5.13.2009

Women Activists at the UN's Durban Review Conference in Geneva, Switzerland


As a souvenir, Anna Marie Abaagu gave me 100 naira (pictured above).
On the bill is Obafemi Awolowo, a prominent Nigerian leader, and political figure of the Yoruba, who founded many organizations and political parties.


One of the NGO representatives I talked to while at the Durban Review Conference in Geneva, Switzerland was Anna Maria Abaagu, youth coordinator for the Women's Environmental Programme (WEP) an NGO with UN ECOSOC Consultative Status.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: You came all the way from Nigeria for this conference and you are with one of the NGOs, which one?

Anna-Maria Abaagu: The Women's Environmental Programme.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: What are some of the issues that you wanted to see dealt with here at the Durban Review Conference.

Anna-Maria Abaagu: For one, since I work with an environmental program, basically, I wanted them to address some of the issues in the environment, but they kind of kept that part— they just mentioned it a little bit and that was it. Everything is like the same old thing, kind of like talking about the same issues they talked about in the last conference so I was expecting to see something different. But it’s kind of like almost the same thing.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: So you are somewhat disappointed. You don’t feel like the conference has really accomplished what it set out to do?

Anna-Maria Abaagu: Well I think they just wanted to bring out more issues bring up the same issues because obviously other organizations are still pursuing the same thing. Maybe because they haven’t acted upon what they said they were going to do the last time. I think it is understandable but, aside from just racism, like some of the things they talked about like war, that is affecting the environment as well because during the war they do not have food, they have refugees, they have been camped outside, they don’t have houses. That is more like environment issues so I think maybe they should try to spend a little more time on that.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: How many people came with your delegation from Nigeria?

Anna-Maria Abaagu: I think it is just me. I asked for sponsorship, so they sponsored me.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: During your time here in Geneva, what has been your experience, as it relates to the global perception of the African continent and its people?

Anna-Maria Abaagu: I don’t really know what to say, but I think most of what is going on— the problem now is how Europeans see Africans. They still think that Africans are primitive and I just came out of a side event and some of the delegates were bringing out their own issues. One lady said the last time she talked to someone, the guy actually thought that Africa was not a continent. They actually thought Africa was a country, which is crazy! So her main point was then to remove that perception, especially in the youth because a lot of them think that there are no cars and it’s just surrounded by bushes and that’s it. So maybe if they do something about that, it would be great. Somebody even asked me do we kill each other like animals in our country!

Ashahed M. Muhammad: That’s what is shown in the media. Within the western media, that’s basically the only thing they show. Your program is based in Nigeria. Are there any expansion plans?

Anna-Maria Abaagu: Yes, we are trying to open an office in New York.

Ashahed M. Muhammad: When you come and scout out your new office space in the United States let me know.

Anna-Maria Abaagu: Ok. We are going there next month for a convention on the status of women.
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