First Ladies Call for Peacebuilding and Addressing Health Disabilities

New York, USA - A first ladies high-level forum on “Building Bridges for Peace and Health Disability” took place Sept. 24, 2013, at the New York Convention Center as a side event during the opening of the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly.  Speakers addressed the role of first ladies, ministers, parliamentarians and government officials in issues related to peacebuilding, health disabilities, marriage and human development. Participants included 250 women peacebuilders and seven national delegations.

In the opening plenary, the First Lady of Gambia, Madam Zineg Yahya Jammedh, urged the first ladies to demonstrate their ability to enhance the work of the United Nations and accelerate the building of peace. Her representative spoke about the need to empower women to change the world by creating peaceful communities through integration, socialization, communication and leadership. Despite the challenges around the world, peacebuilding deserves to be high on the priority list for continued support.

In her inspirational remarks, the wife of H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, Mrs. Muna Rihani Al-Nasser, emphasized the urgency of eliminating violence and discrimination against women. She encouraged first ladies and women in political roles to take up active leadership in each nation and to work for a culture of peace. Mr. Tageldin Hamad, Secretary General of UPF, delivered welcome remarks. UPF President Dr. Thomas G. Walsh and Mrs. Lynn Walsh presented a “Call to Action to the Post-2015 Development Agenda at the United Nations.”

The second session, on overcoming health disabilities, explored expert healing options and strategies in a holistic approach to overcoming health disabilities of women due to childbirth, long-term illness and violence. Mrs. Elizabeth Mmasello Ntwaagae, wife of the Permanent Representative of Botswana to the UN, focused on the health concerns of women in developing countries. Other statements were given by Madam Hinda Diby Itno, first lady of the Republic of Chad, as well as Dr. Kathleen West from the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California.

Other dynamic and powerful presenters included Mrs. Nicole Field Brzeski, senior advisor to RAND African First Ladies Program; Ambassador Kema Chikwe, former ambassador of Nigeria to Ireland and former Minister of Aviation; Dr. Abiodun Yuguda, wife of the governor of Nigeria's Bauchi state; Dr. Ronald Archer, a leadership consultant to Fortune 500 companies; and Dr. Judy Kuriansky, representative to the UN of the International Association of Applied Psychology.

Additionally, the UNESCO youth organized a panel discussion about best practices of youth in Africa  who pioneered delivering clean water to the rural areas of Africa and improved the lives of women and children in far-flung areas.

UPF co-sponsored the event with the New York Chapter of the US Federation of UNESCO Clubs, Centers and Associations, headed by Chairman Guy Djoken and the President, Ambassador Sire Dione Conde, founder and CEO of African Women for Good Governance and a UNESCO Center for Peace Goodwill Ambassador. Other co-sponsors were the First Ladies Community Initiative and Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA).

It was concluded that peace-building is a multifaceted issue that requires the participation of many sectors. Human security must also include provisions for public health and education, with contributions by many global peacemakers and peacebuilders.

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