Pretoria – Through the UN Communication Group, UNIC convened a panel discussion to commemorate International Women’s Day this year. Following the successful commemorations of this day over the past two years, it was felt that in spite of South Africa having a National Women’s Day on the 9th of August, there remains a need to highlight this international day in South Africa.
A task team was set up comprising representatives of UNIC, UNDP, UNIFEM, FAO and UNICEF with regular meetings being held. The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), was also invited to co-host the event with UNIC. In addition, the Centre for International Political Studies at the University of Pretoria was approached by UNIC to join the CGE and UN agencies.
The planning meetings decided that the theme of the panel discussion would be “Reducing the burden of HIV/AIDS care on women and girls through equal sharing of responsibilities between men and women.” This fell under the United Nations’ Secretary-General’s multi-year campaign, “UNite to End Violence against Women” (2008 – 2015). In this context the UN in South Africa aimed to focus attention on the disproportionate burden of care that falls on women and girls in the context of HIV and AIDS and the violence implicit in this exploitation.
The discussion was moderated by Ms Lopa Banerjee, Advocacy and Policy Advisor at UNDP Pretoria and the programme director was the UNIC National Information Officer, Sudeshan Reddy. The message of the Secretary-General was delivered by the Resident Coordinator a.i. Dr Stella Anyangwe and a welcome message was provided by Professor Sibusiso Nkomo, Assistant to the Principal at the University.
A representative panel was invited which included Dr Catherine Sozi, the Country Team Leader for UNAIDS South Africa, Dr Elaine Salo, a gender academic from the University of Pretoria, Professor Vasu Reddy from the Human Sciences Research Council, Mr Zane Dangor from the Department of Social Development and Commissioner Mfanozelwe Shozi from the Commission for Gender Equality. The inputs by the panelists were diverse and pertinent and collectively contributed to a more informed understanding of the issue by both the audience and the other panelists.
Following the panelists opening presentations, a discussion period was opened with the audience that was moderated by the chairperson.
Participants, panelists and guests were then encouraged to affirm their commitment to a Plan of Action with the pledge: “Men and women unite for a Plan of Action to share the burden of care.” In addition, the UN in partnership with CGE pledged a committment to developing an E-network for knowledge sharing and support on the issue. In addition, an information table of relevant information materials, including specially commissioned posters, was set up by UNIC outside the venue.
The panel discussion was attended by an audience of approximately 80 representatives of government, civil society, the UN and academia and provided a stimulating and informed tool for engaging the themes of International Women’s Day.
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