The Liberal Democrats were proud to welcome five prominent African women politicians to their Annual Party Conference in Birmingham, from 16-21 September 2011. The delegates met with Party Leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg MP, in addition to other senior figures from the party including Party President, Tim Farron MP, and former leader of the party in the House of Lords, Baroness (Shirley) Williams.
The delegation was led by Hon. Alice Nzomukunda; Africa Liberal Network Vice-President for Central Africa, Leader of ADR, and former Vice-President of Burundi. The delegation also included participants in previous ALN Gender Workshops, Hon. Regina Alcindor from the Seychelles National Party and Mrs Ashura Mustapha from Civic United Front, Tanzania.
They were joined by Hon. Rachel Shebesh MP, representing the Orange Democratic Movement of Kenya, and Mrs Sophia Deressa, Vice-President of the Ethiopian Democratic Party. Hon. Alice Nzomukunda addressed the conference delegates, speaking on a panel with former Party Leader, Lord (Paddy) Ashdown, Chair of the International Affairs Committee, Martin Horwood MP, and Vice-Chair of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, Prof. Myles Wickstead.
During her speech, she thanked the Liberal Democrats for their support for her party and drew attention to recent violence in Burundi. In addition to attending policy debates and receiving briefings from senior Government Ministers, the delegates also met with and Chair of the International Development Select Committee, Malcolm Bruce MP, and Lord (William) Wallace, Spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which gave them the opportunity discuss government policy toward their own countries.
In the margins of the conference, the delegates met with senior women from national, regional and local government including Minister for Equalities, Lynne Featherstone MP, Leader of the London Assembly Group, Caroline Pidegon AM, and Birmingham Councillors Sue Anderson and Karen Hamilton.
The delegates had an opportunity to learn how the Liberal Democrats are organised during a meeting with former CEO, Lord (Chris) Rennard. Finally, the participants were able to discuss their integration in the liberal family with Robert Woodthorpe-Browne, Chair of the International Relations Committee and Emil Kirjas Secretary-General of Liberal International, and Catherine Bearder MEP.
Following a meeting with the delegates, Don Foster MP, Liberal Democrat Governor on the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, commented: “I was delighted to meet with the delegates and to welcome them to our conference. I was particularly interested to hear the comparisons which they made with their own parties and countries. It is clear that such inward visits contribute to building capacity among women politicians in Africa, and we look forward to following-up this work through the Africa Liberal Network. I will take up some of the issues which we discussed at the ALN General Assembly in Kinshasa this October which I am really looking forward to attending.”