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Wednesday, September 21. 2011
Sustaining Responses on Gender ... Posted by Sue Telingator in women and gender at 07:05
Days 2 and 3 of the conference dug deeper into the heart of the reason we were all there, to pool responses across West Africa to issues related to gender, determine best practices and develop a way forward. The morning session of Day 2 focused on peacebuilding and security. Ms. Yasine Jusu-Sheriff, Vice Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone talked about war in the context of the poverty of women during conflict. While women are victims of unspeakable crimes, there are men amassing assets. Post-conflict, she reminded us, is the time when state assets are up-for-grabs and women need to be mindful of ensuring that they are at the table during the discussion. "While we are talking about rape, brothers and cousins are buying and selling the wealth of our future," she said.
"We must end the cycle of female poverty. Whomever becomes owner of the leading private commercial bank of Sierra Leone, none of his great grandchildren will be poor, but it won’t be your grandchildren, it will be his," she said.
She also talked about the importance of cross-border trade for women and how, post-conflict, cross border trade avenues can be lost. Additionally, as new investors enter the country, mining firms, for example, it would be a prime opportunity to ensure that female engineers, lawyers and accountants are hired to work with such firms.
In the afternoon session, budgeting, planning and decentralization was the focus. The conference planners invited not only Ministers of Gender to represent their governments, but also Ministers of Finance. It is clear that gender needs to be examined from an economic perspective within government institutions and representation from financial ministries is critical to engaging decision makers around policy reform and equity issues. Dr. Alioune Sow, Minister of Decentralization from Senegal talked about how the establishment of the Parity Law in Senegal has a direct impact on the budget decisions regarding resources for government divisions enacted in Parliament. "I don’t think the 50% of women in parliament will let a 'masculine budget' pass through," he said.
That evening, UN Women released its latest publication, "Progress of the World's Women: In Pursuit of Justice 2011" which you can find here.
During the final day of the conference, the plenary focused on developing a Declaration for action. Two parts of the declaration highlighted the equal importance of gaining commitments from ECOWAS Member State governments, as well as from other conference participants representing the private sector, donor organizations, civil society and stakeholders. One of the key suggestions for the Declaration mentioned by TrustAfrica's MDG3 Project Coordinator Sandra Zerbo, was to institutionalize a mentorship program so that the next convening would also include emerging young women leaders. In this way, we can continue to ensure that women's already resonant voices continue to ring out loud and strong.
For more detailed information regarding the Symposium, please visit the UN Women West Africa blog.
Wednesday, September 14. 2011
Sustaining Responses on Gender ... Posted by Sue Telingator in women and gender at 06:27
The first day of the conference “Sustaining Responses on Gender Equality in West Africa,” has just ended and the power of the voices that have expressed themselves, voices that are impassioned, committed, and hopeful about the future of women and their status in the world are still resonant within the walls of the conference room as the people wander out. All walks of society are represented here, from Ministers of Gender and Finance from many of the ECOWAS countries to Ms. Olivia Sugri, the Permanent Queen Mother of Sekati, a traditional upper east region of Ghana (see photo).
TrustAfrica is one of the major sponsors of the conference, run by UN Women, flying in women from several of the civil society organizations it funds. During the opening ceremony, Program Director Bheki Moyo mentioned the Enhancing Women’s Dignity project, which over the last two years has allocated a total of 39 grants to civil society organizations working to combat violence against women. He also reminded people that in 2010, the African Women’s Decade was launched, and that the conference, therefore, was a timely event that “fit squarely within the roadmap” of strong and implementable solutions to the challenges women face.
Also during the opening ceremony, Ruby Sandhu-Rojan, UN Resident Coordinator for Ghana, raised several interesting points in relation to the struggles gender workers face in achieving their objectives for fulfilling the MDG3 goals. Among the issues she mentioned: turning rhetoric into action, closing the gender gap, deepening democratic practice, policy coherence, finding adequate resources, land rights and assets, protection from violence and increasing gender budgeting to ensure women are not left behind in socio-economic development. A number of speakers have mentioned that across the continent of Africa there will be many elections this year, a prime opportunity for women to increase their participation and representation in government. Others, such as Sierra Leone’s Human Rights Commissioner, Yasmin Jusu-Sheriff, urge women to go beyond government institutions to those organizations that directly interface with government. As she says,
“Don’t underestimate the importance of leadership of women in our human rights institutions as they relate to the judiciary.”
Perhaps one of the most eye-opening presentations came from Dr. Josephine Odera, Regional Director for UN Women West Africa. “We must not do as the Romans do,” she exhorted. She told the story of how she had started doing morning walks in an effort to stay in shape. One day, as she was taking her regular morning walks, she looked up and saw her boss running past her. When she came home and told her family, her young son reminded her that, if she wanted to get ahead, just “walking” wasn’t enough.
”If we are walking, we must start running because we will not get to the top doing things the way we have always done them.”
For too long, women in West Africa have heard the excuse that “This is our tradition, this is our culture,” she explained. It has become a way out, an excuse for not making positive change. “If we want to sustain positive responses to gender equality, we must change. We must not do as the Romans do,” she said.
She then offered the following statistics to demonstrate the problem with allowing tradition to determine behavior:
-Despite the progress of CEDAW in West Africa, inequality rates in West Africa are among the highest in the world.
-West African countries are at the lowest end of the Gender Equality Index. The best West African country on the list is 32nd from the bottom worldwide.
Six of the top achieving the MDGs however are from West Africa.
-In terms of political participation, women comprise less than one third of the legislators in all of the countries in West Africa. Senegal is among one of the few WA Countries that boasts greater than 20% participation of women. Senegal has a parity law and five other West African countries have some form of quota in place.
-Eight West African countries have not yet reach 75% ratio male to female enrollment in schools. At this rate, it will be hard to reach the MDG goal of gender parity by 2015.
-Female literacy rates are staggering low in West Africa. As a region West Africa has the lowest female literacy rates. Out of the ten lowest literacy rates in the world, seven of the countries are in West Africa. There is definitely a case for addressing illiteracy in general and female literacy in particular, particularly since not having literacy skills keeps women from participation in decision making.
-Last but not least: In the US, the risk of dying during childbirth is 1 in 250,000, in Sweden, it is 1 in 30,000, and in West Africa is up to 1 in 10.
Enough said. On Day Two, we start making a plan! Stay tuned.
Monday, June 27. 2011
Everyday Heroes Posted by Christopher Reardon in women and gender at 04:27
We hope you've enjoyed our "Everyday Heroes" series. Over the last seven weeks we have profiled 14 inspiring women from seven African countries. Each in her own way, these civic leaders are working to end injustices and create better opportunities for women and girls.
You can scroll back through the entries here on the blog, or read the collected set in PDF format. Then ask yourself: What can I do to be a hero today — and everyday.
Thursday, June 23. 2011
Everyday Heroes: Soyata Maïga (Mali) Posted by Sandra Zerbo in women and gender at 05:07
This profile is the fourteenth in a series commissioned by TrustAfrica's MDG3 Project to showcase the work of inspirational women leaders in Francophone West and Central Africa.
In Mali there is a woman lawyer who devotes much of her time to denouncing violence and abuses against women and working to increase their political participation. Her name: Soyata Maïga. Since November 2007 she has served as the Special Reporter on the Rights of Women for the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the main body for promoting and protecting human rights on the continent. Hers is a very strategic post for African women.
Maïga’s duties include studying issues related to women’s rights and identifying ways to ensure that decision-making processes address the underlying factors that create and perpetuate the violation of women’s rights. She also works to identify opportunities for the commission to take more effective actions to safeguard women’s rights and implement national and international legal instruments related to human rights.
Maïga is a native of Gao, near the frontier with Niger, an ethnically mixed zone populated by the Tuareg, Songhai and Hausa. She was the first girl in her family who was allowed to complete her education up to the senior high school level, earning her Diplôme d’Etudes Fondamentales from the Ecole de Ménaka. From there she went on to obtain her Baccalauréat at the Lycée de Jeunes Filles de Bamako, where she gravitated toward the legal sciences. In 1972 she enrolled at the national school of administration and four years later graduated first in her class. She went on to become a magistrate after studying at the Ecole Nationale de Magistrature de Paris.
Continue reading "Everyday Heroes: Soyata Maïga (Mali)"
Wednesday, June 22. 2011
Everyday Heroes: Saran Sere-Sereme ... Posted by Sandra Zerbo in women and gender at 10:57
This profile is the thirteenth in a series commissioned by TrustAfrica's MDG3 Project to showcase the work of inspirational women leaders in Francophone West and Central Africa.
The political involvement of women remains a major undertaking in Burkina Faso, where the accession of women to decision-making posts is still largely a dream. Women currently make up less than 4 percent of the National Assembly. Women still must work twice as hard to legitimize their position. For more than 15 years, one woman has fought for women’s rights, for their promotion and building of their capacities. Her name: Saran Sere-Sereme. She has even financed the construction of a training school for girls in her region of Sourou.
This woman has already achieved two major feats: first, she has served in the country’s Parliament for more than seven years; second, she was the youngest Deputy ever elected at the time. Sere-Sereme is also a very astute businesswoman who broke into the closed domain of building construction in Burkina Faso. Today she is the Director General of the Société de Bâtiment Frs. Matériels et Travaux Publics (SBFMT).
Looking back, 1968 was a year that was marked by a series of revolts and uprisings, around the world, especially among students. It was also in this year that Sere-Sereme was born in Sourou, a region that is widely considered the nation’s breadbasket. Young Saran was quite smart and she paved a stellar academic path and received her degree in business management in 1993.
Continue reading "Everyday Heroes: Saran Sere-Sereme (Burkina Faso)"
Monday, June 20. 2011
Everyday Heroes: Nana Aichatou ... Posted by Sandra Zerbo in women and gender at 05:23
This profile is the twelfth in a series commissioned by TrustAfrica's MDG3 Project to showcase the work of inspirational women leaders in Francophone West and Central Africa.
We take you now to the Sahel — specifically to Magaria, in the eastern part of Niger — to meet a woman whose accomplishments in advocating for the basic rights of women and for education and literacy of girls are recognized by many. Her name: Nana Aicha Mouctari Foumakoye. A teacher by training, she went on to be a top-ranked education inspector and in February 2004 became the first woman to serve as Niger’s ambassador to Canada.
This woman, who is viewed by some as combative, demanding, and also helpful, finds it quite bothersome to talk about herself. Others find her to be courageous, audacious and politically sharp. Her nickname is “la femme au pantalon de fer” — the woman in the iron pants.
Over her extensive professional career, Foumakoye has worked as a high school and middle school teacher, a school director, an advisor in preschool education, and director of studies and curriculum at the Ministry of National Education and Secondary Instruction.
Continue reading "Everyday Heroes: Nana Aichatou Foumakoye (Niger)"
Thursday, June 16. 2011
Everyday Heroes: Penda Mbow (Senegal) Posted by Sandra Zerbo in women and gender at 06:11
This profile is the eleventh in a series commissioned by TrustAfrica's MDG3 Project to showcase the work of inspirational women leaders in Francophone West and Central Africa.
Since 2008, the University of Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) in Dakar has been ranked first among francophone African universities and 13th among the top 100 African universities. Yet fewer than 30 percent of its teachers are women. Apologists explain that women were not granted access to higher education until just after independence came in 1960. However, women have demonstrated that they are as intelligent as their male counterparts and that when given equal opportunity they can excel as university students and later in the field of teaching.
We draw for you now a profile of a woman historian who is also president of a civil society movement and a professor in the Department of History at UCAD. Her name: Penda Mbow. Since 1986 she has taught courses on the History of the European and Islamic Middle Ages. Fluent in Arabic, she holds a doctorate in the History of the Middle Ages (5th century to 16th century).
Mbow is today one of the rare specialists in Africa. She is also president of Mouvement Citoyen, a civil society organization that seeks to build citizens’ capacities so they might fully assume their citizenship and to empower them to judge and make fully informed decisions on social and political issues. She also works with youth and women, taking care to ensure that a balance of boys and girls constitutes the backbone of her movement.
Continue reading "Everyday Heroes: Penda Mbow (Senegal)"
Monday, June 13. 2011
Everyday Heroes: Justine Diffo ... Posted by Sandra Zerbo in women and gender at 11:38
This profile is the tenth in a series commissioned by TrustAfrica's MDG3 Project to showcase the work of inspirational women leaders in Francophone West and Central Africa.
It’s May 2010 and Cameroon is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its independence at a time when several other African countries are doing the same. If the country is held up as an example of stability and peace, a lot remains to be done. The situation of women has not greatly evolved, they are still marginalized and the government has never made the promotion and political participation of women a priority. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that the women who are in the National Assembly do not advocate for the accession of women to decision-making posts. In the academic realm, at university level in Cameroon, women are wronged. Out of the seven public universities in the country, there is not one woman Rector.
It was within this context in 2003 that Justine Diffo, the educator and activist for women’s rights, founded the Institut de Formation et de Coopération pour le Développement (Institute of Training and Cooperation for Development) to strengthen the capacities of women, improve the effectiveness of development programs and promote gender equality.
A strong advocate for mainstreaming gender in decision-making and public policy processes, she has helped establish networks for women mayors (Réseau de femmes maires du Cameroun), women parliamentarians (le Réseau des Parlementaires pour la Promotion du Genre) and women in higher education (le déploiement des actions stratégiques de l’Association des Femmes Enseignantes du Supérieur, or AFES). She has also lent her support to a national campaign on civic education and electoral awareness for greater involvement of women in Cameroon’s 2011–2012 electoral process. She is the first woman ever appointed to head of a division in a State university, having been named more than a year ago to head of the Department of Research and Development Administration Central of the University of Yaoundé II–SOA.
Continue reading "Everyday Heroes: Justine Diffo (Cameroon)"
Thursday, June 9. 2011
Everyday Heroes: Joséphine ... Posted by Sandra Zerbo in women and gender at 05:45
This profile is the ninth in a series commissioned by TrustAfrica's MDG3 Project to showcase the work of inspirational women leaders in Francophone West and Central Africa.
There are many women working in the social services domain, but in other areas, including scientific and technical sectors such as civil engineering, aviation, aeronautics and agronomy, it is often far more difficult for them to progress. The same holds true for international development organizations, where it is often very difficult for women to reach senior positions or to make a significant impact. One woman, though, has succeeded in breaking this glass ceiling by being named the first woman Executive Director of Enda Tiers Monde in its 35 years of existence. Her name: Joséphine Ouédraogo.
Ouédraogo is a woman who has charted a very full and varied professional path. A sociologist by training, she started out working at the grassroots level in her native Burkina Faso and then moved on to work with government projects and programs as well as in the private sector. These opportunities enabled her to master the techniques of research, implementation and evaluation of rural development projects, promotion of women, creation of infrastructure and agricultural production.
In 1984 politics took hold of this mother of three when she became part of the government of the late President Thomas Sankara, who named her Minister of family development and national solidarity, a position she held until 1987. As Minister she advocated on behalf of marginalized groups and contributed to the development of country’s first Family Code and as well as the repeal of a law prohibiting the import and distribution of contraceptives.
Continue reading "Everyday Heroes: Joséphine Ouédraogo (Burkina Faso)"
Monday, June 6. 2011
Everyday Heroes: Fantani Touré (Mali) Posted by Sandra Zerbo in women and gender at 05:15
This profile is the eighth in a series commissioned by TrustAfrica's MDG3 Project to showcase the work of inspirational women leaders in Francophone West and Central Africa.
The cause of women is a noble one that calls on all sectors of society to join in the fight for their promotion. Among those who advocate daily for the rights of their sisters all across Africa are women lawyers, journalists, teachers, legislators and business owners. In Mali, the voice of Fantani Touré rings out like a shout. Hers is the voice of a woman who has won battles against prejudice, against silence and against discouragement.
Touré is also notable for the fight she has led for several years against the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). In so doing, she has demonstrated how all women in Mali and throughout Africa can contribute a building block to the cause on behalf of women. One of Mali’s best-known artists, she is also the initiator and founder of the international Voices of Bamako Festival (Voix de Bamako), a forum for discussing various topics related to women’s issues. For her myriad efforts, Touré was decorated in January 2011 with the prestigious Chevalier de l’Ordre et de la Valeur by the president of Mali Amadou Toumani Touré. The award was bestowed in recognition of her artistic talent and her activities on behalf of the promotion of women and human rights.
Touré is a descendant of the first inhabitants of Bamako, the grand religious marabouts, who were renowned throughout the country. She comes from a large, extended family which is native to the legendary popular quarter of Bamako called Bozola. This artist took her first steps in her craft at a very young age, participating in various contests held in her neighborhood. These contests led to inter-community contests, which then led to artistic and cultural biennales of art and music in Mali. At just 13 years of age, she was voted the best singer and dancer in all of Mali by the then-Minister of Culture, who is today the country’s president.
Continue reading "Everyday Heroes: Fantani Touré (Mali)"
Thursday, June 2. 2011
Everyday Heroes: Henriette Ekwe ... Posted by Sandra Zerbo in women and gender at 11:26
This profile is the seventh in a series commissioned by TrustAfrica's MDG3 Project to showcase the work of inspirational women leaders in Francophone West and Central Africa.
The 1980s in Cameroon were marked by the accession of Paul Biya to Head of State following the resignation of the late President Amadou Ahidjo. This decade was also a very difficult period for those who opposed Cameroon’s single-party political system. Many were repressed, tortured or imprisoned because of their ideas and vision for the country. Henriette Ekwe was among these opponents who through their combat called for the establishment of a multi-party political system in Cameroon. Trained in history and English, she got involved in politics at age 24, changing the career path she had initially envisioned for herself as a translator or a teacher.
Ekwe joined the clandestine opposition party, Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC), which was based in France, and quickly rose to become a ranking member. She was the first woman sent to Cameroon full-time from the underground party to serve as a liaison between the activists in the country. Her fight led her to live underground for a year. Eventually it landed her in prison, where she was tortured at the hands of the ruling regime.
This multilingual woman is not just a political activist — she is also an excellent journalist. She has been the editor-in-chief of several publications, among them Kameroun Nouveau, Le Front, and Nouvelle Expression. She later founded Bebela, a weekly magazine focusing on political analysis of Cameroon. Ekwe is a founding member of Transparency International–Cameroon. Despite her busy schedule, she has always made time to engage with young people. Her energy and her strength come from her love of her country.
Continue reading "Everyday Heroes: Henriette Ekwe (Cameroon)"
Monday, May 30. 2011
Everyday Heroes: Eve Bazaiba (DRC) Posted by Sandra Zerbo in women and gender at 06:34
This profile is the sixth in a series commissioned by TrustAfrica's MDG3 Project to showcase the work of inspirational women leaders in Francophone West and Central Africa.
Sexual violence against women is common in countries in conflict. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC, this ignoble act is used as a weapon of war to defile, humiliate and terrorize the local populations. The abuse meted out to women is not just physical. Parity is not respected during electoral nominations, and the number of women represented in decision-making posts and representative bodies is very low. Of the 108 members in the Congolese Senate, only six are women — less than 6 percent.
Eve Bazaiba Masudi is one of these elected few. A consultant in human rights, negotiation, and peace and conflict resolution, she is also president of the Congolese Women’s League for Elections (Ligue des Femmes Congolaises pour les Elections, or LIFCE), an association composed of female politicians mostly representing opposition and centrist political spheres. She is the recipient of the prestigious Prize for Political Engagement and Promotion of Democracy in the DRC. Her strong will, character and firmness of position have earned her the somewhat ironic nickname “Mr. President” from her predominantly male colleagues in the Senate. When asked about gender issues, she prefers to focus on the issue of competence, which she says led her to her current position as Chair of the Senate Socio-Cultural Commission.
After completing her studies in law and diplomacy, Bazaiba was named DRC section head of Women as Partners for Peace (WOPPA), which actively supported the inclusion and participation of women in the Inter-Congolese Dialogue peace talks held in South Africa from 2000 to 2003. During this process she brought together women from different political camps to participate in various human rights programs, and from those meetings they collectively constructed a declaration calling for peace in their country and its social well being.
Continue reading "Everyday Heroes: Eve Bazaiba (DRC)"
Thursday, May 26. 2011
Everyday Heroes: Barry Bibata ... Posted by Sandra Zerbo in women and gender at 03:21
This profile is the fifth in a series commissioned by TrustAfrica's MDG3 Project to showcase the work of inspirational women leaders in Francophone West and Central Africa.
Our battle for broader and increased participation of women in the political life of their countries — as well as for the respect of their basic, fundamental rights — brings us to Niger. Here there are frequent incidents of discrimination against women. Moreover, the country has stated its reservations about the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and many women who are victims of abuse are reluctant to register a complaint.
The majority of women in Niger are ignorant of their rights. The Niamey Bar has fewer than 200 lawyers, of whom only 25 percent are women. In this country the law straddles three legal systems: civil code, Islamic law and traditional law. It is within this environment that attorney Barry Bibata Niandou, who was admitted to the Niger Bar in 2000, emerged as a major figure in the fight for women’s rights in Niger.
Niandou was born in Niger on March 2, 1955, in the old quarter of Maourey. A member of the Maouri Djerma ethnic group, she charted a career path marked with many “female firsts.” She is the first woman in Niger to hold the posts of Police Commissioner, Director of the Police Judiciary and Prefect of the Urban Commune of Niamey and has called attention to the disadvantaged in Niger society, namely women and children.
Continue reading "Everyday Heroes: Barry Bibata Niandou (Niger)"
Monday, May 23. 2011
Everyday Heroes: Christine Ntahe ... Posted by Sandra Zerbo in women and gender at 03:00
This profile is the fourth in a series commissioned by TrustAfrica's MDG3 Project to showcase the work of inspirational women leaders in Francophone West and Central Africa.
In Burundi, Christine Ntahe, a retired journalist, has recently been invested in a traditional, conservative, male dominated institution. Hers is the profile of a woman whose career path was not paved with long years of study but who through hard-earned experience has had a remarkable professional career. She has also dedicated herself over the years to providing assistance to disadvantaged children.
Seated, dressed in the traditional white robe, a diadem on her head, Ntahe raises her right hand and takes the oath. Accompanied by a marraine (godmother), standing behind her, a hand on her shoulder, the newly named Notable (mushingantahe in Kirundi) begins to offer advice to each person, without making any distinctions, very detached, at any time of the day or night. “I was the only woman. It was a tremendous joy for me to be invested at the same time as 11 men,” she says enthusiastically as she recalls with fondness the official installation ceremony that took place on September 25, 2010, in the urban commune of Ngagara in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi.
Forced to end her studies at an early age, following the death of her father, Ntahe started her working life as a teacher at Primaire de Buyenzi primary school in 1967. In 1981 she went to work for the state-owned Radio Télévision Nationale du Burundi (RNTB). Despite the apprehension and opposition from some, she was promoted to Head of Programs. She put her all into her work and as a result it took a toll on her personal life. Her late husband, who was also a journalist, tried to understand and support her. While she might have been underestimated by some people when she first started in television, she went on to convince her peers (and critics) as a result of the quality and competence of her work. She was named broadcast anchor chief from 1987 to 1999.
Continue reading "Everyday Heroes: Christine Ntahe (Burundi)"
Thursday, May 19. 2011
Everyday Heroes: Beatrice Nyamoya ... Posted by Sandra Zerbo in women and gender at 03:00
This profile is the third in a series commissioned by TrustAfrica's MDG3 Project to showcase the work of inspirational women leaders in Francophone West and Central Africa.
It’s 1983. The first female Chief of Staff of the National Assembly of Burundi is named. This lawyer by training didn’t start out wanting to be a lawyer, but the fight for the promotion and respect of women’s rights compelled her to take this path.
The professional path of this woman, Beatrice Nyamoya, has taken her from the Minister in Charge of Public Relations in 1991, to the Embassy of Burundi in Bonn, Germany, in 1995 and to her current post as State Inspector General. In each of the positions she has held, her attention to a single concern has been ever-present: addressing the concerns and issues related to women and thus never missing an opportunity to speak out publicly, including in the media, about the injustices to which women are subjected.
Born in 1956, Nyamoya has long been an activist fighting for human rights in general and those of women in particular. Her late father, Albin Nyamoya, who twice served as Prime Minister of Burundi, greatly influenced her way of thinking. One of ten children, she received an education that encouraged an esprit of intellectual critique and personal engagement in advocacy for the defense of the rights of women and children.
Continue reading "Everyday Heroes: Beatrice Nyamoya (Burundi)"
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