We started the year 2019 inspired by a poem by the “justice doula” Micky ScottBey Jones – “Invitation to Brave Space”. We reflected and committed to work side by side to create and nurture brave spaces. Yes, acknowledging our brave space may not always be what we wish it to be, we gave ourselves permission to the right to start somewhere and continue to grow.
Throughout 2019, it was inspiring, energizing and refreshing to see, behold and experience the rich and boundless determination of African women in all their diversities as they collectively and fiercely pushed boundaries for freedom from oppressive systems and structures. In our fight for women’s human’s rights, we learned a lot and asserted our inter sectional feminist movement building, we claimed spaces and created our own spaces, we courageously made bold demands for accountability to gender equality and women’s rights, we refused to be silenced, excluded or be made invisible. We used our power of convening, our creative and innovative tools to influence policy and connect the global to local. The commitment and tenacious spirit of African women and girls in claiming their rights is unmatched.
As we wrap up 2019 and gear up for a new decade starting in 2020, we share with you some of our most significant moments, resulting impact and lessons learned. We are super grateful to our members, board members, partners and allies for your continued and assured support in our collective quest for justice and fight for women’s rights and a feminist future.
We will keep the fire, we will keep the revolution, we will keep rising because gender equality can’t wait!
Executive Director, FEMNET
Beijing+25 Africa: Women will NOT Relent!
Women worldwide continue to organize and demand for equality, justice and peace, with defiance and determination. Throughout 2019, FEMNET led in informing and coordinating the reflection and position of African women’s rights and civil society organizations on the 25 years review processes of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BDPfA). The Africa Beijing+25 review processes will feed into next year’s twenty five years anniversary of the BDPfA framework and its 12 Critical Areas of Concern, which was unanimously adopted during the pivotal global women’s conference held in Beijing, China in 1995.
As we reviewed progress and challenges of implementing the BDPfA in Africa, FEMNET together with our members and partners including NGO CSW/Africa and the Beijing+25 AfricanReference Group organized webinars and shared regular updates to inform and collectively strategize our engagement. Check out the updates “Rekindling the Beijing fire of Revolution…African Women’s Herstory” and “The Africa Beijing +25 Review Journey”. We also convened reflection and consultative meetings in Accra- Ghana, Nairobi-Kenya and Addis Ababa- Ethiopia enriching each consultation with diverse representation, co-developed position statements with our priority messages and boldly disrupted spaces with our key demands.
The city of Addis Ababa also known as ‘Finfinne’ or natural spring trembled as African women and girls descended and claimed the space. We received over 500 requests to attend the Africa CSOs Forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and mobilized and coordinated the registration of over 300 gender advocates, women’s rights activists and feminists. Close to 70% of the people were in the space for the first time, including young women, veterans/elderly women, sex workers, LBTIQ, women from informal settlements, women with disabilities, media, representatives of trade unions, grassroots, faith groups, cultural and religious leaders, politicians and feminists. Gradually, we are committed to #LeaveNoOneBehind and use an intersectional approach in all that we do.
In ensuring we were as consultative as possible, the African Beijing+25 review process included contributions from WiLDAF-Togo who coordinated and consolidated the West Africa/ francophone reflections on Beijing+25; Women for a Change Cameroon (WfAC) who facilitated conversations amongst adolescent girls, GROOTs-Kenya who mobilized and consolidated voices of women in the grassroots and reflections from Humanity Inclusion for Perspectives of Women with Disabilities on the Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action +25: Africa Region.
Critically, FEMNET on behalf of African CSOs was part of the Beijing+25 technical drafting team charged with refining the African governments political declaration, key messages and priority actions on the B+25 review. This was important in contributing our priorities as women’s rights and civil society organizations and bringing in the women’s human rights language in the political declaration which is the guide to Africa’s governments’ commitment to accelerate the implementation of the BDPfA commitments. Our resounding message is that of defiance, determination and audacity – women will not relent!
Strengthened Women’s Network for Greater Impact
In the next 4 years, as part of the EU Framework Partnership Agreement (FPA), we envision a Strengthened Women’s Network for Greater Impact, closely working with our members in Mali, Tunisia, Ethiopia, DRC, Rwanda, Mauritius and Kenya and collaborating with Oxfam. During the inception meeting and colorful launch in August 2019, together with our members and partners, we collectively reflected on emerging issues and trends in the women’s movement in Africa and defined strategies of working together based on feminist principles.
As the year ends, we have conducted a SWOT(Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis and mapped out approaches for strengthening the institutional and operational capacity of our members in policy advocacy, campaigning, networking and information sharing. This is critical in ensuring that FEMNET as a strengthened network is able to meaningfully influence and monitor the progress of implementing the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and other development frameworks in Africa. Our 14 members in this partnership in the 7 target countries are:- Rwanda Women’s Network; the Consultative Women Umbrella and Associations in the Great Lakes Region (COCAFEM/GL); Mauritius Council of Social Service (MACOSS); Cercle des Dame Mourides (CDM); Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK); MUSONET – Mali; Reseau Ouest Africain des Jeunes Femmes Leaders (ROAJELF); Young Women’s Leadership Institute (YWLI); Reseau Ouest Africain des Jeunes Femmes Leaders (ROAJELF); Association Tunisienne de Gouvernance et d’Egalité des Chances (ATGEC); Faith Word in Action (FWA); CONAFED; Center for Accelerated Women’s Economic Empowerment (CAWEE) and Union of Ethiopian Women Charitable Associations (UEWCA).
Women’s Audacity to Disrupt Economic Injustices
At FEMNET, we are convinced that only a feminist analysis on macroeconomics policies and processes can adequately question power dynamics and provide a nuanced approach and solution for Africa’s future sustainable development. The 3rd African Feminist Macroeconomic Academy (AFMA) held in Accra, Ghana in August 2019 focused on maximizing finance for development and critically analyzing development for whom? And questioning the orthodoxy of mainstream economics, which clearly does not work for the global south and for women in particular.Through the use of interactive case studies, presentations, and group discussions, the academy drew linkages between the way finance works and what it means for the quality of life for women and girls in Africa in the midst of growing connections between global and local economies. The academy sought answers to the questions: where are the voices of African women in shaping these decisions and what can feminist principles teach us about analyzing the issues and creating spaces for new imaginings of just economic systems?
The Roar of the African Teenage Girls
African girls, from Tunisia, Mali, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya, Cameroon and Uganda, gathered in Nairobi in November 2019 for the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (#ICPD25), and boldly presented their authentic voices to the world – through a letter, Call of African Teenage Girls.
“We met as representatives of African girls in all our diversities – as girls with disability, girls living in rural areas, girls living in slums, teenage mothers, girls who have dropped out of school. We gathered to review the status of African girls in the last 25 years since the adoption of the ICPD program of action in Cairo. We came here to deliberate and have a collective voice as African girls. We are appreciating the opportunity to gather and meet with other girls from across the continent and share ideas and strategies. We have learned a lot about our shared life experiences, and are now strengthening our collective engagement as the girls and young women of Africa. We set out on our journeys, some as long as fifteen hours, to attend the Nairobi summit – ICPD25. We came expecting to travel back home with great news that the faces of African girls have been seen, their voices heard and their demands implemented.”
“We need to listen attentively, act and commit to the teenage girls! Listening without committing is a COMMITMENT FRAUD”
Memory Kachambwa, Executive Director, FEMNET
Breathing life into the Maputo Protocol
Human rights defenders and African women’s rights organisations continue to provide updates and recommendations on the state of human rights in Africa. Our members attended this year’s April and October Ordinary Sessions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). We continued to demand for accountability on African women’s and girls’ rights and call for full implementation of the Maputo Protocol. With 11 countries to go, FEMNET continues to be relentless in pushing for the universal ratification of the Maputo Protocol by 2020. Inorder to make this a reality, FEMNET in partnership with the Solidarity of African Women’s Rights, (SOWAR), The African Union Gender and Development Directorate held two High level advocacy missions to Sudan and Madagascar and held discussions with the chair of the Botswana Women’s Parliamentary Caucus. Collective efforts will be intensified in the coming year, we will continue urging members States that have not ratified to do the right thing – ratify and those that have ratified to implement. We will also continue to strengthen and create awareness on the role of the African Human Rights System. The 65th Ordinary Session in October 2019 in Banjul, The Gambia saw the end of term for Commissioner Soyata Maiga and Commissioner Lucy Asuagbor, both champions for women and girls rights. The Commission elected its new Bureau which shall serve for two years. The Bureau is lead by Honourable Commissioner Dr Solomon Ayele Dersso as Chairperson and Honourable Commissioner Rémy Ngoy Lumbu as Vice Chairperson.
WOMEN @ WORK
FEMNET as part of the Women@Work campaign continues to strengthen leadership capacities of women working in flower farms in Kenya. In partnership with Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) and Hivos, we co-convened a reflection workshop geared towards deepening gender-responsive workplace policies and practices. From the peer learnings and experience sharings, the human resource managers from Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda committed to use their power and influence to ensure women working in their farms are well represented in leadership roles in farm level committees.
“We are currently partnering with FEMNET under the Women@Work campaign to revise our institutional policies and ensure that they are gender responsive and that they do not discriminate and violate workers rights.”
Florence Obonyo, Sustainability and Social Officer at Florensis Kenya Limited.
#RatifyILO190 for a World of Work Free from Violence and Harassment
Without a doubt the #MeToo movement sparked a global wave on the rampat violence and harassment of women and girls due to unequal gender-based power relations. Statistically, 35% of women (i.e. 818 million women globally) over the age of 15 have experienced sexual or physical violence at home, in their communities or in the workplace. Violence and harassment in the world of work constitutes a grave human rights violation. It affects the ability to exercise other fundamental labour rights, is incompatible with the decent work agenda and is a threat to dignity, security, health and the well-being of workers. Between May and June 2019, FEMNET joined women’s rights organizations and partners in calling for the adoption of the ILO Convention 190 and Recommendation to End Violence and Harassment in the world of work. The unanimous adoption of ILO convention 190 in June 2019 was historic in the ILO centenary celebrations. We will continue to heighten our advocacy to hold ILO member states accountable to ratifying the convention and fully implementing it to address the global menace of violence and harassment in the workplace. Read the key recommendations The world is watching! TIME to End Violence & Harassment in the Workplace!
Equality is a NO brainer!
The Men to Men Strategy acknowledged and adopted as a tool for engaging religious and cultural leaders in promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) for women and girls in Africa. A regional convening targeting 9 countries including Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Guinea, Liberia, Tunisia and Tanzania brought together over 100 men and women from diverse backgrounds working in promoting SRHR in the target countries. The exchange took place in December 2019 and was also used to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence. The exchange and learning was done in Homabay County in Kenya.
Feminists Want System Change!
At the 2019 High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, FEMNET alongside hundreds of women’s rights activists and social justice actors from across the globe took to the streets of New York chanting “rise up, fist up, for system change” and “we are the feminists fighting for justice and liberation” and “the people united will never be defeated” to demand greater government accountability and commitment to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Personal is Political: Rethinking SRHR from an African feminist Perspective
“I didn’t know much about Feminism and its relation to SRHR, going back home, I will comfortably engage my radio audience to discuss feminism and SRHR in its sprectum” – Mamadou – Liberia
“I just wanted to tell you, we have learned a lot in these 3 days, indeed this training has opened us and changed how we think, even though we were not formal participants of the meeting but we benefited a lot – Meeting interpreters. Those are some of the quotes from African Feminist Rethinking SRHR from meeting participants and service providers, it was indeed a breath of fresh air.
FEMNET led a reflection and rethinking SRHR in the quest to reground SRHR programming in African feminists principles. The training session approached participants as individuals first and as representative of organisations from almost 10 countries. “For the first time in my life, I went back to my room and looked at my vagina it was so empowering,” said one of the participants. Sesilia from Young Alive noted, “Our organizations often rely on the numbers to justify our work, we have not been analyzing our augments from the women’s human rights point of view. We will do so now.”
Closing the GAP! THE Gender Action Plan
The twenty five session of the UN Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP25) adopted the 5 years Gender Action Plan (GAP). Given the stakes, for example Africa is ranked the lowest in having a gender balance in COP delegation, FEMNET felt the need to engage in the process and work closely with Gender and Women Constituency to influence the adoption of the GAP which addresses Africa’s specific needs in addressing the climate crisis. At COP25, FEMNET played a crucial role in influencing both the Gender and Women Constituency, which is largely comprised of global north organizations and the COP delegates to ensure they agree and adopt ambitious and progressive GAP incorporating an African feminist perspective. Even though the overall COP outcome was disappointing for the lack of commitment, GAP aligns with what FEMNET and Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) were pushing for – greater focus on implementation and scaling up gender-just climate solutions.
Unity of Purpose & Power of Diversity!
At the Women Deliver 2019 conference, FEMNET hosted a Pan African Gender Advocates Community of Practice, which provided a space for African women attending the conference to meet together in a safe semi-structured networking space. Theme for the session was “Pan African Gender Advocates SAFE SPACE: Unity of Purpose & Power of Diversity”. FEMNET and Women Deliver co-facilitated a roundtable discussion with 25 journalists from Lebanon, BBC-breaking news, Tanzania, Senegal, Rwanda, Ghana, Uganda and Kenya.
This resulted in building partnership with the journalists attending the Women Deliver 2019 conference and increased post-conference coverage. The journalists were equipped with requisite skills and knowledge to re-think storytelling and media coverage with a new frame of reference, new story ideas and breaking the barriers of addressing issues separately and in isolation. The journalists were challenged to take a holistic approach of looking at issues with linkages to other salient issues. This would enable journalists to open the doors to report a range of interconnected and possibly unexpected stories about girls and women. During this Conference, FEMNET representatives also attended an all EM2030 regional and national partners session on using the SDG Gender Index, gained knowledge, became “Ambassadors” and co-facilitated a training session to 80 journalists on the use of gender data for story-telling. The cross –sector partnership connects data and evidence with advocacy and action on gender equality. The team works to ensure that girls and women’s movements advocates and decision makers have the data they need, when they need it and in a form they can use to guide their pursuit of gender equality commitments in the SDGs. The EM2030 SDG gender index is the most comprehensive tool available to explore the status of gender equality across 129 countries (covering 95% of the world’s girls and women), 14 of the 17 SDGs and 51 targets linked to issues of gender inherent in the SDGs. It provided a snapshot of where the world stands, right now, linked to the vision of gender equality set forth in the 2030 Agenda.
We pushed, we Compelled, we Urged…and the Struggle Continues!
As the Communications and Information Network for Africa’s women and girls, we have and will continue to push duty bearers, policy makers and governments to deliver on their commitments to gender equality and women’s empowerment. In 2019, we amplified our voices and spoke truth to power through critical press statements and releases urging for equal rights and dignity for Africa’s women and girls.
The media as a critical partner became our specific and deliberate focus; we built and strengthened media rapport and enhanced journalists’ capacities in reporting Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights (SRHR). In July and November, we convened journalists from the print, electronic & digital media and unveiled our FEMNET SRHR Media Training Manual in Kigali, Rwanda (May) and in Lusaka, Zambia (November). It is need a huge achievement that since these media capacity building forums, we are marking extensive media coverage on SRHR and expect much more in the coming years.
Growth of FEMNET’s Digital Family & Footprint
Our digital footprints in 2019 expanded tremendously under our flagship hashtags of activism to end violence against women and girls of Africa. Yes, we are indeed pulling punches on the digital spaces and intend to do even more. This year we largely expounded on our trending hash-tags: #SRHRDialogues, #Beijing25Africa, #AFMA2019, #Femonomics, #FeministSolidarity, #ByGirlsForGirls and in this way, increased our digital footprints into sizable digital growth with our members and followers.
Our fans grew at 18% on Twitter & Instagram and 3% on Facebook
Our highest potential reach on twitter was 2.89 Million and 12Million potential impact.
OUR 2019 FEMNET FAMILY
A vibrant membership is core to FEMNET’s work. In 2019, FEMNET members engaged at national, regional and global levels, including: CSW63, ARFSD, Media training in Rwanda, Men to Men engagement in Egypt, Senegal, Nairobi and Homabay, Rethinking SRHR in Zambia, Beijing+25, AFMA and ICPD25. In all these spaces, FEMNET welcomed in the family 83 new members both individual members and organizational members. Amongst our new members are woman Deputy Governor, women lawyers, organizations that work with young and adolescent girls, men allies in the fight against GBV, FGM and child marriage.
We also increased our membership footprint in 43 countries especially in countries where we had no member such as Angola, whilst increasing membership in Mozambique and Guinea Conakry.
Gearing up for 2020! Save the Dates
As we welcome 2020, we will continue to inform and mobilize African women and girls to strategically position ourselves to influence and contribute to the following critical spaces in the first quarter:-
As always, we will keep sharing regular updates on our website, lists and social media platforms and invite you to join us as we co-create our feminist future!