Remarks at the Roundtable With African Women JournalistsJendayi E. Frazer, Assistant Secretary
March 13, 2006
First, welcome, welcome to the Africa Bureau, welcome to the State Department, welcome to the United States. And, Iím very happy that you saw one of our most empowered women this morning in the First Lady, she is truly a very powerful, remarkable woman, a very passionate woman. Sheís done a lot for certainly all of the work that Iíve been trying to do on Africa policy, both her and the president have been real leaders in that regard and have been real promoters of women in the U.S. Government, you know with these people like Secretary Rice as well as the many women Cabinet secretaries that we have in this government. I think it comes right down from the President being well raised by his mother [laughter] Iím totally kidding. He gets good guidance and directions from his wife! Itís really important.
But I also want to say that Iím pleased to meet all of you because of the role that you play in the media. Itís critically important for Africa right now, and I can give you a little bit about our priorities, but let me just say that the media projection of Africa is one that disturbs me every single day, particularly in the United States because itís always about people who are not empowered, you know, people who are in very difficult circumstances living in camps, humanitarian camps, you know, refugee camps, you know, the image of the flies on the mouth, starving babies, and women whoíve been raped. Thatís sort of the standard story that our media seems comfortable with in terms of their portrayal of Africa.
And I think weíve got to work hard to break out of that portrayal because it has an impact across all elements of global Ė I guess I would say power, really Ė global power, because it affects how people see you, itís how people see me. It affects where resources go, investment, where business will go. The portrayal of Africa as a disaster is essentially what Iím saying, means that no one wants to invest money there. They donít want to invest in [inaudible] thatís peopleís expectations of themselves. So, I think your role is just so essential.
Weíve got to break a stereotype thatís out there Ė itís for Africa, and itís for women. And then you look at Africa and you see the leadership starting with the woman that weíre all so proud of, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, you know, who is Africaís first woman president. Weíre all so tremendously proud. She helps to portray a different image, as do the deputy president of South Africa, the Prime Minister of Mozambique. There are so many women in powerful leadership positions across Africa, and no one knows about them. You know, itís the downtrodden, raped mother, you know, is the picture of the African woman that you see, or the woman whoís got the water on her head. We all know the image, but thereís a role that women are playing in shaping society, itís not as well known, and so Iím very pleased that you all are here. I hope you can portray some of that to some of the folks in the media that you meet with, give them some lessons, teach them a better way to Ė a new image Ė itís important.
And the other thing is womenís roles in ending conflict, not being the victims of conflict, but actually being powerful mobilizers of movements, not just rebels, but movements that incorporate all elements of society. You know, the women in Liberia played a huge role in the peace process there. The women in Burundi did. Women in Sudan are starting to organize. And so that, that role of women, I think is also critically important.
We in the United States are very much a part of this effort. You know, we have the Africa Education Initiative, Iím sure many of you know about the Africa Education Initiative. Itís really to educate young girls and this really came from Graca Machel. Well, for me it came from Graca Machel, and I should say that I had a role in helping to develop the Africa Education Initiative, which is why Iím saying this comes from Graca Machel Ė no one else probably knows this, but I remember being at a Africa dinner, and Graca Machel was the speaker, and she said how she got a scholarship from a church group when she was a young girl and what an impact that made in her life. And I remember as a student at college, I needed fellowships to get to school as well, you know, and it makes the difference, it gives opportunities to young girls, and so that was the idea behind the Africa Education Initiative was to provide those scholarships, provide both [inaudible] and teacher training, etc., but really to give girls opportunity.
We have the Womenís Justice and Empowerment Initiative, which is really based on a program that we found in South Africa, and this came out of our understanding, you know we had the PEPFAR, the Presidentís Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and I think all of you know, the big debate between abstinence, using condoms, and being faithful, and the view was that we were an Administration that was captured by the faith-based community, and therefore we were pushing abstinence and being faithful and not using condoms, which was of course not true, because all elements were part of it, but there was, but the view was that women didnít have the power to say they were going to be abstinent because they were being raped, you know, and abused.
And so, the Womenís Justice and Empowerment Initiativeís basically accepting some part of that as a reality in trying to bring to justice those who would abuse women, and itís based on a Thuthuzela model in South Africa, in which they have a womenís health center thatís linked very closely to the Department of Justice, and so if a woman comes in thatís been abused or raped, they are Ė they get medical treatment in a secure environment, and they have an advocate thatís immediately assigned to them that can help bring them through the medical system as well as the legal justice system. Their depositions are taken right there at the medical health facility; theyíre given a change of clothes; theyíre treated humanely, basically, and evidence is also collected that will ensure and help to bring, to prosecute, you know whomever their abusers are, and so that model was intended to, to help increase empowerment of women. It is women who have been in the most victimized and vulnerable position, so thatís the Womenís Ė it was seen as an add-on to the PEPFAR.
You know, now, my statement on that, that initiative was necessary, you know when women are abused they need assistance. Thereís no doubt about it, but I would also say on this debate about abstinence, be faithful, use condoms, which is, if a woman is in a situation without power, it doesnít matter, sheís not going to be able to have a faithful partner. Sheís probably not going to be able to impose abstinence, nor will she be able to get someone to use a condom, so you know, in each one of those categories, womenís empowerment is critical to stemming frankly, the spread of HIV and AIDS, so, essentially thatís where that program came from as well. Itís a part of our PEPFAR approach.
And then obviously, thereís many, many other initiatives and the Millennium Challenge Account initiative, which is to take countries that are doing very well, Mozambique is a member of the Millennium Challenge Account, Lesothoís a member of the Millennium Challenge Account, right now Madagascarís a member of the Millennium Challenge Account. The countries that are doing well Ė South Africaís out because its income level is considered too high. Itís unfortunate, because obviously we know the majority of the population doesnít have a very high income, but in any case, we have those programs to really bring more resources to bear to local entrepreneurs and to various organizations, local, community-based organizations to support the development of their country.
Let me just end by saying that, under President Bushís leadership, our aid to Africa has gone up; itís almost quadrupled. We started at under $1 billion per year, and weíre up to about $4 billion per year, and he said he will double that again. That was the commitment we made at Gleneagles. I donít even think we can even absorb all of that on the aid side; itís very difficult to absorb that much assistance, but I think the money, the dollar figure speaks to, speaks more broadly to the commitment of the Administration to work in partnership with Africa on development, on democratization, on peace and stability, trying to end all of the wars on the continent, so that was a very long opening statement, I got a little involved here.