Remarks by UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem Towards Eliminating Racism and Discrimination Against People of African Descent

29 March 2023

Nana Yaa Asantewaa, Queen Nzinga, Toussaint Louverture, Nanny of the Maroons, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, W.E.B. Du Bois, Zumbi, Dandara dos Palmalers, Fernando Ortiz, Audre Lorde, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Baldwin, Angela Davis. 

Our grandmothers, our forefathers.

Heroes of bold acts of legendary courage, whose sacrifice and wisdom brought us into the present. Yet as Frederick Douglass famously declared: “One generation cannot safely rest on the achievements of another.”

Like the great civilizations, ports and castles of Africa that spelled out the fates our ancestors, we too of the diaspora, Africans of the Sixth Region, must educate ourselves and the world about our history even as we hail our fearless forebears. We cherish and pass on their legacy of strength, resilience, and determination, into the coming generations. The new Permanent Forum on People of African Descent is one such expression.

Following 500 years of enslavement and colonial injustice, upon the denial of land and reparations for massive wealth and fortunes amassed from stolen labour, we continually renew the demand for equality and justice.

UNFPA is committed to improving the health, wellbeing and lives of Africans and people of African descent, including bodyright, bodily autonomy, sexual and reproductive health and rights, because data show clearly that Black women and girls everywhere are denied their health, their wellbeing and peace of mind, due to both racism and gender-based discrimination. 

Systemic racism and patriarchy are pervasive. Embedded in laws, codified in customs and policies, in biased and lethal police actions and in relentless microaggressions that perpetuate inequalities and intergenerational poverty. 

This must end.

Yes, we can and must end enslavement’s horrific, lawless pretense of someone owning someone else’s body – of landlessness, hunger and violence. To dismantle that legacy we all must speak out and be vigilant and determined in taking action. With young people leading the way, through investments in education, health and employment, and by actionable policies and programmes.

There is still a lot of work ahead of all of us. You can count on UNFPA to be vocal and visible in this fight.

Standing united, let us see that new sun rise over a world of equal rights and larger freedom for children of Africa and of justice and prosperity for all.  

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