Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Rwanda: Women Deliver Boss Clears Air on President Novák Attendance

Some activists have expressed discontent over Hungarian President, Katalin Novák, who on Monday, July 17 attended the opening ceremony of the ongoing Women Deliver Conference.

The criticism centered mainly on her stand on different issues including abortion and LGBTQ+ rights, especially back when she was the Minister of Family in her country.

Novák attended the conference as part of her state visit to Rwanda.

Those who opposed her presence in the feminist meeting particularly criticised the organisers for giving Novák a platform at the meeting, which prompted Maliha Khan, the President and CEO of Women Deliver to address the matter, saying that it was healthy to provide a platform to even those with divergent views.

“If we want to achieve what we want to achieve, we will often have to partner with and talk to people that we don’t agree with on many things. Personally, I agree with very little that President Novák, believes in, espouses, or takes forward. I’m sure she agrees with very little that I believe in,” said Maliha on July 18, at the sidelines of the Women Deliver Conference.

President Novak was in Rwanda for a state visit and to also attend the Women Deliver conference at the invitation of Rwanda.

Maliha hailed Rwanda for hosting the conference which she said is a huge privilege and a debt that Women Deliver has for Rwanda.

She said: “They have been an incredible host. They have achieved so much in gender equality. Again, we see some differences with them and they see some differences with us, but we’ve been always approaching this with them over the last year and a half that we’ve been having these discussions.

In providing context to the differences, Maliha said: “Where they would say, we are going to do this and I would say, oh gosh, I wouldn’t and then we say, okay, I understand that’s the direction you’re going and I will disagree, but I will commit and we will do it together. I will say to their huge credit; they have done the same with us. We have said we are going to bring in global people from all over the world and they said, anyone is welcome a hundred percent we will give them visas.”

She acknowledged that the meeting in Rwanda remains the biggest that has ever been hosted in terms of participation “No country that we’ve ever done a conference in before has made that commitment or fulfilled that, and that’s why we have 170 countries represented here in Rwanda.”

Organisers said the meeting attracted over 6,000 participants and also had some 200,000 registered to follow online.

To her, this is no mean feat. “I know Canada (which hosted the conference in 2017) got nowhere near this and one of the biggest issues we dealt with in Canada was the issue of visas. We also said to Rwanda, we are going to bring in people and very strong and vocal advocates for the LGBTQI+ community, and we want them to be here and we want them to be safe. They gave us their commitment to that, they said a hundred percent.”