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» 08.01.2010 - World celebrities climb Kilimanjaro to raise funds
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» 27.11.2009 - Tanzania investigates UN report allegations
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Society | Gender - Women

Activists celebrate Tanzanian woman's UN appointment

afrol News / Gender Links, 22 January - The world over, gender activists celebrated the appointment of Tanzania's Foreign Minister Asha Rose Migiro as UN Deputy Secretary General by the newly appointed Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon. She becomes the third person and second woman, after Canadian born Louise Fréchette, appointed to the position.

This appointment occurred against a background of civil strife in Iraq, the Darfur region of Sudan and Somalia, as well as the hanging of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein on camera. It was one of the few highlights of an increasingly dark new year. Ms Migiro and everyone at the UN have much work ahead.

At a press conference held 10 days after he took office, Ban Ki Moon announced five major appointments, including the post of Deputy Secretary-General and Chef de Cabinet. He said, "Three of those five are women from developing countries. All of them are outstanding, and who should be judged on their merits."

At the same press conference he alluded to his selection criteria "My policy on appointing senior officials above the rank of Assistant Secretary-General, and in particular in the case of Under-Secretaries-General, is based on, first of all, the merits of the person concerned, with due regard to gender balance as well as geographical distribution."

While the more cynical may argue that bringing in more women does not mean anything, for many gender activists it means the world is increasingly becoming sensitive to the need for gender balance in decision making bodies. It is testimony to the fact that the work by feminists over the last century, and particularly since the 1970s, has paid dividends.

In Southern Africa, some countries are still lagging behind the target set by leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) of 50 percent women in decision-making. A similar trend of poor gender equity in decision-making roles is the norm throughout Africa. Tanzanian-born and educated Ms Migiro shows that women have what it takes to be successful in the highest offices.

It is against this background that the effort by the UN system to maintain, strengthen and develop focus on balanced participation of women and men in its corridors of power has ben welcomed by gender activists. It is reassuring to activists that the world is listening and brings hope for change in mindsets – particularly the inherent gender dynamics in many socio-economic, development and even political issues.

Ms Migiro's law background, and extensive political and human rights portfolios brings that necessary experience which will enable her to contribute meaningfully in the UN decision-making process. Following her five-year position as Tanzania's Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children, she was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in January 2006. Her commitment to gender and rights issues and longstanding political and legal experience was said to "bring a fresh view to the UN."

Ms Migiro along with other influential women such as US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Vice president of South Africa Phumzile Mlambo Nqcuka and Vice President of Zimbabwe, Joyce Mujuru among others are in the places activists want them to be. As more women join high offices they hope to see a shift in world politics to incorporate and bring women's concerns to all important issues that the world is grappling with.

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