April 20, 2018

African campaigners, activists’ rap US embassies for denying women visas

Femnet and CIVICUS members discuss empowerment of young women and girls at the UN headquarters in New York. [www.nation.co.ke]

Women rights campaigners and activists drawn from Kenya and other African states have started a protest ahead of the 62nd session of the official opening of Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

The 62nd session of CSW conference-the largest gender equality gathering is currently being held at UN headquarters in New York. It started on Sunday, reports Daily Nation.

Led by the African Women’s Development and Communications Network (Femnet) and CIVICUS, the women are protesting what they term as deliberate denial of travel visas especially to young women and those living in the rural areas by US embassies.

They say that despite having their visas paid for by different organizations to participate in the 62nd session, they were denied the travel documents without any explanation given.

Yesterday, the campaigners created hashtags #SheDefends, #GenderJusticeWithoutBorders and #LeaveNoOneBehind to protest “exclusionary practice of visa denial by the US government ahead of the CSW62’.”

“We have noted with much dissatisfaction that various US embassies have often without giving reason, denied visas to young women, women rights defenders and women living in rural areas, many of whom have been selected to attend the CSW62 in New York,” said Femnet and CIVICUS in a statement according to Daily Nation.

“Young unmarried women especially who are a tremendous galvanizing within rights movement face the near impossible task of securing a United States visa that if granted, would enable them to bring to the foyer pertinent discussions around the state of gender equality globally,” added the statement.

This year’s theme of the conference’s focuses on challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and empowerment of rural women and girls.

The conference will also extensively deliberate on ways through which women can access the media and tap on ICT as a modality to advance their lives and empower themselves.

At a Women Rights Caucus meeting at Fordham Law School, the women leaders dissected the issue of visa denial stating the US government premises its visa denial “based on harmful perceptions and stereotypes due to their age, marital status, and perceived socio-economic standing and whether live in the rural or urban areas.”

African Union’s Goodwill Ambassador on Ending Child Marriage and chief executive of Rozaria Memorial Trust Ms Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda said that “many people in Africa are angry, we worked so hard to get young women activists and women living in the rural areas to come here and speak out about their situation, only to face this exclusion even when they were funded.’’

She said the common perception is that the women in rural areas lack education and live in extreme poverty.

The matter will be raised at a meeting with the US mission to the UN, with the secretariat of the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women and the UN women.

“We will state categorically that the barriers faced in women accessing visas to CSW62 is part of a bigger and wider problem on restricting movement of women and a clear violation of women’s rights as enshrined in the Beijing Declaration,” added the Femnet and CIVICUS statement.

They will, in addition, document the numbers of visas denied without a just cause and also how applicants have been denied visas based on unfounded and harmful assumptions.

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