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Saran Daraba: Guinean women key for democracy 1

After the 28 September 2009 and the exile of Dadis Camara, a new era seems to have started in Guinea. New democratic elections have been set for June 2010 and civil society is trying to react with strength to current difficulties. However, no transition can be done without making women play a key role.

“We need to give a strong answer to the 28 September violence,” says Saran Daraba Kaba, one of the female leaders of Guinea, former Guinean Minister for Social Affairs and vice President of the Guinean National Council for Civil Society. Founder of the NGO Mano River Women’s Peace Network and awarded in 2003 with the United Nations Prize for Human Rights, she explains in this interview with the future challenges that her country and Guinean women will have to face.

How is the situation now in Guinea?

The situation has really improved since the September 2008 violence. An international investigative commission has been established as well as a commission at a national level, which has already published a report on the violence. Apart from that, they tried to kill president Dadis Camara, a fact which led to an interim presidency. The current president has officially declared that we need democratic elections and that the army must be re-called into the barracks. He has appointed a new national unity government made up of civilians, he has settled a national commission which aim is to draw the new constitution up, which should be the juridical basis for this summer’s elections, set for June 27.

Has the security level improved too?

I must say that there are still numerous problems on that level, even though a national commission has been created with the aim to revise the agency for national security. But there are also positive aspects: the most important step is that there are less and less soldiers in the streets.

What could the role of Guinean women be in this process?

First, we need to give a strong answer to the 28 September violence through women’s political participation in Guinean public life. Today, there are numerous associations and women’s groups who want to participate in discussions about governance, but not only, they also – and this is particularly important – are interested in politics. Secondly, there are more and more female candidates, and this should be extended to legislative and regional elections in Guinea too, in order to make women be represented in those public institutions which decide about the country.

Have you made any projects related to these topics?

There are numerous initiatives to make women more aware of this issue. We, as an association, have created a female radio covering the issue of women’s political participation and active citizenship in Guinea. We are mainly focused on the Mano River area, and by now we are looking for funds to buy a new technical array.

You made a report on violence against women in September 2008. How are these women reacting?

We have settled a crisis unit, led by a woman who is a doctor, which is composed of a gynaecologist, a pharmacist and an old woman, the so-called “wise woman”. This commission’s main aim is to study the psychological impact of this violence, but also to provide financial help. Most of the women involved in the clashes lost their jobs. This has caused numerous problems within families, because usually women lead families. We have also created relief centres where women victims of violence can explain their stories and be helped in an anonymous way.

Are you also providing help at a juridical level?

Yes. We have also settled a Committee of jurist women, with the aim of analyzing the Guinean juridical system and create a sort of guide for Guinean women rights. We have also launched a campaign, with the help of a group of female journalists, to help Guinean women be aware of their rights and defend them.

What could the role of international organizations in the Guinean transition to democracy be?

We work strictly with the United Nations and with the African Union, mostly regarding the peace and stabilization process of West Africa. But apart from that, the International community must work with the so-called non-state actors and not only with governments. African civil society should play a key role to re-direct political debate on the real problems which are often left aside because of the states’ interests. These are the points the international community should be focused on. They should work with states, but also with associations, civil society organizations and trade unions. If this isn’t done, then Guinea will need to wait ten more years before completing its political and democratic process.

How do you see Guinea’s future?

I am always optimistic. And I also feel optimistic for my country. We, as part of the Guinean associations, are committed in the fight for our country’s future, mostly to promote Guinean women’s participation in public life. It is absolutely necessary to involve women in it. The Guinea of tomorrow is the one we are dreaming about today. Women must be, and actually are, determined to work for it. We also have numerous foreign friends and countries helping us. Today the world is a sole country so we need to work together for it. In Africa, what happens in Senegal affects Guinea and vice versa. Borders are artificial and our countries are so linked that we have to work and fight together.

By Chiara Caprio –

For more information about Mano River Women’s Peace Network visit

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  1. Daraba says:

    Is daraba her surname? its very interesting…

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