Monday, April 19, 2010

The Condition of Women in the Congo


"Recovery from Natural Catastrophes,Wars,and the Financial Crisis"

By: Saran Traore, Research Analyst, Friends Of The Congo

Howard University, the US Congress and the Womens Ambassadors Foundation collaborated on the 15th Annual Womens Ambassadors Conference in the Rayburn Building at the US Congress on April 7th, 2010. The conference had a morning and afternoon session of discussions on different issues facing the global community. Although all the events were informative, the “Recovery from the Financial Crisis” and “Recovery from Wars, the case of the Congo(DRC)” in the afternoon were most eyeopening.

Each session lasted for an hour with panelist giving some overview of the topic then a Q&A after. “Recovery from the Financial Crisis” covered the recent economic crisis that affected the entire international community. Members of the World Bank, experts from Howard university and financial groups were all present to talk about the beginning of the crash, where it started and who was affected the most in comparison to the US. One specific speaker, Mr. Shanta Devarajan from the World Bank, was the expert on the Africa and his take on the affects on the continent as a whole. According to Mr. Devarajan, African was showing great economic improvements not seen in years before the crisis. Overall growth was at 6% before the crash from 4%. Trade and need of commodities was in Africa's favor. Policies were being made across the board for smarter and better economic governance. These improvements then halted after the crash because of the big hit that Africa took. Growth reduced to 1%, Infant Mortality rates grew 30-50 thousand, and millions of people were thrown back into poverty. Although all this sounds severe, Mr. Devarajan says that it could have been worst if Africa had not been on the hot streak that it was on before the crisis. He also emphasis that we should be optimistic, for policy makers are seeing the benefits of prudent policies and many countries are staying the course on these policies.

As I and many other Africans were hopeful of these statements and numbers, I felt the need to ask a very realistic question. With the recorded growth mentioned, distribution of wealth (DOW) in Africa has been and remains a very serious issue. How was it factored into the growth and how was it further effected by the economic crisis? Mr. Devarjan very much agreed with my concerns. According to him, DOW was monitored because in comparison to India, Africa showed a 1.1% in poverty reduction which was better than in India. Once the crash hit, there off course was a drop in income and many people dropped jobs from the formal sector to head to the informal sectors. Also, as remittance is an important part of Africa's economy and wealth distribution, there was a significant drop since those in the Diaspora could no longer afford to send as much back as before the crash. The good news is, remittances are coming back, therefore giving some who have lost jobs some hope for income.

The second session, “Recovery from Wars, the case of Congo (DRC)” was a very powerful one. The panel consisted of Friends of Congo's very own Makeda Crane, a speaker and blogger for FOC, and Jeanne-Martin Cisse who was Guinea-Conakry's first woman Ambassador to the UN and in 1972 was president of the Security Council. Crane spoke of the political, social, and economic crisis that the Congo is experiencing and the millions of lives the have been and continue to be claimed from it. She gave a touching and gripping presentation about her involvement with the Congo and her plight to help the Congo get back on its own feet. She spoke of the fight for minerals in Congo, the tragedy of the amazing women being raped as a result of the war, and the need for social empowerment. In the same tone, she emphasized the political, economic and most importantly human potential of the Congo. Ambassador Cisse echoed in on the same note and spoke of healing Congo and the rest of Africa. She has witnessed the history of Congo and wishes to see a positive change in her lifetime for the country and the entire continent so that the dialogue can change for the better about Africa to the outside world.


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