By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK While the recently-ended second Spain-Africa Women’s Conference recognizes progress made by most countries in empowering women, it suggests that more still needs to be done to improve their situation. About 500 delegates from 46 nations gathered in Spain’s capital, Madrid, last week. The Madrid Declaration called for the improvement of the situation of women in Africa. Representing Namibia, Deputy Prime Minister Libertina Amathila, who led a six-member delegation to the conference, acknowledged that noteworthy progress has been recorded towards achieving equality between women and men in the country, and the world over. She, however, expressed concern that discrimination against women remains widespread. In order to genuinely empower women, Amathila feels communities must be conscientized on the benefits of an exclusive non-gender based society. This starts with the family, where gender equality laws and policies of the government should be reinforced. The conference, which ended last week Thursday, called for a new UN agency that will ensure women have equal rights and access to economic resources. The agency must have status, financial resources – both human and technical – to tackle discrimination against women. Considering that Africa’s development and future ae necessarily linked to women’s access to power, the Africa-Spanish women want to contribute to the progress of specifically women in Africa who are subjected to different forms of injustices. President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, said her country emerges after years of civil wars, and to date rape continues to be a major form of violence especially targeting young girls. “Poverty, exclusion of women, conflicts and discrimination are the causes of gender-based violence in Liberia”, she added. She feels women remain the main agent for social change in the world. According to the Vice-President of the Government of Spain, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, the path that women have today taken in achieving equality is a road of no return. She added that women are developing growing trust in themselves. “We women know a lot about a lack of justice. We will never resign – we will never give up. The freedom of women is the guarantee for peace”, she said. Sharing the same sentiments, Prime Minister of Mozambique, Luisa Diogo, added that there are no human rights without women’s rights. While many believe that most of the problems Africa faces today are due to poverty, Nobel Prize Winner 2004, Wangari Mathai, and Kenyan Minister of Environment say Africa is not poor, but her people have failed to manage their resources adequately. The Declaration called for access to non-sexist education, boosting public health systems in Africa, and promoting women’s economic development through training. It also called for the UN to carry out education campaigns against domestic violence. The first Spain-Africa Women’s Conference was held a year ago in Maputo, where the Spanish and Mozambican governments promoted an initiative to examine African women’s issues. This year’s conference, which has just ended, was held under the theme “Women for a Better World”. The third Africa-Spain conference will be held in Niger next year. The Namibian delegation comprised Member of Parliament, Lucia Basson; Women’s Action for Development (WAD) Executive Director, Veronica de Klerk; National Director of the Shack Dwellers’ Federation, Edith Mbanga; Vice-Secretary of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, Bookie Kethusegile-Juru; and Executive Secretary of SACU, Tselopele Connie Moremi.