girls of all ages, including older women.

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