Na ta lie Africa has no doubts that, despite the problems,Dakar was worthwhile.

“what was inspiring was the determination of a ll the women there to make it work. That was our challenge,and it’s going to be our victory. There was a beautiful sense of perseverance and dignity among all the women.”Africa is Project Co-ordinator on the planning: committee of the South Africa n National NCO women’s Secretariat, working with a tiny staff and a shoestring budget to ready the country’s delegation for Beijing.She’s hopeful that on the foundations laid at Dakar, the Beijing Conference will bring real gains. ” I think what we’re looking for is an end to ‘goodwill’ gestures and almost a spirit of enforcement coming into the debate on women’s rights. without that, Beijing will be just like Nairobi. After Nairobi,almost every government claimed to care about the well-being of women- but none of it amounted to anything concrete.

Now we have a climate where we can push for genuine affirmative action, such as quotas. I also hope which see a greater effort to explore real alternatives,like the Rwanda peace initiative, which demonstrate that we don’t have to wait to be included on male committees – we can do it ourselves. Our overall co-ordinator,Dr Gertrude Mongela. has said that Beijing is about action- that’s what we’ll be there for.”Africa doesn’t, however, idealistic the process. “I’m aware that there was disillusionment aft er, for example,the Rio environment conference.But you can’t expect hard radical documents from an event which draws in governments. There has to be compromise to accommodate so many views and interests. So it’s what we choose to make of the final document that will really count.

women are being beaten because they are in a  disadvantaged position.” A Ghanaian delegate agreed: “The general attitude held by public, the police and the judiciary is a contributory factor in keeping the issue of violence in the cupboard .”One workshop with a swift and concrete outcome was that concerned with peace .

The workshop sent a peace mission to Rwanda immediately following the Forum. Said South Africa delegate Patience Pashe:”That was incredibly well-received. People in conflict usually only see white men from outside Africa coming to look at them. “The Forum also covered the status and influence of NGOs in policy-making at national and regional level s. Problems discussed included ambiguities in the legal status of NGOs in some countries, their low visibility and lack of adequate resources. The NCO Plan of Action proposed strengthening NGO capacity in conflict management and resolution, ad-advocacy on women’s issues and advancing democracy.Underlining some of the real political changes on the continent, the keynote address was delivered. by Dr Ivy Matsepe-Cesebum. leader of the South African delegation. She noted the contribution of the rest of Africa to the liberation of South Africa and expressed. The desire of South Africans to learn from the positive and negative experiences of their neighbors.Throughout the the Forum, the presence and contributions of South African women in workshops reechoed that concern.

The workshop organised by the Association for African Women in Research and Development (AAWORD) on the place of women in the democratization ion processes, put the continent’s political processes under scrutiny. Democracy, said parfici-rnents – even in a country as new and progressive as Namibia – gave us a glimpse of one possible future which we have to guard against here.Second, the whole structural adjustment thing. The DAWN workshops were a real eye-opener for SA women. We ended up saying: please,let’s not bring this monster home.

Now we have to translate that feeling into a pressure group which can lobby government and business interests.”But most importantly for South Africans, Dakar pointed up the choice we have to make. Some people had tended to swallow the media cliche about South Africa being ‘ partly first-world . partly third -world: There was some discomfort about choosing to identify with a bloc. But when we go to Beijing, South Africans will have to define themselves as fully African, as part of the developing world in all its aspects. “For me and man “, others in the delegation that was extremely exciting.We could Si’e the broader perspective and how South Africa should be placing itself in terms of crucial global debates.”C ICE S have to salvage the meaningful para graphs, sections, even phrases and use them as a focus for activism and lobbying. But how the document is written will affect the strategies we can derive from it. The Nairobi Fonoera-Loosing Strategies was huge,jargon-laden and largely descriptive.It wasn’t easily usable. There will have to be democracy in the drafting process and language.”But we’ll also strengthen our links with many others struggling to solve the same problems. We’ll come out reinforced in our work. “Africa believes the Dakar experience was enormously rewarding for all the South African women who went. ” It was very educational and humbling .

“Listening, for example, to Nigerian women talking about child marriage and genital mutilation made many of us re-evaluate South Africa. We’re not, as our own media so often present us, the centre of the continent, but just a country with problems like everywhere else.” Three aspects of Dakar in particular struck her as significant. “First,hearing about and seeing the tensions between NGOs and government. African Agenda Vol.1 No.1 1995