“Do not violate women!” African women warn Donald Trump

African women have taken note of the inauguration of Mr. Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States and now warn him to desist and abstain from any forms of objectification and/or violation of women and girls during his tenure as president.

With this latest development that has garnered keen global interest, the pan-African regional organization, African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) is cautioning the newly elected president of the US to govern with a studious commitment of upholding respect and rights for women in America and globally.

“As the new president of one of the most powerful countries in the world, it is paramount to observe and understand that women the world over deserve respect and dignity at all levels and must be granted equality at all spheres and be free of all forms of violence and discrimination” said FEMNET’s Executive Director, Dinah Musindarwezo.

Within a hotly contested election year, FEMNET has keenly observed the disturbing revelations of violation and disregard for women that has elicited deserved indignation both in the US and globally.

“It is our firm submission that the government of President Donald Trump must adhere to uphold and respect universal principles of human rights and women’s rights as enshrined in universally accepted principles of which the US is boldly a part of”, said Dinah.

“Women of Africa have been peeved by the apparent sexist, misogynistic and utter violation of women as exemplified and revealed during the US election campaigns of 2015 and especially as advanced presumably by President Trump”, she added.

In light of widely reported cases of sexual and violations, misogynistic statements and concerning attitudes to the emancipation of women in the US, FEMNET affirms the explicit responsibility of the newly elected government of Mr. Trump to take note of universally adopted instruments of women’s rights and aspire towards safeguarding them.

“It is in the US that all women of the world have converged annually in New York at the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) for the last 60 Years. It is in New York that women of the world deliberate, strategize and collaborate to make the world safer, just and equal for women and girls in the world. We hope that President Donald Trump will take note of this and treat this process with the commitment and support as it has been in the past” said Dinah.

FEMNET urges the new government of president Trump not to overlook core international human rights instruments, take a specific focus on the International Bill of Human Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and most importantly, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

“It is not by chance that the world adopted and continues to agitate emancipation and gender equality in numerous platforms. For this reason, we emphasize that the United States, being a world Super power must within this new government of Mr. Trump amplify efforts to end all forms of violence and discrimination of women in the US and globally” added Dinah Musindarwezo.

For More information or to request an interview, contact:
Mildred Ngesa, Head of Communication, FEMNET: communication@femnet.or.ke/ ngesamildred@gmail.com +254 727 137 853

About FEMNET

Since inception in 1988, the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) continues to play a leading role in building the women’s movement in Africa and ensuring that African women’s voices are amplified and influence decisions made at national, regional and global levels, which have direct and indirect impact on their lives.

As a pan-African membership-based organization working to advance women’s rights, FEMNET has a mandate to mobilize African women to hold governments accountable to commitments previously agreed upon to achieve gender equality and women’s rights including: the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the AU Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

FEMNET’s vision is an African society where gender equality is achieved and women and girls enjoy all their rights and live in dignity. It’s mantra is women’s rights are human rights, its’ mission is to mobilize African women for the achievement of gender equality and the realization of women’s and girls’ rights at all levels. For more information visit: www.femnet.co

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Press Release: “Hyena” Jail sentence is a failure to justice for women and girls in Africa

Press Release

For immediate release

“Hyena” Jail sentence is a failure to justice for women and girls in Africa

22nd Nov 2016 / Lilongwe – Malawi

Women’s human rights organization alongside cultural and religious leaders from African countries currently meeting in Lilongwe, Malawi have condemned in the strongest terms the “lenient” sentence passed on a man arrested for knowingly sexually violating women and allegedly infecting  them with HIV-Aids.

On Tuesday evening after the two-year sentence by the Nsanje Principal Resident Magistrate Innocent Nebi upon the 45 year old man Eric Aniva, nicknamed “Hyena”, the Malawi Human Rights Resource Center (MHRRC), the NGO Gender Co-ordination Network and the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) are now calling for a review of the ruling by the High Court of Malawi and the Director of Public prosecutions to appeal the sentence.

“We are shocked and appalled that a man, living with HIV has for over two decades sexually violated children as young as 12 years of age in an outdated retrogressive culture that is harmful for women and girls and the magistrate saw it fit to only give him 2 years in jail!” reacted Mrs. Emma Kaliya, a veteran Malawi Human Rights Activist and Executive Director for MHRCC.  “What message does this send to all perpetrators of sexual violence hiding behind discriminatory and destructive cultural practices? that you can get away with only two years? This is a disgrace and a big let-down to the women and girls of Malawi. The courts of justice must revoke and reconsider this sentence” She added.

As the first case to be tried under the Malawi Gender Equality Act 2013, observers affirm that the sentence should have been higher to deter potential offenders and to bar communities from persisting with the practice.

“This is a great disappointment to the test of a new law that should otherwise be stringent enough to fully protect women and children. We are enraged!” said Mrs. Kaliya.

In a recent revelation in a BBC documentary that sparked wide condemnations in the region and in sections of the International media, Eric Aniva admitted to being HIV positive and being paid by parents to perform the traditional ritual of having sex with around 104 young girls in a cleansing ritual to mark their rite of passage to adulthood.

Some districts from parts of Southern Malawi, families pay a man referred to as “Hyena” to perform a cleansing sexual ceremony with bereaved widows to “exorcise evil spirits”. The same is also done to “initiate” young girls into adulthood at the turn of puberty with total disregard to the HIV status.

“These are the destructive cultures we are fighting against that have continued to endanger and harm women and girls in Africa.  This particular case presented a great opportunity for the Malawi Judicial system to affirm its commitment to justice for women and girls in Malawi but it has failed them” said Hellen Apila, FEMNET’s Head of Advocacy.

“Persistent sexual violations under the pretext of culture continue to dodge women and girls in the world and this must be vehemently condemned. We urge the government of Malawi not to waste this important opportunity to make landmark strides in ending destructive cultural practices by invoking the full force of the law and any other cases of sexual violations that infringe on the rights of women and girls” said Hellen.

Malawi’s Gender Equality At 2013 states that the criminal offence of sexual violation attracts a fine of 1 Million Malawi kwacha (Approx. $1200) or face a jail term of a maximum 5 years.

Speaking from the same meeting hosted by FEMNET and MHRRC, a section of religious and cultural leaders and media from Zambia, Kenya, Malawi, Tunisia and Rwanda equally expressed outrage over the sentence and called for stiffer penalties.

“It is a disgrace that in our communities we still perpetuate this kind of violation to our women and girls.  It is time that we Chiefs from all communities in Malawi come together to fully condemn and castigate these harmful practices that endanger our women and girls” said Chief Mabilabo from Mzimba, Nothern Malawi. He added that the law in the corridors of justice must also amplify efforts to assure justice for victims of harmful sexual practices.

“It is disturbing that this kind of cultural practice has continued for so long. Many women and girls continue to suffer from such atrocities. There is serious need to step in more firmly to protect our women and girls” said Fr. Henry Chinkanda, a Malawian Catholic priest.

In view of the challenges of cultural practices that violate the rights of women and girls in many African communities, a Kenyan Cultural elder from the Njuri Ncheke  Meru Community Benjamin Mugambi castigated accomplices to retrogressive practices that continue to entrap vulnerable indigenous communities to continued violations.

“It is wrong for families to encourage this kind of practice by paying the “hyenas” to persist the violation. When parents give away their children to be sexually violated then this is a criminal act that is punishable by law and must be fully condemned.

For more information and to request an interview, contact: Mildred Ngesa, Head of Communications, FEMNET; ngesamildred@gmail.com / Tel: +254 726137853

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Press Release: African Feminists at AWID Forum Call for Sustainable Resourcing

For immediate release:

Salvador, Brazil, 9 September: African feminists have called on donors to “put their money where their mouth is” by funding indigenous African women’s rights organisations threatened with closure as funding priorities shift.

While pledging to “get out of the box” and look into new sources of funding, including African philanthropy, a vibrant panel at the 13th AWID Forum organised by FEMNET noted that Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) “is not a favour” and remains the mainstay of many organisations.

“When you look at the financial outflows from Africa and existing global inequalities, we have a right to demand ODA,” said FEMNET Executive Director Dinah Musindarwezo. “It is ironic that we are being starved of resources at the very moment when we should step up our efforts to deliver on the Post-2015 Agenda.”

She noted that the stresses of funding reflect in credible organisations shrinking or closing; high staff turn-over; burn out and unhealthy competition among Women’s Rights Organisations (WRO) threatening movement building. “It is sad that mid- tier WRO are operating under severe financial constraints, and yet it is these women’s organisations that brought us where we are today,” said Ndana Tawamba, Executive Director of the Urgent Action Fund Africa.

“There is even less money for young women-led organisations, and WRO in West Africa threatened by fundamentalism,” added Diakhoumba Gassama, from Senegal.

The panel on “African Women and Money: Opportunities and Threats” observed that mid- size women’s rights organisations are falling between the cracks – too small to bid for the large global funds earmarked for International NGOs (INGOs) and too big for the small grants that these northern organisations administer in the global south.

“We need to guard against neo-colonial tendencies and demand that WRO in the global south be recognised and resourced,” said GL CEO Colleen Lowe Morna. “Failure to do so will result in the women’s rights agenda being perceived as imposed from the north and it will be resisted,” she warned.

Other threats identified include short term project funding; lack of institutional support; closing space for civil society in many countries; and the dropping of middle income countries from ODA support even though they still have huge income and gender gaps. “Women’s lives are not projects,” asserted Sally Dura of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe. “We cannot expect to be sustainable when we hop, skip and jump around for funding.”

The panel welcomed the recent move by the Dutch parliament to allocate Euro 40 million over four years to be channelled through four Women’s Rights Funds for WRO in the global South as a “step in the right direction.”

Head of Civil Society in the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs To Tjoelker announced at the session that the lions share (approximately Euro 24 million) would be channelled through the Accra-based African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), with 10% earmarked for community organisations; 30% for upcoming organisations with budgets of around Euro 200,000 per annum and 50% for regional networks. The focus would be on advocacy, institution and movement building rather than service delivery.

The fund follows an outcry and global advocacy led by the Women’s Major Group at the outcome of the second Funding for Leadership Opportunities (FLOW) Fund, which went to nine INGO-led groups.  Unlike the first round, that covered 35, mostly southern-based WRO, the rules favoured INGOs in the second round.

The FEMNET session at AWID commended the Dutch parliament for its “listening ear” and praised the solidarity shown by Dutch feminist organisations that lobbied for remedial action. “We need to see many more dedicated funds of this kind,” said FEMNET chairperson and Malawian gender activist Emma Kaliya. “We should never under estimate our power or right to influence the donor agenda.”

“Such funds should go directly to the grassroots, without being mediated by northern NGOs,” added Jennifer Gatsi of the Namibian Women’s Health Network.

Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (OSISA) women’s rights head Alice Kanengoni-Kwaramba cautioned that with refugee and migration crises showing little evidence of abating, funding will remain in short supply. She said women’s rights organisations need to become adept at linking their struggles to the burning issues of the day such as climate change.

Deputy Director of the Open Society Initiative of East Africa (OSIEA) women’s rights Sarah Mukasa warned that “donors will always have their agendas” and African WRO should not get caught in the trap of dependency. ”What about influencing our own African philanthropists, to focus on social impact and feminist agendas?” she asked.

Other participants called on feminist organisations to re-engineer themselves. FOWODE director Patricia Munabi gave the example of the radio station her organisation had started in Uganda that is both generating an income and educating the public on women’s rights.

“There is need for feminists to influence how good money goes to fund good work,” added Musimbi Kanyoro CEO of the Global Fund for Women. “We must start telling our story and capture the good results from our work,” she said.

Despite the shrinking funds for women’s rights organizations, it is essential to observe ethical standards, Diakhoumba added. “Can we just accept money from everywhere because of the funding crisis? There is a need to radically reinvent our relationship to donors and learn to be equal partners.”

According to the facilitator of the session, Kenyan feminist, Researcher and Keynote Speaker at the AWID forum Awino Okech, “donors fund people, but they also fund ideas. How often do we as feminists create time to think about feminist labour and work?”

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact

 

Follow/ Engage on Twitter: @FEMNETProg, @AWID and hashtags #AWIDForum #AWID2016

 

 

No longer business as usual as women demand space for transformative leadership in Africa

African governments  have  been warned to take note that it is  no longer business as usual and it is time they  heed the call for the process of transformative  leadership that will not create barriers for women but instead make spaces available and create a conducive environment for equal representation of women and men in all sectors at all levels.

At the opening of the inaugural African Women’s Leadership Symposium in Nairobi, Winnie Byanyima, the Executive Director of Oxfam International alongside a rich collection of African women leaders  sent the message to African governments that Africa needs transformation leadership carried along by both men and women in equal numbers for the continent  to prosper.

“No goal, no strategy, no vision for Africa can come true until we have sustainable leadership that delivers for women in every sphere of our lives,” says Byanyima, Executive Director of OXFAM and one of the convenors at the symposium.   Noting that so many wrongs are happening in the continent because women are missing from leadership, Byanyima notes: “Of all the maternal mortality deaths worldwide, half happen in sub-Saharan Africa.  This fact alone should be enough to make us burn with indignation for the women of Africa.”

Ambassador Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs says the journey to transformative leadership is long and women and indeed all leaders must be able to make sacrifices for them to get to the final destination.  Noting that only 17 out of 54 African countries have managed to close the gender gaps.

Hon. Mohammed lauded countries like Rwanda which have made it possible for women to be in leadership positions in high numbers, but challenged women to empower themselves and empower each other by walking the talk and being confident in what they do.

“For us to realise transformative leadership and women’s empowerment, it can no longer be business as usual,” notes Hon Amb. Amina.

Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Special Envoy on Gender and Vice President at the African Development Bank and also a co-covener at the Syposium says there are barriers to women at all levels of leadership. “We are now ready to make change and be part of the collective. We have to break barriers, boundaries and the glass ceilings.”

Fraser-Moleketi notes: “If you don’t include women you are actually undermining the change that should be there.”

The African Women’s Leadership Symposium is being held under an umbrella of various organisations that included OXFAM, the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) and brought together about 200 women from across Africa to deliberate on goals and commitments from women leaders to impact lives of women and girls and bring about lasting change in Africa.  The meeting was intergenerational having brought in young women and also having older women share their stories in a dialogue that was to not only inspire but also demand for attention from governments.

The Symposium, a first of its kind, is giving opportunity to women leaders to deliberate how to leverage their leadership, power, influence and access for the development and progress of the African continent in general and the advancement of women and girls’ rights in particular. It is a vibrant space for animated interactions and discussions on factors that support and those that hinder women’s access to power, influence and resources in society and will also be an opportunity to reflect on how to best collaborate inter-sectorally so as to further the agenda of women and girls rights in Africa.

For every woman participating in Africa and for every woman participating in the African Women’s Leaders Symposium, there is a story of resilience that has set her on the path of advocating and enhancing the capacity of other women and girls.

In visualising and convening the African Women’s Leaders Symposium Byanyima says this is a journey she knows only too well having previously faced discrimination and stereotyping simply because she is a woman.
“I have seen transformative leadership in women from less advantaged and poor households in Africa . Women breaking  glass ceilings and fighting for girl’s education and against early marriages.  I have the belief in and passion to work with other women to change the rules of society so that women and men can experience equality and live in dignity. There is no glory in breaking the glass ceiling if the shards fall on the girls behind you,” says Byanyima.

The participants to the African Women’s Leadership Symposium made focussed commitments to impact and transform the lives of women and girls  in the spaces they work .  The One-million Initiative and the Supporter Journeys where African women took substantive commitments were the two main  outputs of the Symposium.

Dinah Musindarwezo, the Executive Director of FEMNET also co-hosting the symposium says this path to commitment by African women leaders is basically what sets the symposium on a practical implementation path to move us from rhetoric to real actions.

“This inaugural initiative in Transformative Women’s Leadership is calling on the transformation of one-million+ women in the continent to make significant strides in improving the lives and status of women in trade.  This is where we want women of influence in different aspects of trade to do their bit to push for bridging of Economic gender gaps that deter women from attaining meaningful gains and making considerable impact,” says Musindarwezo.

Follow/ Engage on Twitter: #AWLS and @AfricanWLS and @FEMNETProg

For more information or to request an interview, please contact: Mildred Ngesa (ngesamildred@gmail.com / +254727137853 ) and Victor Nyambok (VNyambok@oxfam.org.uk / + 0722211819)

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Illicit Financial Flows are detrimental to the lives of African Women and girls

In alliance with other women’s rights and civil society organizations from across Africa and globally, the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) is urging African Heads of State to prioritize efforts to curb Illicit Financial Flows (IFFS) which takes away the much needed resources to invest in crucial public services such as education, health, social protection and in advancing gender equality and women’s human rights across board. Africa is suffering different types of Illicit Financial Flows including commercial activities,  lack of resources, tax evasion, tax avoidance, criminal activities,  human trafficking, forced labor and  corruption

FEMNET is also calling upon African governments to amplify the call for sustainable International tax reforms that will audaciously tackle the challenge of Illicit Financial flows while ensuring women of Africa are shielded and protected from gender discrimination and  exploitation.

Tax abuse is one of the biggest forms of illicit financial flows from Africa. “ When African Countries lose so much resources through Illicit Financial Flows it means Governments are unable to address inequality, prevent discrimination and thus fulfill their human rights obligations to tackle inequality and prevent discrimination in the generation and use of resources” says Dinah Musindarwezo the Executive Director of FEMNET.

This week, (18th & 19th August, 2016) FEMNET in partnership with Trust Africa is convening Women’s Rights Organizations, Civil Society Organizations, Development Partners and Academia from across the Continent to discuss IFFS and their gendered impact and implications, and amplify the voice for actions on stopping the Illicit Financial Flows.

FEMNET is concerned that there exists no elaborate analysis of gender implications of Illicit Financial Flows from Africa and thus the need to mobilize collaborations around the vice with the strategic focus to protect millions of women and girls in Africa within the formal and informal economic sectors who bear the brunt of these resource outflows.

It is important to create a robust women’s movement that understands and engages collectively with ongoing campaigns on curbing illicit financial flows such as “Stop the Bleeding campaign” that FEMNET is part of.

Memory Kachambwa, FEMNET’s head of programs is categorical that African governments spearheaded by the African Unions Agenda 2063 and the union’s deliberate prioritization of seeking to curb illicit financial flows is a positive indication that the continent is on the track to bridge the gaps of inequality by entrenching domestic resource mobilization and  economic justice.

“ It is estimated that for each 1$ developing nations received in foreign aid  and for every 10 $ in illicit money flow abroad, an astronomical amount can be saved to resource domestic needs and ensure investment in social service provision for Africa’s populations like education, job creation,  infrastructure and healthcare.   This can in-turn save the lives of millions threatened by infant and maternal mortality” Memory points out.

“We want to strategically discuss with other organizations on how to effectively address this problem, infuse innovative and politically feasible solutions and initiate processes where these recommendations will firmly be instilled within regional and global processes on curbing Illicit Financial Flows” She said.

According to the global Track it, Stop it, Grab it 2015 report on Taxation, Sab Saharan Africa is mostly affected by Illicit Financial Flows loosing 5.5% annually of its GDP. The report estimates that Africa loses 50-60 Billion U.S Dollars annually through IFFs, tax malpractices accounting for most of it, thus global efforts are urgently needed to curb IFFs.

For more information or to request an interview, please contact: FEMNET’s Head of Communication, Mildred Ngesa / +254 727 137 853 / communication@femnet.or.ke  /ngesamildred@gmail.com

Advocacy Associate, Catherine Nyambura, / +254720519689/ prog-associate@femnet.or.ke