'VOICES OF CONGOLESE WOMEN' TO BE HEARD IN THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT
Following International Women's Day (Sunday 8 March), SNP MSP Rob Gibson has announced he will be hosting an event in the Scottish Parliament, Voices of Congolese Women, in partnership with The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).
The Minister for External Affairs, Michael Russell, will open the event. Other speakers will include Marie-Claire Saray, an activist from western Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as well as two other Congolese women from diasporas around the UK.
The event will be held on April 28th, the 94th anniversary of WILPF, which was founded at an International Congress of Women at The
Hague, Netherlands. One of the founders was Chrystal Macmillan, a suffragette from Scotland.
Commenting on the announcement, Rob said:
"I am delighted to be able to host this event and very much look forward to the evening. Our aim is to raise international awareness of the dire state of affairs Congolese women are dealing with.
"The situation in the DRC has never been worse. Women are being horribly abused and killed every day. Those that live through it still have to cope with famine, war and disease. The situation is critical.
"In many African countries women represent the majority of the population and are responsible for the daily survival of their communities, yet are frequently ignored or barred from the decision making process. That must change if progress is to be made.
Spokesperson for the Scottish Section of WILPF, Helen Kay, said:
'In 1915 Chrystal Macmillan helped to organise an International Women's Congress, out of which grew the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom.
"The seminar at Holyrood will provide a link between the origins of the organisation and current WILPF work with women from Democratic Republic of the Congo - it will provide an opportunity in 2009 for us to listen to the voices of African women and learn how we can work with them to improve the future of Africa.
NOTES TO EDITOR:
To find out more about WILPF: http://www.wilpf.int.ch/index.htm
To find out more about the DRC visit: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/country_profiles/1076399.stm
To find out more about International Women's Day: http://www.internationalwomensday.com/
DRC motions lodged by Rob Gibson MSP:
S3M-02964 Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish National Party): Women's Welfare in the Democratic Republic of Congo— That the Parliament condemns the state of women’s welfare in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the widespread systematic rape and sexual violence against women and young girls; notes the indiscriminate nature of the crime with rape victims as young as infants or as old as 80-year-old grandmothers, with many being raped by groups of soldiers and others held as sex slaves; highlights the reported 40,000 victims of sexual violence that were treated in UN and partnered medical centres in 2007 and notes that experts believe this to be only a fraction of the actual number of victims; applauds campaigns such as the Enough Project, which aims to empower Congolese women and girls to put an end to assaults of sexual violence; calls for an end to rape being used as a weapon of war by all armed groups, and finally hails the courageous women of the DRC who are making their voices heard by the international community and demonstrating against this ongoing campaign of physical, psychological and social assault.
S3M-02952 Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish National Party): DR Congo Conflict— That the Parliament expresses its dismay that an estimated 250,000 civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have had to flee their homes and are living in desperate conditions following the latest outbreak of violence in eastern DRC; notes that these refugees are joining more than one million civilians already displaced in the region; commends the aim of the world's largest UN peacekeeping force of 17,000, which is attempting to secure an end to the DRC’s lengthy civil war and ultimately disarm and re-integrate rebel forces into a joint defence force for the region; further notes that the civil war has already caused more than three million deaths, mainly due to starvation and disease, with around 1,200 people dying each day as a direct or indirect result of the conflict; applauds the Disasters Emergency Committee Democratic Republic of Congo appeal, which brings together a unique alliance of the international aid, corporate, public and broadcasting sectors to rally funds and ensure that they go to delivering life-saving food, water, shelter and emergency medical supplies to those affected, and, finally, highlights the critical scale of the crisis, signalling that much more is needed from the international community in order to end the conflict and rebuild the DRC.
S3M-03451 Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish National Party): Democratic Republic of Congo's Financial Turmoil— That the Parliament notes the current financial turmoil of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with particular concern for the $9 billion minerals-for-infrastructure contract with the Chinese Government, which is in limbo due to objections from western donors led by the Paris Club of creditors and the International Monetary Fund (IMF); further notes that the DRC is still being torn apart by a civil war, which has claimed an estimated 3 million lives, and at present endures the highest debt levels in its history; acknowledges the concerns of western donors, the IMF and the Chinese Government as well as the DRC regarding the future of this lucrative investment plan, and finally calls urgently for an amicable agreement to be struck between all the parties involved so that the DRC can move forward and make the desperately needed infrastructure investments that are required to help lift this potentially rich country out of a cycle of despair.