From Moses Magadza in Malawi
LILONGWE- THE Secretary General of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, Ms Boemo Mmandu-Sekgoma says there is a need to consider how to boost intra-Africa trade through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and ensure that African women are empowered through entrepreneurship, to tap into the envisaged economic gains.
Mmandu-Sekgoma made the call in a speech at the official opening session of the 51st Plenary Assembly Session of the Forum on 11 July, 2022 in Lilongwe, Malawi.
“As we empower young girls through education, women must be empowered through opportunities which are offered by an equitable society that does not discriminate on the basis of gender or sex,” she said.
Mmandu-Sekgoma added that integrating gender considerations at policy level in the fields of public health as well as business and trade facilitation, “would be the harbinger of sustainable development for Africa as the continent recovers from Covid-19”.
She thus encouraged the SADC PF Plenary Assembly to discuss all issues tabled through motions from a multi-dimensional perspective, bearing in mind the regional stake within the rapidly evolving international context.
“Ultimately, our aim is to improve the quality of life and standard of living of our fellow citizens within SADC,” she said.
“As we do that, the Forum will endeavour to ensure that the poor teenage girl is able to attend school unimpeded and is not forced to marry early. That when she does not have books to study, the State intervenes to provide such educational resources.
That when that girl seeks employment that befits her qualifications, there is no discrimination to prevent her recruitment. That when secures employment, her salary is commensurate with the job description and not less than that of boys performing the same job,” pleaded to applause.
She said it must be made possible for any girl to eventually earn a decent living from which she can secure adequate shelter, potable water and sufficient food for herself and her family.
“When that girl becomes a woman and decides to get married, it is completely on her own terms. That within her marriage, she is not abused or tortured in any form. That when she decides to bear children, it is when she is physically and mentally ready to do so. That the world she lives in is not corrupt, and that her hard work pays and translates into progress, for the next generations,” said Mmandu-Sekgoma.
She told the Guest of Honour, His Excellency President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi, that the 51st Plenary Assembly Session had drawn delegates from 15 SADC countries, physically and virtually.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had sent a delegation of seven Members of Parliament led by Honourable Christophe Mboso N’kodia Pwanga, the Speaker of the National Assembly and President of the SADC Parliamentary Forum.
The Republic of Botswana was being represented by a delegation of six MPs led by Honourable Phandu Tombola Chaha Skelemani, Speaker of the Parliament of Botswana.
From the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, a delegation of four MPs led by the Right Honourable Siphiri Motanyane, Speaker of the Parliament was attending. Mmandu-Sekgoma explained that in view of impending elections to be held in October 2022 and the imminent dissolution of Parliament, the other delegates were joining virtually.
From the Kingdom of Eswatini, a delegation of six MPs led by Honourable Petros Mavimbela, Speaker of the National Assembly, was attending while from the Island State of Madagascar, a delegation of five members led by Hon. Dr Fiarovana Lovanirina Célestin, MP and Vice President of SADC Parliamentary Forum, was present.
Malawi, the gracious host of the 51st Plenary Assembly, had a delegation of 17 MPs led by the Right Honorable Catherine Gotani Hara, Speaker of Parliament.
From Mauritius, a delegation of four MPs led by Honourable Sooroojdev Phokeer, GCSK, GOSK, Speaker of the National Assembly was present.
Mozambique had a delegation of four MPs led by Honorable Carlos Moreira Vasco, MP. From the Republic of Namibia, a delegation of five MPs led by Honourable Agnes Mpingana Kafula, MP was in attendance.
From Seychelles, a delegation of six MPs led by Honourable Roger Mancienne, Speaker of the National Assembly, was attending virtually while the Parliament of South Africa had a delegation of five MPs led by Honourable Seiso Joel Mohai, MP.
Mmandu-Sekgoma extended a special welcome to Honourable Dr Tuli Ackson, MP, Speaker of the United Republic of Tanzania, who was attending the Plenary Assembly for the first time with a delegation of six MPs.
From the Parliament of Zambia, a delegation of seven Members led by the Right Honourable Nelly Butete Kashumba Mutti, Speaker of Parliament, had also travelled to Lilongwe.
Also present physically was a delegation of six MPs from Zimbabwe led by Honourable Advocate Jacob Francis Nzwidamilimo Mudenda, Speaker of the National Assembly.
The SADC PF Secretariat had send a delegation of 10 staff members supporting the SG. They were joined by staff from the Parliament of Malawi and member Parliaments from different Member States, “without whose support, dedication and professionalism our Plenary Assembly sessions would flounder.”
Mmandu-Sekgoma told President Chakwera that Angola could not attend due to the death of the Former President José Eduardo dos Santos.
Mmandu-Sekgoma said out of the 14 SADC PF Parliaments, 10 delegations were led by Speakers and four by Members of Parliament as the respective Speakers could not attend.
She acknowledged invited observers, who were international cooperating partners, Civil Society Organizations, the Media and Partners. Regional Parliaments were the Pan African Parliament which dispatched a delegation of five people led by the newly elected 6th President of the PAP, Honourable Senator Chief Fortune Charumbira.
From EALA, the Fourth Speaker, the Right Hon Martin Karoli Ngoga, was set to join the Plenary virtually. The ECOWAS Parliament was represented by a delegation of four led by Senator Edwin Melvin Snowe Jr.
Also present in Malawi was the Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the Republic of Namibia, His Excellency Omar Berroteran Paredes.
Mmandu-Sekgoma congratulated and thanked the Government, the Parliament and the people of the Republic of Malawi “through the Right Honourable Speaker of Parliament for graciously hosting the SADC PF 51st Plenary Assembly Session, in this warm heart of Africa”.