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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 15 Nov 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Makkah Beauty Pageant Thwarted Citing the Shariah Law

New Age Islam News Bureau

15 Nov 2014

A woman has her makeup done. A beauty pageant was cancelled by authorities in Makkah after complaints from citizens. (AFP)



  Istanbul’s Giant Mosque to Be ‘Female-Friendly’

 ‘Malala’s Story Represents 57 Million out Of School Girls’

 Tanzanian Women Marrying Each Other To Escape Domestic Violence

 Kenyan Women to Hold Miniskirt Protest to Support Stripped Woman

 ‘Work-At-Home’ Program for Saudi Women Is Reworked

 UN Advises Afghan Govt on Women's Rights, Violence against Women

 After Girls’ Jihadi Quest, a Focus on Outreach

 Malaysia’s First Female Muslim MMA Fighter Named One of TIME’s Next Generation Leaders

 Sudan Summons UNAMID Head over 'Mass Rape' Report

 Rwanda: African Women Legislators Tipped On Empowerment

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Makkah Beauty Pageant Thwarted Citing the Shariah Law

15 November 2014

Authorities in Makkah have thwarted plans for a beauty pageant in the holy city, citing the Shariah law that prohibits such a show as reason for the decision.

The pageant, which was planned to take place in one of Makkah’s banquet hall palaces over a period of four consecutive days, starting next Sunday was cancelled in response to several appeals by citizens who heard of the upcoming event on social media websites.

A number of local dailies confirmed news of the pageant while the promotional advertisement for the contestants through social media said that the pageant would be titled “Miss Makkah.” A local Arabic newspaper said that the advertisement clearly stated that “a beauty pageant is being held in Makkah for women of any colour aged between 17 and 27 years.”

The advertisement called on potential participants to register and take part in the contest free of charge. It also said that the winner would receive a gold ring as the take away prize while runners up could expect valuable gifts.

The Makkah governorate received a report from the Commission for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue (Haia), which cited complaints of citizens and invitations sent out to guests and participants as evidence.

The commission’s report indicated that the event was being planned at the initiative of an individual with no involvement of public or private sectors.

The citizens called for an investigation into the matter and authorities have confirmed that the woman who had planned the event had been questioned.

Sources said a Haia team had questioned a banquet hall official and confirmed that the hall had been booked for the pageant. The official said that some businesswomen had reserved the hall and paid for the event.

He added that the commission had instructed them to cancel the event.

Meanwhile, the authorities said that all individuals involved with the event are being investigated.



Istanbul’s Giant Mosque to Be ‘Female-Friendly’

15 November 2014

Istanbul's giant Çamlıca Mosque, being built on a hilltop overlooking the Bosporus from the city's Asian side, will be “female friendly,” Turkish media reported on Friday.

The mosque, reportedly the biggest to be built in the country since the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923, uses “positive discrimination for women,” the Anadolu Agency quoted construction engineer and president of the mosque's foundation Metin Külünk as saying.

The mosque has been designed by two female architects, Bahar Mizrak and Hayriye Gul Totu, and its construction cost is estimated at $66.5 million (150 million Turkish liras).

“With a separate place for women to perform ablutions and an elevator taking them to the place where they can pray, women will also be able to use a convenient childcare room,” Kulunk told the Anadolu Agency.

Built on an area of 30,000 square meter (7.41 acres), the Camlica mosque will have space for the disabled, a platform for visitors, an Islamic art gallery and a museum, a library and a car park for 3,400 vehicles.

Female student Hatice Eser, 21, told Anadolu Agency: “I spend most of my free time outside home, which means I need a space to practice prayers. We already have a number of mosques, but the facilities are not satisfactory.”

Eser said many mosques are male-oriented and that not enough public places for women to pray.

Construction at the mosque is expected to be complete by July 2016.



‘Malala’s story represents 57 million out of school girls’


15 November 2014

“It needs a lot of cowardice not to speak up when your basic rights are at stake. One must stand up and speak out,” Ziauddin Yousafzai, father of Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai said here on Thursday.

He was addressing students and faculty at the George Washington University’s Global Women’s Institute (GWI) at the launch of a free, online resource guide for university classrooms based on I Am Malala, a book chronicling Malala’s efforts to promote girls education.

Mr. Yousafzai said though Malala’s story was that of only one family, it represented the story of 57 million out-of-school children across the world, half of whom live in conflict zones.

I Am Malala: A resource guide for educators has been launched by the University in collaboration with the Malala Fund and Little, Brown and Company and is aimed at inspiring young minds and starting a dialogue on the inability of millions of girls to go to school.

Focussing on the role of teachers and curriculum in shaping a child’s personality, Mr. Yousafzai said the attack on Malala was not an accident. “It has a long story behind it. And that is the story of Swat Valley where hundreds of schools have been shut down, girls’ education is banned and all sane voices stifled.'”

Mr. Yousafzai said the quality of education was equally important as there are institutions where youngsters are indoctrinated, something that needs to be stopped. “Education is something that gives immunity against all ills of society,'” he said.



Tanzanian women marrying each other to escape domestic violence

15 November 2014

It is 12.30pm and an older woman emerges from her tiny mud house. A younger woman is making some porridge outside.

These two women are husband and wife: they are traditionally married and they have children.

This practice is called nyumba ntobhu in western Tanzania. It is a traditional form of same-sex marriage. The two women share a bed as a couple, they live together, bear children in their union; they do everything a married couple would, except have sex.

In the Mara region, nyumba ntobhu allows older women to marry younger women in order to have children of their own and assist with the household chores. Women say nyumba ntobhu also helps them overcome problems of gender-based domestic violence.

Mtongori Chacha (56), who is married to a woman, Gati Buraya (30), says the traditional practice arose as a result of male violence against women.

It is also an alternative family structure for older women who do not have sons to inherit their property and whose daughters have moved away to their husbands’ villages. It offers a form of security for elderly women so they do not live on their own.

Chacha and Buraya have three children. Chacha says she decided to marry Buraya because she was unable to have children in her previous marriage to a man; who she says physically abused and tortured her.

To bear children, women who are married under nyumba ntobhu usually hire a man and pay him when the younger woman falls pregnant.

The hired man will also enter into an agreement with both women that he will not demand paternal rights to any children born out of the agreement.

The older woman is the guardian of the children and they usually take her surname.

Chacha says the man who impregnates the younger woman is paid with food or a goat.

In some rare cases, a man may return to claim a child, but Chacha says this can be avoided by choosing a man who is not known in the village or who is known to be irresponsible. These men are known as “street men”.

“I decided to run away from my marriage as I was humiliated and sometimes beaten nearly dead. At 45 I was not able to have children and I had to look for a new family to give me an heir to my property,” Chacha says while she feeds two of her children.

She says she could not accept the fact that she would die without children of her own. Her parents were rich and had many cattle so she chose to marry another woman who would give her children.

“Here, a woman will pay a lobola like any system of marriage in African culture, and the ‘wife’ is supposed to obey and live under the rules of her ‘husband’. Nyumba ntobhu is blessed by all the family members and accepted by the society,” says Chacha.

Agnes Robi (61) says she decided to pay six cattle to marry Sophia Bhoke Alex (25) after her six daughters moved away.

“She has given me one baby girl already, while we are still praying for her to get a baby boy who would take over this compound when I die,” Robi says.

It’s not uncommon for women to be prohibited from inheriting property in Tanzania. Initially, the culture of women marrying women was practised as an option for barren women. It enabled them to claim the children borne by the other woman as their own. This was a way of providing security for their old age.

But now it’s not only for those unable to have children. Some women choose not to marry a man because they say they want to avoid domestic violence.

Bupe Matambalya says she witnessed her older sisters “beaten nearly dead” by their husbands and decided that she would never marry a man.

Some villagers discourage the practice, saying it leads to an increase in the spread of HIV.

In some cases, nyumba ntobhu can be a polygamous marriage. The older woman will marry two younger women, who will both bear her children.

But nyumba ntobhu does not always save women from domestic violence. Take the case of Jesca Peter (25). She experienced domestic violence and humiliation even from her nyumba ntobhu husband.

“I was married to Nyambura, a 63-year-old woman. She had paid a dowry of six cattle and I moved into her compound. Within a few years of that marriage, Nyambura demanded that I have to look for my own food,” she says.

She says her union with Nyambura was unhappy and she was used “as a slave to just work and produce on her farm and look after her cattle”.

“She wanted children from me, which I bore her, but the relationship was unfriendly.

“We lived like a cat and dog. I was simply a slave for her,” says Peter.

She fled from the marriage and her parents had to return the cattle paid as a dowry.

Tanzania’s Minister of Information and Culture Fenela Mukandara says gender violence is prevalent in the Mara region, which is why nyumba ntobhu is becoming more common.

“When women decide to marry each other and live by themselves, it means there are extremely violent acts in that place.”



Kenyan Women to Hold Miniskirt Protest to Support Stripped Woman

15 November 2014

The Kilimani Mums Facebook group will host a mini skirt protest at Uhuru Park on November 17 at 10am in support of the woman publicly stripped on Wednesday for 'indecent' dressing, and in objection to violence and sexual assault against women.

In the incident at the Embassava bus top on Accra road, men believed to be touts ripped the woman's clothes, kicked her in her private parts and called her 'Jezebel' for "tempting" them.

The video of the assault was caught on camera by a passenger and posted on the Jambonewspot website.

Kenyans are also expressing their disapproval of the act via #MyDressMyChoice on Twitter.

"On Monday, l shall join my wife, daughter and all the women who will do a peaceful procession," Boniface Mwangi tweeted.

"Even if a woman is wearing next to nothing, no man has the moral ground to even lay a finger on her," Anzaa Makena posted.

Christopher Kirwa wrote, "U support Embassava sick touts 4 stripping a woman? Wait till one day u see your mother, sister or daughter being stripped (sic)."

"County first ladies should join in #MyDressMyChoice. It'd make such an impact," Mandi H wrote.

"If you don't like how a woman is dressed, or anyone for that matter, the best thing is to look away," Morilyn Wambui retweeted.

Frida Maskani said: "Violation of women will not be tolerated. Sign the petition."

"A woman's dress should be like a barbed-wire fence: serving its purpose without obstructing the view. -Sophia Loren," Kenyan Mzalendo posted.

Shamit Patel said: "Seriously.. @EstherPassaris needs to back the #MyDressMyChoice event and go after him. She's got zero to fear."

The assault also sparked a fierce debate on local radio stations some of those condemning it however warning women about their dressing.

"Stripping a woman is an act of cowardice but women should also consider their dress code when at public places," a female Kiss 100 caller said.

CID Chief Ndegwa Muhoro on Wednesday said the matter is being investigated, Deputy IGP Grace Kaindi adding that stern action will be taken against those who stripped the woman.



‘Work-At-Home’ Program for Saudi Women Is Reworked

15 November 2014

The Kingdom is to re-launch the "work-at-home" program for women in order to reduce female unemployment.

"A new, updated work-at-home program for women will be launched in a few weeks, while its Web portal will be up and running by the end of December this year," a senior official at the Ministry of Labour said Thursday.

According to the official, the improvised programs, which seek to empower women by offering them the skills to work from home in order to acquire increased morale, self-respect, pride, work efficiency and financial independence, is part of an initiative by the ministry to reduce the unemployment rate among women, which is roughly estimated to be around 33 percent, according to media reports.

The jobs to be offered under the improvised program will be in telecommunications, travel agencies, IT, marketing, public relations and journalism. These jobs will also be open for individuals with special needs, the official said.

Earlier, a local daily quoted Fahad Al-Tukhaifi, undersecretary for special programs in the Ministry of Labour, as saying "the program has been redesigned to support an increase in work opportunities for women in a way that is also suitable for their family conditions and for the nature of our society."

Welcoming the government's approach toward female empowerment, Saudi student Hayat Al-Maskeen described the revised idea as a good solution toward women's emancipation by seeking to solve the issue of high female unemployment. Another working woman, Dina Al- Fouad, also applauded the program, saying it will increase new employment opportunities for women, as well as for people with special needs who cannot always access regular forms of employment.

The work-at-home program for women was launched a few years ago. Now it is being revised, keeping in mind organizational and technical requirements, the official maintained.

Due to it's rapid economic development, the Kingdom has taken many initiatives to aid female empowerment, such as creating the first all-female Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) service centre, which was inaugurated recently in Riyadh. The center maintained a target of 3,000 local jobs for Saudi women to be created over the next three years. This seeks to complement the job localization efforts of the government, and is likely to strengthens economic diversification in line with government aims.



UN Advises Afghan Govt on Women's Rights, Violence against Women

15 November 2014

The United Nations has expressed major concerns over the fragile situation facing Afghan women. While there have been many gains for women in Afghanistan over the past decade, the UN say violence against women and gender discrimination is still on the rise.

The UN has asked the Afghan government to honor all commitments in line with international human rights charters. UN special reporter on human rights, Rashida Manjoo, has advised that tougher punishments be handed down to those convicted of violence against women.

Manjoo was in Kabul on Wednesday evaluating the condition of human rights in the country. She has also visited Herat and Nangarhar provinces and conducted discussions with a number of victims of violence.

"It's further reflected in appointments of women in high level positions," Manjoo said regarding progress that has been made over the past decade. "However, such developments shouldn't detract from the fact that violence against women continues to be a source of deep concern in Afghanistan."

The studies conducted by the UN indicate that a lack of rule of law, discrimination, family violence, sexual abuse, human trafficking, child marriages, wrongful imprisonment of women, immolations and other types of violence are still prevalent around the country.

The UN reporter called on the international community, civil society and the Afghan government to better incorporate the protection of women's rights in Afghanistan into their top working priorities and not rest on the laurels based on what things look like in urban parts of the country.

"Not only the perpetrators of violence, but also state authorities who failed to protect and prevent violations of women and girl's human rights due to lack of response or because of ineffective responses," she stressed. "Accountability for all crimes committed against women and girls, the empowerment of women and the transformation of the society, need to remain a focus for the government of Afghanistan, independent state institutions, civil society organizations and also the international community."

The UN reporter also visited some jailed women in Kabul and Herat and said that most of them have been detained because they ran away from home, which is against the law in Afghanistan despite the fact that often times the women are escaping abusive husbands and relatives.

She also said that women and girls throughout the country do not trust the central legal and judicial authorities, so they often consult unofficial institutions such as local Jirgas.

Nevertheless, Manjoo expressed confidence that the Afghan government is firmly committed to supporting women and emphasized on the importance of implementing the violence against women bill passed by Parliament last year. She said violence against women should also be better integrated into the criminal justice system.

She stated that in the long term, in order to combat their negative image among the public, safe houses for women should be made more professional and standardized.



After Girls’ Jihadi Quest, a Focus on Outreach

15 November 2014

DENVER — Gathered under the fluorescent lights of an austere Denver mosque, a group of parents stared at a photo projected on a wall in front of them.

It showed a knife, a gun and a phone. Some seemed perplexed.

“You can kill someone with a gun or a knife, but a phone might get me 10 more recruits,” said Seamus Hughes of the National Counterterrorism Center, who traveled from Washington, D.C., to speak to parents and Muslim leaders about the ease with which their children can be lured to terror on the Internet.

The Thursday night meeting was the first formal encounter between federal counterterrorism officials and Denver’s tight-knit Muslim community since authorities last month stopped three suburban Denver girls from flying to Syria to join Islamic State extremists. It’s part of a joint effort by Muslim leaders and federal law enforcement around the country to stop kids from going overseas to fight in purported holy wars.

“I want to build a relationship with your community,” said Thomas Ravenelle, special agent in charge of the Denver FBI office. “We don’t want to be talking with you for the first time the next time children go overseas.”

As terror recruiting becomes easier in an increasingly connected world, there have been alarming cases of young Americans joining Islamic extremists across the county. Law enforcement and community leaders in Minneapolis, for example, have been working together for years after authorities learned in 2008 that small groups of young Somali men had gone back to their homeland to fight with the al-Qaida-linked terror group al-Shabab. A handful of others have travelled to Syria in the past year to take up arms with militants, and outreach efforts ramped up.

In Colorado, three girls from east African immigrant families, ages 15 to 17, were radicalized online, swapping messages with top Islamic State recruiters on Twitter and other social media sites.

At Thursday’s meeting, Hughes displayed pictures of dozens of young people lured in similar ways.

“All these kids were reachable before they crossed the line,” Hughes said. He showed photos of jihadist propaganda tailor-made for young, alienated Americans, including the voice of a Malcolm X speech overlaid on images of bombed-out Middle Eastern villages, a riff on the millennial Internet saying “YOLO” — You Only Live Once — converted to “YODO,” for You Only Die Once.

“Their audience is not 40-something guys, it’s our kids,” Hughes said. “They’re tricking our kids.”

The crowd sat quietly through most of the three-hour presentation, snacking on falafel and hummus. Since the girls were stopped last month, the east African immigrant community has been on edge, and some parents asked how to deflect media attention. Others wanted to know how they could monitor their own children’s use of the Internet after a Denver Public Schools teacher gave them a glimpse into the array of social media sites they might be using. The teacher encouraged them to set rules for when their kids can be online.

Qusair Mohamedbhai, general counsel for the Colorado Muslim Society, who helped organize the meeting, said it was important to ensure people know what resources they have, and education efforts would continue. FBI officials planned to meet with school leaders and others as part of the plan.

The meeting was similar to those held several years ago in Denver after concerns arose that young men were returning to Somalia to join al-Shabab. Worried parents contacted officials with similar fears after the girls’ trip, U.S. Attorney John Walsh said. That spawned the latest series of meetings, which he said were designed to help families protect themselves.

“The adults that are here must take this message back to the youth,” said Abdur-Rahim Ali, imam of the Northeast Denver Islamic Center. “We have to be vigilant and consistent in educating the youth. It takes community effort.”

Ahmed Ferjani, 15, one of several teens in the audience, said the thought of his friends and classmates going overseas to fight was a scary prospect. Seeing FBI officials was a sign they were there to help and would likely make young people feel more comfortable coming forward with their concerns, said Ferjani, who stopped Ravenelle for a private chat after the meeting.

“I want to ask him to come speak at my school,” he said.



Malaysia’s First Female Muslim MMA Fighter Named One of TIME’s Next Generation Leaders

15 November 2014

PETALING JAYA: Ann Osman, Malaysia’s first female Muslim Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter to compete at the top level, has been named as one of TIME magazine’s new class of Next Generation Leaders.

Speaking to TIME’s Adam Ferguson and David Stout recently, the 28 year-old strongly defended her fighting career against those who claim it as un-Islamic.

“Being a mixed martial artist and being a Muslim as well shouldn’t hinder what I want to do or with achieving my goals or my ambition.

“We don’t believe religion should stop us. Islam teaches us to work hard,” says Ann, who is signed with ONE Fighting Championship (ONE FC), a prominent MMA promoter in Asia.

MMA has been largely dominated by males since its inception in 1993, but an increase in female fighters, especially from the United States and Japan, has given a more prominent place for women in the sport.

“When I started fighting as an amateur, MMA in Malaysia had just started growing.

“There weren’t many MMA gyms. There weren’t many people training.

“Now, there’s a surplus of women joining MMA gyms and training. It’s good,” she told TIME.

Ann agrees, however, that there is still some form of discrimination towards women in MMA and says she is going all out to prove that women can fight.

“Some people even say I should just stay in the kitchen. But I tend to ignore these people because I never let them get into my head.

“Like they say, haters gonna hate. You can’t just expect everyone to love you,” she said.

Despite blazing quite the trail since beginning to compete at the top level, Ann does not yet see herself as a role model.

“I don’t quite see myself as a role model yet. That’s a big thing.

“I just hope to inspire other women or even boys and girls to do what they want to do. Whatever you set your mind to, you can achieve as long as you put in the commitment and work hard,” she said.

Ann’s record since going professional is two wins and one loss, and she admits to still getting nervous before fights.

However, the best lesson she has learnt is to have the “right mindset before going to train or fight”.

“For instance, if you go train and all you think about is how you’re tired then your body starts breaking down and you won’t be able to train well.

“The same goes when you go into a fight. If you think you’re going to lose or if you believe the negative (things) people are saying is true then you’ll probably perform badly,” she says, adding that the right walk out song is important to having the right mentality.

For those who are wondering, her walkout song is “It’s My Time” by Fabolous featuring Jeremih.

“I think I was the first fighter to submit my song. I chose it because it’s my time to be here in Malaysia. And it’s my turn to win and represent Malaysia.”

TIME’s Next Generation Leader series, first launched in September, seeks to introduce young people from around the world who are working hard to make an impact on the world in their respective fields, ranging from business, science, activism to sports.



Sudan Summons UNAMID Head over 'Mass Rape' Report

15 November 2014

Sudan summoned the head of the UN-African Mission in Darfur Nov. 14 over reports government troops had carried out a mass rape in the war-torn region, a foreign ministry official said.

UNAMID said in an internal report this week that the Sudanese military had sought to intimidate villagers to suppress allegations that more than 200 women and girls were raped.

It has reported finding no evidence of last month's alleged rape during a visit to the area.

"We summoned the chief of UNAMID to clarify the situation and I told him the general prosecutor in Darfur is carrying out an investigation" into the rape claims and the source of the reports, said Abdullah al-Azraq, under-secretary for the foreign minister.

The Sudanese government has repeatedly denied its troops carried out the alleged rapes.

UNAMID did not comment on whether its acting head Abiodun Oluremi Bashua had been summoned.

Azraq said once the government had completed its inquiry, it would "take a decision which will reach anyone the investigation shows has made a mistake in this matter".

A first team of UNAMID monitors was sent to the area of the alleged rape in Tabit in North Darfur on November 4, but the Sudanese military blocked them on the outskirts of the village.

Upon arriving at the village five days later, the team found there was a heavy presence of Sudanese soldiers who followed the monitors and recorded the interviews with the villagers, according to the UNAMID report obtained by AFP.

Azraq confirmed Sudanese forces were present but said they were there to "protect" the peacekeepers and "to create a suitable environment to help UNAMID to do its mission".

The joint UN-AU mission deployed to Darfur in 2007 to protect civilians and secure humanitarian aid.

Last month an investigation by the UN criticised the mission for under-reporting crimes in the region.

 More than 300,000 people have been killed in some 11 years of conflict in the region, with another two million displaced, according to the UN.



Rwanda: African Women Legislators Tipped On Empowerment

15 November 2014

There is a lot to learn from Rwanda when it comes to women empowerment and political participation, a top UN official told visiting parliamentarians yesterday.

Diana Ofwona, the acting UN resident coordinator, who is also the UN Women Representative in the country, addressed about 50 women legislators from Africa's Great Lakes and Sahel regions, who are on a study tour in the country.

For five days since yesterday, the parliamentarians will learn about Rwanda's success in women political empowerment as Rwanda is ranked the country with the highest number of women in Parliament in the world.

The women parliamentarians are from Burundi, Burkina Faso, DR Congo, Republic of Central Africa, Mali, Madagascar, Niger and Eritrea.

It's a study trip initiated by the African Union in partnership with the regional office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and coordinated by the Forum of Rwandan Women Parliamentarians (FFRP) on behalf of the Parliament of Rwanda.

"Learning from Rwanda is indeed learning by example," Ofwona told the legislators at the launch of their field trip in Parliament yesterday.

Rwanda has made important steps in promoting gender equality, which is the third of the eight Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations.

Among other aspects, the promotion of gender equality in the country has helped more Rwandan women access education, financial services, and placed them in many decision-making positions.

With 64 per cent of seats in its Lower Chamber of Parliament and 38 per cent in the Senate occupied by women, Rwanda holds a world record of women representation in the legislature and remains a beacon for promoters of gender balance in the world.

Cultural stereotype

The Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Donatile Mukabalisa, told delegates at the legislators' field trip that empowering women requires having tools to challenge cultural stereotypes that lead to gender discrimination and marginalisation.

"The tool of the highest legal order is to enshrine gender equality and women empowerment directly in the legal instruments of a country and monitor their implementation," Mukabalisa said.

The Constitution puts quotas for women representation in Parliament and in other decision-making institutions, explicitly saying that women will occupy not less than 30 per cent of positions.

The law exclusively reserves 24 seats for women representatives in the Lower Chamber of Parliament, making it easier for women to find their place in the House.

The Director for Political Affairs at the African Union Commission, Dr Khabele Matlosa, told the legislators on the field trip in Kigali that putting women quotas for political seats remains critical for a society wide campaign to advance women's agenda.

Visiting women legislators on the trip hope to learn as much as they can at sessions arranged for them at different gender promoting organs in the country such as the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, the National Women Council, the Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs, the Business Development Fund and Women's Guarantee Fund.

"No part of the population needs to be forgotten if development is to take off," said MP Mariam Moussa, from Niger, where women occupy only 14 per cent in Parliament.

"We are always seen as a minority, it's not good," she added.

MP Lea Koyassoum Doumta who is visiting from the Republic of Central Africa said she was interested in learning how Rwandan women have played their role in the reconciliation process after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

"Rwanda is an example for us because it has more women in Parliament," she said.

Only 10 per cent of legislators in the Transitional Parliament of the Republic of Central Africa are women, Doumta said.