It is our diversity makes us strong. As individuals, we bring our own experiences and ideas in order to form collective actions and strategies that are firmly based on what works. Co-convened by USU, Tanzanian Gender Networking Programme (TGNP) and Ann Njogu (CREAW Chairperson and ACDM Chief Executive Officer), the recent Zinduka Festival Women’s Forum brought together representatives from the women’s movement, partner CSO’s and gender experts from East Africa. During the Forum we exchanged ideas and examined, interrogated and reflected on the development models, strategies and plans driving economic and social investments for women in the region. From across East Africa, participants included FEMNET, EASSI, FOWODE and Akiba Uhaki.
In order to implement our recommendations and as our first and strongest action coming from the Festival, the Women’s Forum agreed to develop the East African Women’s Leadership Institute (WIL). The Institute will be a learning and integration platform whose purpose will be to strengthen the women’s movement in the East African Region and provide a structure through which the movement can monitor its progress while sharing individual countries’ successes/challenges and best practices. The WLI is where the movement comes to immerse itself into ideology, regionalism and Panafricanism while building a strong movement on a broad range of issues. We will use our strong networks, such as that of Africa UNiTE, to ensure regional platforms are utilised most effectively.
To successfully address the challenges facing women we must work in harmony to build and harmonise our strategies and focus on a people-centred response to the integration process. The Women’s Forum came up with key actions that must be implemented to achieve greater gender equality;
- Where women participate, the economies of those countries are more responsive, more gender-inclusive, they develop more holistic, thorough policies that bring human rights to the forefront.
- Gender equality must be anchored on a strong women’s rights movement concerned with democratic politics, economic and social justice, and culture and language. We must be informed by a framework of access, agenda-setting and accountability.
- Sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) must be delegitimised. Violence against women, men and communities perpetuated through the political system and decision-making structures must end.
- There must be a resource building strategy – educating aspiring leaders regarding the logistics of movement-building and resource-building.
- The media must be democratised through education, tireless negotiation and agenda-setting and strengthening CSOs to confront the misogynistic coverage of both women and women leadership issues.
- A well planned-out, documented movement must be informed by a research and evidence-based base in order to proceed. This evidence base can then inform further movements, provide defence from inevitable detractors and feed into national agenda-making.
- Part of movement building is about community and civil society buy-in. Building coalitions and creating space for civic engagement is key to agitating for the movement while also addressing the identified issues.
Gender based violence (GBV)
- GBV is a human rights issue, not just a women’s issues. It permeates and affects all sections of our society, our communities and our structures and systems.
- An integrated referral system is one of the best ways to ensure survivors are able to access medical and justice services, and are fully assisted. Sustainability is important – solutions like a one stop shop model must be supported by Government funds and resources.
- Advocacy and lobbying of Government Ministries is key to creating better integration and referral systems. Ministries must be held accountable for their promises and mandates. Likewise, multi-central approaches are important, ensuring gender mainstreaming across all Departments.
- Work must be done to change community attitudes that believe GBV is a private domestic affair as this cripples legal decisions and women’s right to justice and change.
- Prominent, influential men are required to influence men’s viewpoints, ideas and behaviours. Education for key male Government Ministers to advocate for women’s rights is important.
Gender and trade
- There must be raised awareness on labour frameworks and financial structures. Women can be provided with simplified information pertaining to trade, taxes and other important aspects of women’s cross-border economic work.
- Resource centers at border points can increase women’s knowledge and benefit their day to day trade.
- Capacity enhancement sessions for trade officials, border patrol officials AND women traders work well.
- Women need to have space and time to provide their important input into regulations, labour force structures and set-ups and policy and legislation that govern cross-border trade.
- Harmonising the collection of data and statistics across the region in order to inform strategies and actions can address inequalities and issues such as GBV.
- Simplified information about regulations, laws and policies can be sent through SMS platforms particularly helping those women in rural areas that have less technology infrastructure.
- There needs to be greater exploration of simple and innovative technology to help women, especially those in rural areas – think of water collection or agricultural phone apps.
- Exploration of how increased means of communications between duty-bearers and rights-holders can lead to increased rights will build our movement and help achieve our goals.
We implore you to ask yourself, what will you do in your space and work to harmonise our work and vision, and ensure the spirit of Pan Africanism is built on human rights, and women’s full participation with this?