Women are backbone of society in Africa, says AU special envoy

Those who have muscles, guns have been called to table, not women, Bineta Diop says

The African Union’s special envoy on women, peace and security noted the significance of women’s involvement in all areas of life on Friday, including at negotiation tables.

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Bineta Diop said: “African women have suffered in conflicts” while stressing it is not happening only in Africa but in all parts of the world as “We have seen the crisis in Ukraine.”

Diop underscored that women are mainly the ones who are severely affected but stressed the “resilience of women in Africa” is not shown as well.

“In Africa, women are resilient. In Africa, women are the backbone of the society. In Africa, women bring tremendous contribution to our development,” she said, adding that her priority as special envoy “is to give the hope to women, it is to go on the ground in solidarity to tell them that Africa is with you.”

Diop’s role also includes “making sure that their voices are heard, give them the confidence, the capacity, provide them with the support,” she said,

Citing the Antalya Diplomacy Forum, Diop said: “what we are discussing here is, when it comes to the negotiation table, for example, women are missing.”

“It’s those who have the muscles, it is those who have the guns that have been called at the table. So why is that? We need to invite women,” she said and voiced the necessity of including women in such cases “because you know, women have the knowledge as well.”

“They think that because we are quiet, that we don’t know. But they have expertise, and also the fact that they (women) are the one at the community, they are one negating at the community level,” she added.

Defining women as “soft diplomats,” Diop said, “We need to bring women at the core of the discussion, of the dialogue, and it is happening here (Antalya Diplomacy Forum).”

Concerning a question about ongoing projects as her office at the African Union, she said one is governance.

“We have created a platform for women on women leadership; African women leaders, network platform. Because we need women across the continent to meet,” she said.

Listing education as another project, the special envoy said: “One of the great projects that we do is at the university to a have curriculum for young women and men. Because this issue of gender equality is not about women only, it is a societal thing. So you’d need to educate the men and the women on the relationship between men and women.”

She also expressed admiration to Turkiye’s first lady Emine Erdogan for her efforts toward Africa and African women. Diop said: “She’s promoting African women’s cultural art. Especially the artisanal work done by women and I think this is a way for so to change the narrative of African women, to say African women are doing a lot.”

Saying that she will participate in a panel, “Strengthening Solidarity and Promoting Peace through Soft Power,” at the forum on Saturday with the Turkish first lady, Diop said, “We’ll be talking about the soft diplomacy. We will see how the soft diplomacy that has been used since our history, how can we bring it back?”

Diop cited a concept by the late President of South Africa Nelson Mandela, “Ubuntu,” and defined it as: “I exist because you exist so the linkage is if something happened to you it will affect me. So I think this whole crisis between Ukraine and Russia, what it does teach us we are in one world. If it affects them, it will affect the entire world.”

She also criticized the UN Security Council for “injustice” for not including the African continent.


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