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UN Secretary-General addresses women affected by cyclone Idai

On Friday, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, visited regions affected by Cyclone Idai * to monitor progress and challenges in the reconstruction process in Mozambique after being hit by two cyclones in less than two months.

"The Mozambican people have been victims of a tragedy and need to manage not only the physical impact but from the human point of view, the human suffering of the people. I want to point out that the government and the authorities have been committed to help and unite forces for the reconstruction of the country," Guterres said at the opening of the press conference.

Mandruzi Resettlement Center ©UNFPA Moçambique/Natalia da Luz

In the Mandruzi resettlement center (40 minutes from the city of Beira), Guterres talked with the population, learned about actions carried out by the United Nations agencies in partnership with the Mozambican government and met with a group of 15 women in situations of great vulnerability.

Pregnant women, heads of families and people with physical disabilities spoke with the Secretary-General in the 'Women-Friendly Space', one of the interventions of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in humanitarian emergency situations.

Activist and leader of the women in the Mandruzi resettlement neighborhood, which now houses 375 families, Celina Antonio helped to choose women with different stories and profiles for the meeting with Guterres.

"It was a very important meeting, we talked about the difficulties here in the neighborhood, about our greatest needs, about our losses. He asked questions and listened to many of us, and the women said they need electricity, a school, a hospital, a market, and houses. He said a lot of help is still going to come and seemed concerned, not only about the losses but also how we would rebuild our future," said Celina.

Celina (ao lado de Guterres) e Natalia Rosa (DPGCAS) durante encontro em Mandruzi - Foto de Alex Muianga - UNFPA Moçambique
Celina (alongside Guterres) and Natalia Rosa (DPGCAS) during a special meeting ©UNFPA Moçambique/Alex Muianga

Guterres' meeting with the women was not accompanied by the press. He positioned himself at the entrance to the 'Women-Friendly Space' while they talked to him from inside the tent. In a relaxed manner, the Secretary-General stated that this place was dedicated to women and so he would stand at the door, respecting the rules.

The Women-Friendly Space, managed by UNFPA in partnership with the Department of Gender, Child and Social Action (DPGCAS), provides psychosocial support, lectures and debates on gender-based violence awareness, as well as many activities which can be used to encourage the livelihoods of women such as the production of clay pots and straw baskets. Located in 12 resettlement centers in the province of Sofala, these spaces have already received thousands of women.

Agueda Nhantumbo from UNFPA facilitated the meeting with the UN Secretary-General, alongside a representative from the Department of Gender, Children and Social Action, Natalia Rosa. Partners from UNHCR were also present.

Mandruzi Resettlement Center ©UNFPA Moçambique/Natalia da Luz

"The Secretary-General understood the difficulties of the women here, the benefits that this space brought to their lives in a resettlement neighborhood, and the constraints they have experienced and are currently experiencing. The women also took the meeting as an opportunity to ask for support for the development of their region. It was a very positive and important meeting for them," said Agueda.

* Cyclone Idai, which hit Mozambique on March 14, affected more than 1.8 million people and left more than 600 dead.