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Journalist Pat Made from Zimbabwe argues that despite the achievements of Dakar, its shortcomings show that it really is Time to get professional

The Dakar meeting stands to go down in history as the most memorable women’s meeting for the African continent. However, some of the reasons why it will be unforgettable do not make pleasant reading.
Talking about the negative aspects of Dakar might just appear like airing one’s dirty linen for the world to shake its head in despair once again.But ,as one African professional woman of international stature said:”If things are bad, we must say so.Unless we as Africans start demanding professionalism. we will never get it!”
Women from all over Africa landed in Dakar with a sense of enthusiasm and high expectations Instead , they met one drama after another. The women, however. were more than willing to sacrifice comfort in exchange for a meeting of substance. They were also willing to work long hours to leave Dakar with the two key documents completed.
On the first day of registration for the NGO Forum, the patient throng of women, eager to get on with proceedings finally broke through the door
en masse in a spontaneous display of impatience.On the second day of till’ governmental meeting, delegates literally found themselves in the dark when the power failed and they were left to sit out the day with no explanation I suppose one bright spot was that
all women were treated equally. For the Senegalese military it did not matter of you were a “big chef” or a “little chef” . All were barred equally from the opening ceremony and manhandled equally by the soldiers as they tried to move through the conference centre.
Many rested the blame for what happened squarely on the shoulders of the organizers – and wondered if this was a reflection of a more deep seated problem on the continent: the attitude that when it comes to women, why be professional? The lack of final documents was a particular problem. “How can we write a report or tell our organizations and governments what happened when we have nothing to show?” asked one delegate from Ghana. Unfortunately, the explanations delegates can offer are enough to make any sponsor think twice about funding attendance a t a women’s meeting ever again. The mere fact that so many women showed up was a testimony to African women’s determination to change their position and to do it this century. What Dakar showed us, however, was that this century may not be long enough.   African Agenda Vol.1 No.1 1995

Pat Made is a journalist with the SADC Press Trust in Zimbabwe and writer for the Women’s Feature Service