IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION FOR WOMEN STRESSED DURING ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE MEETING ON BURKINA FASO REPORTS20000127
The importance of education for women was underlined this afternoon as expert members of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women concluded its consideration of the combined second and third periodic reports of Burkina Faso on compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
One expert, describing education as the gateway to womens empowerment and implementation of the Convention, said it was disheartening that literacy rates among women in Burkina Faso remained low. It seemed illiteracy and poverty were a womans fate throughout the world. Education would enhance the fight against poverty.
Another expert stressed that neither education nor emancipation in its broadest sense would be able to change anything without the full participation of women in political power. Civil and family education should be used to prevent young people from growing up to perpetrate violence against women. Violence was a result of miseducation in the family.
A member of Burkina Fasos delegation agreed with experts that illiteracy among women was a major hindrance to their attaining equality in her country. While education was the best method of transmitting information to women about their rights, women must also be taught to complain. If there were no complaints, there could be no adjudication.
Aida Gonzalez Martinez of Mexico, Chairperson of the Committee, said the level of the delegation of Burkina Faso was proof of the countrys commitment to eliminating discrimination against women. She hoped that the socio-cultural models and stereotypes presenting obstacles in the path to equality for women worldwide could eventually be removed through efforts similar to those that the delegation of Burkina Faso had so clearly outlined.
Among other issues discussed this afternoon were polygamy, divorce, abortion and family planning.
The Committee will meet again at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow, 28 January, to begin its consideration of the third periodic report of Belarus.
Womens Anti-Discrimination Committee - 2 - Press Release WOM/1168 459th Meeting (PM) 27 January 2000
Committee Work Programme
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met this afternoon to continue its consideration of the combined second and third periodic reports of Burkina Faso on implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. For background information on those reports, see Press Release WOM/1167 of this morning.
Questions and Comments by Experts
An expert underlined the urgency and importance of womens education as the gateway to womens empowerment and implementation of the Convention. It was disheartening that literacy among women remained low. Therefore, she joined in requesting that the Government give that sector priority in allocating both financial and human resources.
Another expert said that due to the three major obstacles to the fight against female discrimination in Burkina Faso -- poverty, lack of education and stereotyping due to traditions and customs -- it was very difficult to counter that situation, but the country was succeeding in its efforts. On the issue of abortion, she noted the Governments strong programme, but she also shared the views of her colleagues that education was the priority.
Throughout the world, she continued, it appeared that poverty and illiteracy were a womans fate. The fight against poverty would be enhanced by education. Moreover, while the establishment of satellite schools and formal education policies for boys and girls could be viewed as a pilot project, she was recommending that the State implement special and additional programmes particularly for girls. She noted that areas of weakness were the countrys poor family planning programmes and inequality due to inadequate employment laws.
Another expert pointed out that, given womens involvement in the profusion of small and medium-sized enterprises in the country, they could make a worthwhile contribution to Burkina Fasos participation in the current trend towards globalization. Also, the availability of information technology could further womens education through knowledge that could be procured through that medium, as well as through traditional media.
Turning to the issue of poverty among rural women, one expert said it was necessary to guarantee poor womens access to loans and to jobs other than agriculture. How were rural women with real needs covered by the law that had been established in June 1991 to govern agrarian reforms? she asked.
An expert noted that the delegation had pointed out that one of the issues the Government had been dealing with was the representation of women in public and political life. Therefore, she wanted to know whether, in that undertaking, special measures like quotas in Parliament, civil service and other relevant areas were being considered. That would help to increase the visibility of women and the issues that concerned them.
On the issue of polygamy, she noted the need for the State to protect women and children from such situations and to protect those who sought recourse. It was not enough to expect women to say no to polygamy, as there were obvious consequences -- what protective legislation for women in case of polygamy was in place?
Response of Government
CLEMENCE ILBOUDO, of Burkina Fasos delegation, responding to questions on polygamy, said that if a man, in spite of his wifes refusal, decided to go ahead with another marriage, the courts would formally prohibit the second marriage.
She said that although there were no accurate records, divorce rates in Burkina Faso were not very high. Efforts were usually undertaken, often with the assistance of the womans family, to reconcile the couple. If that failed, the courts were a last resort.
ROSE MARIE-ZOUNGRANA, also of the delegation of Burkina Faso, in response to questions on rural women, said special attention was now being focused on rural women. Donors were insisting that every project undertaken take them into account as a condition for funding. It was of paramount importance not only to involve them in projects, but also to involve them in decision-making.
She said that when rural women had children, they could not enrol in literacy classes, because it was difficult to find someone to care for those children. Literacy courses took on additional costs because women sometimes had to bring their children with them and have them taken care of while they learned.
Another concern was that once rural women overcame illiteracy, it was important to maintain literacy, she said. Rural women did not have sufficient access to books and other publications in French and they risked reverting to illiteracy after a few years.
Responding to other issues, she said banks had to be provided with guarantees before women could be provided with credit. Regarding education, the Government had made it a priority and was elaborating plans of action.
SAMWIDI ZOUNGRANA, of Burkina Fasos delegation, said it was clear that womens illiteracy was a major hindrance to their attaining equality in her country. She agreed with the experts opinions that education was the best method of transmitting information to women on their rights; however, women must also be taught to complain. If there were no complaints, there could be no adjudication. The Government was also using a strategy through a focal department that dealt exclusively with rural and illiterate women. There were social workers at the national and village levels who had recourse to both men and women.
Turning to the draft codes, she noted that they affected six provinces and included laws for womens empowerment. Under those codes, legal offices had been established to deal with problems of violence against women, among other things, and approximately 200 people came in monthly to request information on the Family Code.
There was good reason for optimism, particularly in cases of forced marriage, she stated. Recently, about 100 girls had fled their homes and the parents were being brought to justice. Furthermore, to propel that change, it was now the womens turn to invoke and claim their rights. They must organize themselves so they could fully implement those rights.
AGNES KABORE OUATTARA, Director for Family Relations in Burkina Fasos Ministry of Social Work, referring to issues on abortion and family planning, reiterated that youth and family programmes in the health sector had led to the establishment of youth centres aimed at preventing pregnancies and abortions.
SEG-NOGO OUEDRAOGO-SAWADOGO, of the delegation of Burkina Faso, responding to questions about health, said national associations for family well-being were training young people and midwives. Training courses had been redesigned to cover all health problems. All staff who would be working in the health services would be trained in pre- and post-abortion care.
She said the integration of all those activities would be carried out at the level of the national health service. Studies now being undertaken would determine how those services could be made available to women. Hopefully, by the Committees next session, there would be indicators and statistics reflecting a changed situation. In three years, midwives and nursing graduates would be able to make use of their training.
An expert stressed that neither education nor emancipation in its broadest sense would be able to change anything without the full participation of women in political power.
She said civil and family education should be included in general education to inform young people on violence against women. Violence was a result of miseducation in the family.
Regarding abortion, she said that any new legislation envisaged for the protection of women must include their right to decide about their own bodies and to make their own decisions. While no woman would make such a decision lightly, she deserved the right to make her own decision.
Mariam Marie-Gisele Guigma, Minister for the Development of Women of Burkina Faso, emphasized that education was indeed the key. It was only in the past three years that Burkinabe women had become aware of its prioritization. Also, regarding women in political and public life, womens organizations had struggled to maintain a quota of 25 women in political parties and groups, and had ensured that women would no longer be put at the bottom of political lists, but rather in the middle. Furthermore, the role of women had been raised at the highest level of government and she believed that the next report would reflect that real success had been achieved.
Ms. ILBOUDO said that it was important to note that Burkina Faso had not lost sight of its responsibility for implementing the Convention. Consequently, on the national level, the National Commission for Childrens Rights and representatives of various societies and organizations, together with members of the human rights movement, had studied ways to integrate and implement human rights, including those of women, at every level of the country.
AIDA GONZALEZ MARTINEZ of Mexico, Chairperson of the Committee, said the level of the delegation of Burkina Faso was proof of the countrys commitment to eliminating discrimination against women. She hoped that the socio-cultural models and stereotypes presenting obstacles in the path to equality for women worldwide could eventually be removed through efforts similar to those that the delegation of Burkina Faso had so clearly outlined.
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