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close this bookRole of Women in an Interdependent World (North-South Centre of the Council of Europe - OAU, 1993, 92 p.)
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View the documentAcknowledgements
View the documentIntroduction
Open this folder and view contentsOpening of the international encounter
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View the documentClosing of the international encounter
View the documentA final word
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View the documentParticipants

A final word

As Chairperson of the Organising Committee of the International Encounter, Maria Belo gives a final word on the spirit of I the meeting.

For its part, the North-South Centre would like to conclude by extending a special thank you to the Organising Committee for all its work:

Maria Belo,
Member of the Executive Council of the North-South Centre, Member of the European Parlament;

Georges Covi,
Member of the Executive Council of the North-South Centre, Panafrican Social Prospects Centre;

Albert EkuBR>Organisation of African Unity;

Gabrielle Nanchen,
Member of the Executive Council of the North-South Centre, Delegate to the Council of Europe of the Swiss Development Co-operationfor North-South Dialogue.

The Centre would also like to acknowledge the participants at the Encounter and the Portuguese Parliament for welcoming them.

Maria Belo, Chairperson of the Organising Committee of the International Encounter

Having been given the task of chairing the Organising Committee of the International Encounter "Democracy and Human Rights: the Role of Women in an Interdependent World", I would like to take this opportunity to thank the entire team that took up the challenge and, with dynamism and conviction, made the Encounter possible. I would also like to thank, above all, the participants at the Encounter whose contributions, simplicity and sincerity, allowed us to define more clearly the profound malaise felt by women in the North and in the South, who, all too often, suffer from being left in the margins of society.

At a lunch at the end of the Encounter, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Ms Catherine Lalumi, and the Vice-President of the Portuguese Parliament, Mr Rui Machete, had the opportunity to talk with the participants of the meeting. These relaxed and informal conversations, perhaps bear the best witness to the spirit of the Encounter, for they brought out the complexity of the participants' respective situations, strongly linked to politics, religion, society and economics. Women in these spheres are active thinkers and speakers. With wisdom, intelligence and humour, they search to combine their personal missions with a valuable social and family life, without which the enjoyment of rights and riches would have no meaning.

The situations experienced by these women are extremely varied, even in regions which appear similar. We simply have to look at the term "Afro pessimism", applied by the Senegalese lawyer, Amsatou Sow Sidibo Albertine Bukasa's comments on legal equality, to witness this. Ms Bukasa, of the League of Human Rights of Zaire, had stated, for instance, that: "women in Zaire need authorisation from their husband for many social acts."

Beyond objective considerations and fundamental rights, it is clear to see that what we have is a legal, rather than an individual "need." But what exactly do we know about individual needs or subjective demands?

Following the Encounter, it is clear to see that a link does not necessarily exist between the development of democracy, economy and social security, on the one hand, and the well-being and fulfillment of the individual, on the other. Can we really say that development in Northern countries makes women any more certain and satisfied with the relations they have with the world and with themselves, than under-development in the countries of the South?

Throughout the world, millions of men and women have joined the struggle for human rights and democracy, for which they have often paid dearly even with their lives. This commitment has not only taken the form of the struggle for formal democracy but also for universal suffrage, political representation, equal opportunities, freedom of expression and, last but not least, for the chance for everyone to have personal enjoyment of these rights and to be able to flourish as a human being.

These people who are involved in the struggle are pioneers, but unfortunately it often occurs that they see themselves being flattened, in the very doorways that they have opened, in the rush of those whose only aim is to take advantage of their victories and to do damage. Nothing is ever won once and for all, in terms of human rights and democracy. The political struggle for their rights is an on-going process even when their basic legal forms are already in force.

This is the great lesson to be drawn from the Lisbon Encounter: the struggle for democracy and human rights, remains a priority but it alone is insufficient. We must not forget, having had the experience in the North, that the transition from traditional culture to modernity cannot be achieved painlessly and that it is often women who pay for it.