International Organisation of La Francophonie elects first female Secretary General


Michaëlle Jean, former Governor General of Canada, was selected by consensus as the new Secretary General of the International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF) at its 15th Summit, held in Dakar, Senegal from 29-30 November. She will be the first woman to lead the organization of French-speaking nations, which includes 57 members or associates and another 20 observers. Ms. Jean, who is also of Haitian origin, will take over from outgoing Secretary General Abdou Diouf, of Senegal, in January 2015.

Senegalese singer Coumba Gawlo
Senegalese singer Coumba Gawlo meets with young women from the African Youth and Adolescents Network (AfriYAN) on 28 November at a UN Women sponsored event. Photo: UNAIDS/B Demeocq

In the lead-up to the Summit, from 26-28 November a series of actions and events were organized by UN Women and other UN agencies, and national, regional and international organizations.

On 26 November, UN Women participated in a session organized by UNAIDS, GAVI Alliance, the Global Fund to End AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and others on the theme: “Engaging Women and youth in Health”.

“We must put our efforts as the UN on strengthening regional coordination mechanisms,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé in a follow-up meeting with UN Women staff in Dakar. “On the issue of women and girls, we must team up and put our efforts on the question of the welfare of women and girls, linking it to the many issues they face including health, sexual reproductive health and most particularly young girls and the issue of violence against women and girls.”

UNAIDS ED wearing orange hat
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé wears his orange UNiTE campaign hat, given to him by UN Women Regional Director WCARO on 27 November, as part of the 16 Days against Gender Violence. Photo: UNAIDS/B Demeocq

On 27 November, a panel organized by UN Women and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) put the focus on: “Gender Equality and Inclusive local Development”. During the discussion, UN Resident Coordinator for Senegal, Ms. Bintou Djibo, said: “It is essential that we connect the issue of gender equality with development.”  

On 28 November, in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA), the Canadian Embassy and Senegal’s Ministry of Women, Children and Family, UN Women organized a high-level panel and intergenerational dialogue with women and youth on the theme of “Ending Female Genital Mutilation and early marriage”.

Audience members attend a panel discussion on ending female genital mutilation and early child marriage on 28 November. Photo: UNAIDS/B Demeocq

During the dialogue, a young male student said, “There is no valid reason to justify early marriage or female genital mutilation. We must act!”

UN Women chaired the panel organized by the IOF on 28 November, on “Sexual violence in conflict situations”. At the event, Josephine Odera, UN Women Representative for West Africa, stressed that confronting such violence means “defending against cases of intolerable violations of fundamental human rights.”