Africa needs peace and development, President Jacob Zuma’s wife Nompumelelo Zuma said on Friday.
“As the African First Ladies for Peace, we want to contribute in our own small way, to supporting the work of heads of State and government in the continent to promote peace,” she said at the reception of the Executive Bureau of the African First Ladies Peace Mission (AFLPM), in Pretoria.
“We want to play a role in the peace processes, paying attention among others to the needs of refugees, women and children.
“War displaces people. Many people have left their countries and have become refugees. We want to play our role in promoting that the refugees be treated with dignity and respect.”
She said women and children suffered most in these situations, both during the war and after the war.
The African First Ladies Peace Mission, established to promote peace and harmony in Africa, came into being in 1995 after the International Conference on women in Beijing, China.
The initiative was taken by the First Ladies of Nigeria, Gambia, Benin, Uganda, Lesotho and Burundi to undertake a mission of peace to the rest of Africa.
President Zuma in his welcome address said it was a blessing and a good sign for South Africa to receive messengers of hope and goodwill in our country.
“Our people in this country and the entire continent need the reassurance and hope that you bring to the people no less.
“I am saying this because I am aware of the important work that you do under the auspices of the African First Ladies Peace Mission,” he said.
“This is an important platform to seek common solutions to the challenges facing the African continent and I encourage you to continue its good work.”
He said it was encouraging that the first ladies support peace initiatives in the continent, and in particular to safeguard and advance the interests of women and children.
“Your support to the victims of war, refugees and displaced people is very important in healing the wounds of conflict.”
He said their advocacy and activism around health issues, cancers, HIV, teenage pregnancy, education and many others had proven true to the protective and nurturing character of women.
“I am very much aware of your efforts in fighting poverty, and to advance sustainable development in the continent.
Your successes in mobilising support to provide food, medication and other material to refugees in the continent illustrate the extent of your determination to help bring change in the continent.”
He said in Kenya the AFLPM were able to provide food, medication and non-food material to over 700,000 refugees and asylum seekers in June last year.
“All these are central pillars to lasting peace in the continent, and indeed an advancement of the African Agenda that we are seized with as leaders in this continent.” SAPA