Gertrude Mongella – 2005 Delta Prize Recipient

The Delta Prize for Global Understanding was established to recognize individuals whose extraordinary ability to promote fruitful communication has rendered their region of the world a more peaceful place.

Ambassador Gertrude Mongella of Tanzania, the first President of the Pan-African Parliament, has advanced intercultural and international understanding on the continent of Africa in exercising her responsibilities over many years as a political leader. And she has
used her political influence in every position she has held to promote human rights, particularly the rights of women and children in Africa and around the world. She has indeed devoted her life to making the world a more peaceful place.

Gertrude Mongella was elected President of the Pan-African Parliament on March 18, 2004. She had previously served the people of Africa as Member of Parliament in Tanzania, Goodwill Ambassador to the World Health Organization representing Africa, Leader of the OAU Election Observer Team to Zimbabwe for the 2002 presidential election, Member of the Council of “The Future” at UNESCO, President of the NGO Advocacy for Women in Africa, U.N. Assistant Secretary General and Secretary General for the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. In all of these positions, and in numerous others, Ambassador Mongella acquired renown for promoting a better understanding of the needs of women and children.

Ambassador Mongella has always been known for her ability to cooperate amicably and effectively with politicians of all ideologies and of both sexes. She won the nickname “Mama Beijing” when she chaired the Beijing conference. And she continues to be known in African circles as “Mama Mongella.” In January of this year she won the 2005 Martin Luther King “Drum Major for Justice Award.”

The scope of Ambassador Mongella’s goals for women’s rights is evident in the mission statement of Advocacy for Women in Africa, which she founded in 1996. The organization aims:

  • to create a forum for women to raise African women’s concerns and influence decisions within major decision-making bodies in Africa;
  • to facilitate contacts, provide a link, and bring together people who are committed to speak for and with women in Africa;
  • to promote actions for development, peace, and equality with a gender focus; and
  • to interpret and analyze social economic and political trends in the continent and their impact on women’s advancement and empowerment.

The scope of Ambassador Mongella’s goals for a more peaceful Africa is evident in the mission statement of the Pan-African Parliament, which she helped to create and over which she now presides. The Pan-African Parliament, which is an organ of the African Union, aims:

  • [to provide] a common platform for African peoples and their grassroots organizations to be more involved in discussions and decision-making on the problems and challenges facing the continent.

Officials of the new organization expect that after its first five years, during which time it will be an advisory body, the Pan-African Parliament will gain full legislative powers, with members directly elected from their respective countries. According to the plan, each country that signs and ratifies the protocol gets five parliamentary deputies, one of which must be a woman. The missions of these two organizations–Advocacy for Women in Africa and the Pan-African Parliament–show their potential for changing the relationship of Africa to the rest of the world. Because
of her leadership in their creation, Ambassador Mongella has influenced the direction of world events for the better.

Mama Mongella’s strategy for bringing peace to our troubled planet involves women. In 1996, as chair of the Women’s Leadership Forum on Peace in Johannesburg, she said,

Since we all recognise that women do not generally support armed hostilities and conflicts, can we … directly involve women in the peace process so that they can contribute their wisdom and compassion to resolving conflicts before they flare up into brutalities? There are still too many conflict-resolving endeavours in Africa which exclude women. How long will women continue to give life just to see it taken away by force of arms?

For a lifetime devoted to promoting greater communication and more peaceful relationships among people of different interests, ideologies, ethnicities, and genders, Ambassador Mongella well deserves the 2005 Delta Prize for Global Understanding.