REPRESENTATIVES of Feminist Movements from East and Southern Africa region on Thursday converged virtually to discuss strategies for the enhancement of their gender equality programmes under the UN Women global campaign, Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights for an Equal Future.
The Regional dialogue was a partnership of UN Women Tanzania and UN Women Malawi in collaboration with the Women Leaders Network Chapters in both countries under the UN Women Generation Equality Regional Journey.
It follows the Generation Equality Forum held in Dar es Salaam this week, where multistakeholders drawn from the Government; women’ rights, civil society and youth-led organizations; the private sector, and UN Agencies, contributed to the drafting and submission of Tanzania’s commitments under the Generation Equality Action Coalition on Economic Justice and Rights.
Last month, President Samia Suluhu Hassan embraced this Action Coalition during a Generation Equality campaign visit by the UN Women Executive Director, Dr Phumzile Mlambo- Ngcuka, making Tanzania one of the countries to lead in the Action Coalition Agenda in Africa.
The dialogue by the Feminist Movements also promoted the collective commitment making process to enhance collaborative efforts for concrete actions that can advance the objectives of the Action Coalitions for gender transformation.
Speakers included the French Ambassador, Mr Frederic Clavier; the Canadian High Commissioner, Ms Pamela O’Donnell; the Principal Community Development Officer in the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Mr Jumanne Mwasamila who spoke on behalf of the Director for Gender, Ms Mwajuma Magwiza; the UN Women Representative, Ms Hodan Addou; Ms Mary Rusimbi, the Women Leaders’ Network, Tanzania Chapter Co-Chair, and representatives from women’s rights organizations in Tanzania, and the rest of the region.
The dialogue identified key priority areas for concrete actions including improving resource mobilization efforts for more funds to up-scale gender equality interventions.
There were concerns among speakers including Ms Mary Rusimbi and Professor Lulama Makhubela of South Africa, that while the region has experienced slow progress in gender equality since the signing of the Beijing Platform for Action 26 years ago, this has not translated to a significant increase in funding to accelerate the pace and gains.
They advocated for expanded women’s rights Fund Organisations; funding that will specifically address concerns around poor succession planning to promote young women leader-ship, gender budget statements and gender accountability mechanisms to ensure that commitments are translated into actions, among other interventions.
The general consensus was on working differently, leveraging technology and innovation, to bolster the movement’s performance.
Speakers including Ms Mary Mzubwa Ndaro, Co- Founder of the Caravan Tanzania advocated for regional movements that “talk to each other” to advance a common vision as a collective, inclusive of young male champions.
Ms Cyizanye Allen from the Gender Monitoring Office in Rwanda supported the concept of repackaging the intergenerational partnerships to become an effective vehicle for nurturing young talent, promoting young women’s leadership, and active participation across all sectors to counter gender imbalances.
It was clear that times have changed and pushing the relevance of the gender equality agenda no longer required a “business as usual” approach, but bold, solid and well-funded actions.
Speakers also discussed the need to integrate Pan Africanism in the feminist agenda and curate a unique regional narrative that resonates with the regional context.
The UN Women Representative, Ms Hodan Addou said the time has come for Feminist Movements and partners to “innovate actions to counter challenges including dwindling funding opportunities.”
She called on generating more evidence that can demonstrate why the feminist agenda must be actively supported and adequately financed. “Longer-term investment for gender equality is what we require for life-changing results that can ensure significant progress in ending all forms of gender discrimination, including those that harm women and girls, and deny them their right to education,” she said, adding that, when women and girls are educated, they are empowered to demand economic justice and rights.
“Their vulnerability to genderbased violence is reduced, they have self-esteem and knowledge of their sexual reproductive health and rights, among other benefits that contribute to the acceleration of economic, social and political development in this region,” she said.
On his part, the French Ambassador, Mr Frederic Clavier, advocated for collective actions that are inclusive of youth-led organizations as they play a catalytic role in expanding intergenerational partnerships.
“Young people are at the centre of the Generation Equality campaign because they have a key role to play to promote and ensure the sustainability of the feminist movements for gender equality.
Women’s rights are at risk everywhere, and as history reminds us, building an equal future cannot be achieved without key players including feminist movements, young gender activists, and women’s civil society organizations,” said Ambassador Clavier.
Mr Jumanne Mwasamila emphasized the need for partnerships with Feminist Movements for countries to fulfil commitments under the Generation Equality Campaign and the Beijing Platform for Action.
“This is at the backdrop of study findings pointing to inequality that will last more than a century for Africa, and even more daunting is closing the gender gap for women’s economic empowerment, which is projected to take more than 200 years if commitments and bold actions are not implemented.
I believe that partnerships, partnerships and partnerships are a smart strategy we can apply to step up and speed up the advancement of women’s rights in the East and Southern Africa region,” said Mr Mwasamila.
The Canadian High Commissioner, Ms Pamela O’Donnell reiterated the need to invest in partnerships, calling on countries and organizations to join the Feminist Movements Action Coalition, which Canada co-leads.
“We are looking for partners that are ready to make financial, policy, program and advocacy commitment to work with us in advancing feminist actions.”
According to High Commissioner O’Donnell, Canada has seen first-hand that when women’s organizations are given support and flexibility, they advance the rights of women in all their diversity and bring meaningful change to their communities.
“Therefore, channeling funds directly to women’s organizations is a priority for Canada to improve management and sustainability of organizations, strengthen gender advocacy and increase the effectiveness of local and national women’s rights platforms for legal, policy and social change,” she said.