For over two decades, the Great Lakes Region of Africa has been engulfed in armed conflict with escalating instability and violence. The worst having been experienced in DRC where an estimate of 4million people died as a result of the conflict, which has been marked by gross human rights violations, often directly targeting women by using rape and other forms of sexual- and gender-based violence as weapons of war.
Economic and livelihood activities have been disrupted and deteriorating conditions have required women to take up responsibilities for households with limited access to viable means of production and equitable access to needed resources. The above described situation is compounded by the fact that , women are not systematically and consistently involved in local and national decision-making processes, and more particularly post conflict peace negotiation, recovery and reconstruction.
In order to support and advocate for women’s meaningful involvement, and to underscore the importance of promoting an active and visible approach to mainstreaming a gender perspective into the peace building processes, AMwA together with partners have embarked on several activities in DRC to ensure that women organize and participate effectively in peace negotiation processes and reconstruction. In addition various initiatives have been undertaken in DRC by different International and Regional organizations mostly women's rights organizations. These are geared towards ensuring that women are involved in all decision making processes and are contributing to the development agenda of their country. AMwA is one of the regional organizations that have implemented activities in DRC in her own capacity as well as with women partner organizations under the ICGLR Regional Civil Society Forum.
With support from the Women Platform administered by Global Fund for Women, AMwA hosted a 3 day workshop at Ishango Hotel in Goma from 5th -7th Of August 2015. The Workshop that brought together 13 women leaders from various women’s organizations in Goma focused on strengthening women’s network in Goma .
The workshop which sought to capitalize on the above previous initiatives that AMwA and partners implemented in Goma as well as the momentum already generated by women’s groups in that region and Great Lakes in general aimed at;
The workshop commenced with contextualization of the failure to achieve sustained peace and security in the region and an analysis of the issue of peace & security being a cross cutting issue that is interlinked to health, education, economic development, infrastructure and food among others.
Linking International & Regional Frameworks on peace processes to women group’s realities in Goma, the participants were able to engage in debates regarding the implementation of UN Resolution 1325 and the Framework of Hope. Through these debates the women leaders were able to identify what has worked, what has not worked and what they needed to do to ensure that they effectively contribute to the implementation of these frameworks.
Reflecting on the struggles Congolese women have endured to contribute to bringing peace in the region especially in North Kivu and linking it to the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell, the women leaders identified the challenges that made it difficult for them to attain the intended goal-PEACE. Some of the challenges sited included; failure to document their struggles; lack of coordination; commitment resources both human and financial.
The safe space created allowed for candid and sisterly conversations around the real issues that tore apart the vibrant women’s movement of the early 2000 that had mobilized the women’s movement even without fund and regardless of their differences in ideology, culture and education levels. The women thus appreciated the need for collective organizing; bringing them to the realization of re-organizing themselves and reviving the women’s movement (Sauti Ya MamaYa WaCongoMani) in Goma.
In that regard the women leaders sought to develop a 2 year Action Plan on the priority issues that needed to be addressed in relation to their effective participation and contribution to the implementation of the Framework of Hope and UN Resolution 1325. High on this agenda was the need to re-kindle Sauti Ya MamaYa WaCongoMani.
The revival of Sauti Ya Mama Ya WaCongoMani has been a long awaited dream for many African women most especially the women of DRC. It presents an opportunity for us as African women to mobilize ourselves and support our sisters as they take lead in addressing the priority issues of concern to them.
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African Women's Position on the New Development Agenda United Nations - Sunday, 2 August 2015, 193 governments agreed to a historic agenda for global sustainable development to be carried out over the next 15 years, which will be formally adopted by world leaders at the UN General Assembly in September. African women joined other women’s rights activists in applauding the new “2030 Agenda” for having the promise of being truly transformative for women and girls around the world.
The new agenda includes the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a framework of 17 goals and 169 targets that build upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire this year. Gender equality is addressed much more robustly than the MDGs did and recognize the issue as crosscutting.
The "2030 Agenda" includes significant victories for women and girls. Governments have committed to:
• End discrimination and gender-based violence
• End child marriage and female genital mutilation
• Ensure access to sexual and reproductive health care services and education for all
• Protect women’s and girls’ reproductive rights
• Recognize and value the burdens of unpaid care work on women and girls
• Expand women’s economic opportunities and ensure their rights to resources
• Eliminate gender disparities in schools and ensure equal access to education
Gender equality, human rights and the empowerment of women and girls remains a critical driver to the achievement of the sustainable development goals. The prioritization of women's rights will ensure that spatial, political, social and economic inequalities are addressed. Furthermore, the redistribution of wealth, power, opportunities and resources is critical for addressing prevalent inequalities between men and women, within and between countries. Although we have registered substantial gains in securing gender equality in the Post-2015 development framework, the lack of political will from some of the African Member states to safeguard gender equality and the human rights of women and girls throughout the Post-2015 development process remains of great concern to African women.
We are deeply concerned that Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon consistently called for removal of language on gender equality, reproductive rights, recognition of human rights and non-discrimination for all. In January 2014, the African Heads of States adopted the Common African Position (CAP) on Post-2015 articulating the continent's priorities in the Post-2015 development agenda. The Common African Position has strong commitments to ensure that "No person – regardless of ethnicity, gender, geography, disability, race or other status – is denied universal human rights and basic economic opportunities." African Heads of State specifically highlighted the inextricable link between gender equality, women's rights, women's empowerment and Africa's structural transformation.
As we come to a close of what has been a protracted process and enter a new phase of implementation of the "2030 Agenda", its follow up and review; we call on African leaders to demonstrate political will in implementing the "2030 Agenda" through domesticating at national level and allocation of adequate resources. In line with the commitment to gender equality within the African Union, we call upon them to implement progressive regional and global agreements such as; The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa; The Maputo Plan of Action on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights; The International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action (ICPD PoA) and The Abuja Declaration on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and other related Infectious diseases. This will play a critical complementary enabling role for the new Development Agenda in the realization of women’s and girls' rights and the achievement of gender equality.
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2015 marks 18 years since the launch of AMwA’s flagship program –The Africa Women’s Leadership Institute (AWLI). The Institute has significantly contributed to strengthening leadership skills of many young women from the continent and the diaspora at both personal and professional levels. The alumni majority of whom occupy positions of leadership in various spheres have continued to advocacte for gender equality and women’s rights at different foras thus strengthening African women’s vioces and contributing to the empowerment of women on the continent.
On the 21st July 2015, AMwA convened the Tanzania AWLI alumni reunion in Dar es Salaam. One of the key activities of the reunion was a dialogue on the critical issues affecting women’s economic justice in Tanzania. Through the dialogue it was evident that the issue of women’s access and ownership of land was under threat especailly with the wave of land acquisition in the country and needed to be addressed. Therefore the alumni sort to establish a collaborative initiative with AMwA on the protection of women’s land rights in Mutwara region through advocacy and policy influence as a key strategy to address the challenge.
In addition the event provided much needed space to connect and share expereinces with alumni of the different years thus creating opportunities for networking and mentoring amongst different alumni groups. Through this platform AMwA was able to take stock of the AWLI impact on the alumni’s career and personal growth as part of not only tracking alumni, but also documenting alumni’s leadership journeys.
It was inspiring to hear most of the alumni attribute some of their successes to the AWLI;
“It's been a long and exciting journey, the 2008 AMwA leadership institute helped me think through some of the most critical aspects of my life both personally and professionally and I was able to refine my focus". I am currently a Co- director and director of Programs and Impact at Campaign for female education (Camfed) Tanzania. Over the years, the AWLI has inspired me to foster my growth by exploring my potential and building on my passion. I am now leading over 30 staff and 200 committee members. The organization is currently directly supporting 28,170 girls to go to school and network of young women of over 4711 membership. I thank AWLI for the leadership skills, and I promise to continue building other/more leaders”. Lydia Wilbard, AWLI Alumni 2008
“I have very fond memories of that time of development in my life. It was the first time I flew in an aircraft and I loved the entire experience. The AWLI was a turning point in my life. Following the institute in 2005, I immediately took up a senior position at . I am now looking out for opportunities to join a non-profit Board and am looking forward to the future with confidence and optimism. Mary Zebron Kyando, AWLI Alumni 2005
These and other testimonies from the alumni strongly demonstrated the relevance of the AWLI to African women and the need for us to continue strengthening the leadership capacities other young African women given the current terrain in which women’s rights and freedoms are continuously being threatened.
All of these stories were worth celebrating and were documented. A documentary of the alumni will be produced and disseminated; contributing to African women’s herstory.
Indeed there are many milestones that have been reached since the establishment of Akina Mama wa Afrika in 1985, however the AWLI continues to stand out. When you speak about AMwA you almost certainly will speak about the AWLI and the reverse is true!