SPEECH OF MOHAMED BOUAMATOU AT THE UNESCO
Speech of Mohamed Bouamatou at the UNESCO during the conference cycle on "UNESCO's Soft Power Today"
Thank you for coming in such large numbers to this conference, which should help all of us to promote the empowerment and leadership of women around the world.
For almost thirty years, I have been active in my country, then in my sub-region, to facilitate the access to the education for children, and to higher education for women. I have built many primary, secondary and high schools in my country, Mauritania. I participated in the financing of the new French high school in Nouakchott, as I attach importance to excellence, and I contribute to the operating of a center in Morocco hosting high school girls wishing to be able to follow higher studies. I also built in 2004 the extension of the Maternity Hospital of Cheikh Zayed in Nouakchott to fight against maternal mortality.
These acts of philanthropy seem to me totally necessary because I believe in equal opportunities. I consider that each individual on our planet should be able to benefit from all the infrastructures allowing him or her to progress, to learn, to be educated, to cultivate himself or herself. Strengthening the rule of law must be at the core of our objectives so that power is no longer a shortcut for enrichment. Human rights must be respected in order to fight against the practice of slavery and torture, regardless of the country which practices it or the human being which undergoes it.
This is the reason why I created in 2015, with my friends Georges Henri Beauthier and William Bourdon, both lawyers, the Foundation for Equal Opportunities in Africa, which strives to support projects strengthening the equality of opportunities through education, justice, health and human rights. In search of equal opportunities, and therefore gender equality, the Foundation supports, for example:
• Dr. Denis Mukwege, "the man who repairs women", caring for victims of mass sexual crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo,
• the Shalom House of the Burundian activist Marguerite Barankitse, which welcomes and provides education for thousands of orphans,
• or in Mauritania, the Association of Women Head of Household of the feminist and anti-slavery activist Aminetou Mint Moctar
It was natural for the Foundation to support UNESCO in the organisation of this conference. Because since your arrival at the head of this organisation, Ms Director-General, UNESCO has become essential in the promotion of values the Foundation supports. You have been able to prioritise the development of Africa and gender equality, which UNESCO regards as a fundamental human right, a basis for social justice, and an economic necessity.
UNESCO has been able to focus on the access to secondary education for women and on literacy. In Kenya, for example, the free training for 30 heads of school and 60 secondary school teachers ensured a substantial number of teacher trainers who are now gender sensitive. In Ethiopia and Tanzania, UNESCO has implemented a participatory engagement project for the education of girls aimed at reducing their dropout rate. In Senegal, 6,500 girls and women in more than 200 classes were trained and improved their literacy level. And so many other projects have been put in place.
For several years now, UNESCO has strengthened its advocacy for the promotion of the place of women in culture. In 2011, UNESCO created a global partnership for the education of girls and women. In 2015, the organisation created the Global Gender and Media Alliance and placed gender equality at the centre of the Program for the Management of Social Transformations, MOST, which is an intergovernmental scientific program dedicated to social transformations.
So how can we not support UNESCO's activities today ?
In an increasingly divided world, in a world torn apart by religious or nationalist extremism, by withdrawal into onself, radicalism, hatred, terrorism, it is more important than ever to ensure that women are not perceived anymore as a minority, that they are no longer placed under the authoritarian yoke of man, that they enjoy the same political, social, cultural and economic rights as men.
While I belong to a religion that is often stigmatised as participating in the submission of women, I strongly believe in the social advancement of women in all our societies. Myself, a Muslim and simple son of a traditional trader, I am proud of my daughters Leila and Ghlana. The first has just graduated her PhD as top of the class at the Fox School of Business at Temple University in Philadelphia, the second is about to start her third year of law studies at Paris 2 Assas University.
Talking about gender is never easy. This debate can make people uncomfortable or even irritate them. Because it’s never pleasant to think about changing the status quo. But during this conference, no one should be afraid to speak up or not to be in a position to speak. Here, it is the freedoms of thought and expression that should dictate any form of debate.
So yes, together, let us join forces to perpetuate Ms. Bukova’s legacy. So that gender equality remains at the heart of the priorities of the 21st century.
The society of the 20th century, like the one of the last centuries, was built on a unique model: the man. Its project remains, for the most part, masculine. However, the 21st century must be that of women. Because there will be no peace, no justice, no sustainable development without half the world's population. Because gender equality is a key factor in achieving all of the development goals agreed on the international level.
All together, let us hope that the next Director General keeps alive these fundamental priorities of gender equality and Africa.
We are all brothers, said Gandhi. Today, we must all be sisters. Thank you.
June 30th, 2017