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Terzi:«UN ban on genital mutilation – a battle that Italy means to win» (Io Donna)

Minister for Foreign Affairs Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata has made frequent trips to Africa over recent months, which included some risky missions, like the one he made to Mogadishu to make up for Italy’s long (and guilty) absence from that region. “I met with some extraordinary women”, he recalls, “2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureates Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, and Tunisia’s Lina Ben Mhenni. I was impressed with their determination and strength”. Leymah Gbowee formed a coalition of Christian and Muslim women who opposed Liberian dictator Charles Taylor with every non-violent means at their disposal, contributing to bringing peace to their country. Lina Ben Mhenni is a Tunisian blogger who made a courageous and fundamental contribution to the Arab Spring. («Come @giulioterzi sono un suo “follower” su “Twitter e ho seguito la rivoluzione anche attraverso gli hashtag del suo profilo, da #sidibouzid, il piccolo villaggio culla della rivoluzione, a #tunisia»)

Africa’s women ambassadors have said that Italy is decisive to Africa’s international relations. Does our country consider the role of African women equally decisive? Africa’s true spokespersons?

«The level of participation of women in politics is a major indicator of a country’s civil progress, and is an aspect that deserves special attention in our political and cooperation efforts in Africa. We support and encourage what is a tangible evolution in that direction. I am referring to the democratic transitions under way in the countries of the Arab Spring: Women accounted for 45% of the Libyan electorate in the first free elections there, where 540 of the 1662 candidates were women, running for seats reserved for party representatives. In Tunisia nearly 4000 women ran for the 217 seats of the Constitutional Assembly, one-fourth of whose members today are women»

And beyond the Maghreb?

«The President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is the first woman to have been elected as an African Head of State. In Somalia, a few days after my mission to Mogadishu, Fauzia Yusuf Haji Adan became the first woman to be appointed foreign minister in the history of the Horn of Africa. And since July, the President of the African Union Commission has been a woman – South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma».

Concretely speaking, what diplomatic initiatives are under way on behalf of women?

«Italy is in the forefront on the adoption of a UN resolution banning the inhuman practice of female genital mutilation, a battle that must be won. We are also concentrating the majority of our programmes in support of African women, with investments of €30 million over the last 3 years. We are funding projects in many of the continent’s countries, with a special focus on agriculture, training and microcredit.

A good 80% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s farm production is owed to the work of women, who conversely do not enjoy commensurate opportunity for social advancement. Rather, women must become leaders in the social, economic and political lives of each nation, and our commitment in that sense does not stop with Africa. I am referring to Cuban dissident Yoani Sanchez, who symbolises the struggle for human rights, and whose story we are following closely».

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