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-When you educate a woman you are educating a whole nation, said Amelia Sumbana, Parliamentarian from Mozambique in her address to the Social Democratic Party at the yearly meeting.
From April 10th – 19th 2008, Olle Burell of the Olof Palme Center played host to thirteen parliamentarians from Southern African, through one of the Palme Center’s democracy projects.

The goal of the project is to build up a network of female politicians in SADC (The Southern African development Community). Participants are parliamentarians from both government and opposition parties.  During their visit they met with Anna -Carin Jämtin och representatives of Stockholm Social Democratic Women. They also met Mona Sahlin, Bo Ringholm and several other Swedish Social Democrats. Study visits to important social institutions was on the programme as was a lecture on the history of the Swedish Labour movement by Anita Gradin.

_ I was most impressed by Anki (Anna – Carin Magnusson) and the study visit to Nässjö. She demonstrated how to get things done in reality. It is also great that the Social Democratic party has a women for a leader. If Swedish women can do it why can’t we?  said Namibia’s  Parlamentarian Elma Jane Dienda. She adds

– We African women have so much in common. The important goal of this project is that we meet, exchange experience and dicuss what we see here in Sweden.

The focus of the project is women’s participation in politics. In the countries in southern Africa that are participating in the project, men’s domination is very strong. During a much discussed session, the Social Democratic women shared experiences of how they have worked to achieve relative equality in the party. In another session Anna- Carin Jämtin,  discussed education and the self governing of local communes, this greatly impressed parliamentarian Regina Musokotwane.

– In Zambia we talk about how we must decentralize men it is taking a very long time.  I think we can develop faster by observing how Sweden has done it.  But it is crucial that we find our own methods to achieve it she said.

Regina Musokotwane dismisses the idea the Sweden has lessons to learn from Zambia and its neighbours. In doing so she expresses a disconcerting lack of political self confidence that was expressed by several participants during the visit.

– We have heard that Sweden has many suicides. What you could possibly learn from us is how families and neighbours take care of each other. Where we come from no one has to be alone. But Politically she doesn’t believe that Sweden has anything to learn from them.

Senator Isabella Bongie Katamzi, from Swaziland adds

– We are still learning the political terminology. What is left and what is right. In Swaziland we have a democracy that is built on tribes, lead by chiefs who are connected to our king In Sweden we see that you are free [and have a functioning democracy]. But I understand that it took 500 years.

– I think that projects of this type and cooperation with countries like Sweden will speed up the development of Southern Africa. If for nothing else the display of solidarity is important.

– We are very grateful to Olle Burell and for this opportunity and everything we have learned. Sweden has previously supported us during our fight against colonialism and apartheid. We see now that Sweden is still on the side of Southern Africa, says Amelia Sumbana.

Translation Fern Scott Olsson

Published: 2008-07-01

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