THE EARTH TIMES
MARCH 18, 1994
‘We don’t want structural adjustment….’
(ICPD PREPCOM United Nations)
By Ashali Varma
Chief Bisi Ogunleye is the National Coordinator of the Country Women’s Association of Nigeria and Co-Chair of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization, and a member of The Earth Council. Excerpts from an interview.
What do you hope will come out of this PrepCom and the Beijing Conference?
We from Africa are very hopeful that something will come out from this and from Beijing. We have to realize that women from all over the world are finding it easier to communicate. We are very proud to have had a lot of input into the Platform for Action, which was left out when we were not around. We have been able to tell people what is actually missing. People think that in Africa we are dying and we are poor. We are not dying and we are not poor. We don’t like the world to think that we don’t have the ability to make decisions. In fact when you get to Africa the true decision makers are women. They make decisions for the family. When things go wrong then African women talk. We are going to Beijing as women who are strong, women who make decisions and women who have initiative.
Are there any issues that you have not been happy about?
The issue we have not been very satisfied with is the issue of finance and institutional arrangements. We trust that our delegates are doing the work adequately and we are behind them.
We must make sure that the issue of finance is cleverly treated and that we go away from here not begging people for money but that governments take out of military expenses and give it to the women to go to Beijing and talk.
We are tired and we are sick of war. The money is there. We need it to implement the Platform for Action. We believe that we could get it.
Do you think that your views are embraced by the majority of women at this PrepCom?
Not a hundred percent but the work is in progress. We told the African delegates who are representing our governments that this is the material we are giving you, that you must look line by line and we told them the areas of priority and we told them how to argue it. I would also like to mention our sisters from Canada, they took the issue of debt that we are all facing in the South and they are circulating papers informing women all over the world that when the IMF and World Bank celebrate their 50th anniversary we should all do something to tell them to cancel the debt and let us live in peace. We do not want the structural adjustment programs. They have made us much poorer. We want more humane programs.
If you had one wish for the outcome from the Beijing Conference, what would it be?
The wish is for the whole world to see the African women as strong, capable and ready to slow the way.