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World Francophone Women’s Forum (20 March 2013)

The first World Francophone Women’s Forum will be held on 20 March 2013 at the Musée du Quai Branly from 9h00 to 17h00, and will end with a closing address by the President of France at the Elysée Palace.

The first World Francophone Women’s Forum will be held on 20 March 2013 at the Musée du Quai Branly from 9h00 to 17h00, and will end with a closing address by the President of France at the Elysée Palace.

Why create a World Francophone Women’s Forum?

A single objective: defending the rights of women

The World Francophone Women’s Forum starts from the premise of a regression in women’s rights around the world, and in particular in the French-speaking world, which comprises 77 countries and 220 million French speakers.

There are currently 120 million Francophone women in the world; by 2050, their number will have grown to over 350 million.

During armed conflict, such as those currently under way in Mali or the Democratic Republic of Congo, and political crises, women are often the first victims. Their rights are clearly being rolled back in many countries, sometimes by roundabout routes such as the kind of semantic slippage in which the word "equality" is replaced by "complementarity", or by the requirement that they be veiled/hidden, or through the recurrent questioning of their right to education.

Within the Francophone space, there are glaring disparities from one country to another. In the developed or emerging nations, women continue to fight for recognition of their rights in the fields of employment, equality or social gains. In other, poorer countries, women must struggle on a daily basis to have even their most fundamental rights recognised.

Many States have developed instruments for putting the condition of women at the heart of their public policies, but resources are often lacking for the implementation of comprehensive initiatives on education, vocational training, healthcare and access to culture.

In still other countries, women are without rights, subject on a daily basis to abuse and violence in all its forms, lacking any legal or health protection and excluded from whatever education system might exist.

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World Francophone Women’s Forum

A landmark event: bringing together 400 Francophone militants for women’s rights from all over the world

The World Francophone Women’s Forum will be attended by 400 women from civil society throughout the world.

These women engage on a daily basis in the struggle for recognition of their fundamental rights: access to schools and education, gender equality, women’s representation in the political sphere.

They will attend to bear witness and, in unison, to invite France to submit to the institutions of Francophony an action plan for Francophone women.

Over the course of the day, three roundtables will:

- gather testimony, experiences, ideas and proposals from the 400 women participants.

- give a voice to women, some of whom bear the physical stigmata of violence and the violation of their rights. Some will put forward topics for discussion on how to promote greater solidarity between women, others will outline solutions to bring about real improvements in quality of life for French-speaking women and men and to ensure equal rights and dignity for women. The conclusions will be summarised in a document to be presented to the French President and the Secretary general of the OIF.

- create a proactive network to mobilise efforts within the Francophone space and beyond.

Mobilising civil society to bring greater influence to bear at the negotiating table

Growing conservatism has been a harsh reality for a number of years

Debate at the international level has been marked by challenges to international achievements regarding women’s rights and sexual and reproductive health and rights. At the last meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March 2012, the member States failed to adopt the Agreed Conclusions. Dissension centred on the issues of recognition of sexual and reproductive health and rights, sex education and harmful cultural practices. More broadly, some States questioned the universal nature of women’s rights and called for various forms of cultural relativism. This dissension was further confirmed at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June 2012.

Against this background, the strategic importance of forthcoming international events becomes all the greater. If progress is to be made, the mobilisation of civil society is essential.

The road to 2015

The theme of the next CSW meeting in March 2013, will be "the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls".

In the medium term, the celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of the Commission on Population and Development in April 2014 and of the Cairo Programme of Action, which defines and recognises sexual and reproductive health rights, will be a major international event.

March 2015 will see celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action on women’s empowerment and development. Discussions are currently in progress on the possible staging of a 5th World Conference on Women.

Lastly, talks are under way in preparation for reaching the deadline on the Millennium Development Goals, set in 2000 and due to be updated in 2015. Maintaining ambitious goals for women’s empowerment and gender equality post-2015 must be a priority.

Keep up the mobilisation of the Francophone space!

The World Francophone Women’s Forum is keen to mark a milestone on the road to 2015.

The International Organisation of la Francophonie (OIF) has always promoted the cause of human rights and freedom of expression and works for greater empowerment of women. On this basis, OIF members in 2000 unanimously adopted the Declaration of Luxembourg, which asserts the fundamental right of women to participate in political and social life, to have access to education, training and the employment market and to contribute to the economic and sustainable development of nations. On the same occasion and systematically, the OIF unequivocally and uncompromisingly condemned every form of violence and discrimination against women.

The 15th Francophonie Summit will be held in Dakar in 2014. The summit will be a keynote event.

"The aim of this forum is to lay the foundations for a new status for women in the Francophone space and to defend their rights wherever they are under threat."

Yamina Benguigui, Minister Delegate for French National Abroad and Francophony, attached to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs



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