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April 2008 saw the visit of the Southern African forum for Social Democratic women, one of the party-oriented Democracy projects at the Palme Center. These projects aim to strengthen democracy through support to organizations and political parties that work for justice, development and peace. Encouraging political participation, education and organizational development, particularly for women and youth, lay at the heart of these projects.

The SA network is comprised of parliamentarians from nine nations all of whom have demonstrated “that women can make a difference”. This was the second meeting of the forum where it was felt  that shared experiences and mentorship will continue to strengthen the network.

In Southern Africa, traditional male dominated societies prevail. Therefore, Sweden’s relative gender equality greatly impressed the network.
-It is great that the Social Democrats have a woman as their leader. If Sweden can do it, why can’t we?, said Elma Dienda from Namibia.

Many members of the forum expressed the belief that having Sweden as a role model will speed up their process. The S-women’s “powerbook”, problems identification, analysis and means of action felt particularly helpful for conflict resolution both from outside and within party lines. Having a children’s Ombudsman and the autonomy of local county councils made strong impressions. Continued solidarity and support were the expressed goals for the future of this network.

-You have helped our countries struggle against colonialism and apartheid. It is good to see that Sweden is still standing by our side. When you educate a woman you are educating a whole nation” said Amelia Sumbana from Mozambique.

Listen to interviews with the participants

1. Isabella Katamzi, Swaziland
”We admire you for having successfully provided for everyone a genuine freedom”

2. Amelia Sumbana, Moçambique
“When you educate a woman, you’re educating a nation”

3. Eta Banda, Malawi
”One thing that stood out is how women in Sweden are actively involved politics”

4. Matanki Mokhabi, Lesotho
“What really impressed me a lot is that here most of the things are decentralized”

5. Matanki Mokhabi, Lesotho
“Through this small group we’re able to learn a lot from each other”

6. Matanki Mokhabi, Lesotho
“We must make sure that we meet and make this network last”

7. Bernadeta Mushashu, Tanzania
”I was very impressed with the local councils that they are autonomous”

8. Bernadeta Mushashu, Tanzania
”I loved it when the Swedish women talked about the power booklet”

9. Elma Dienda, Namibia
”We have a lot in common as African women.”

10. Elma Dienda, Namibia
”We have the zebra style – for every man there’s a woman”

11. Elma Dienda, Namibia
”Our hope is that the network will continue”

Published: 2008-12-18

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