A Glance at FEMNET in 2016: Our Engagements, Moments & Contributions

FEMNET reflects on some strategic moments, processes and spaces in 2016 that we were part of influencing and contributing to, including:-
• The African Union Summits whose themes were Year of Human Rights with specific focus on Women’s Rights
• The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs)
• The CSW60 on Women’s Empowerment and its Link to Sustainable Development
• 13th AWID Forum on Feminist Futures: Building Collective Power for Rights & Justice
• Macroeconomic and Development Debates and Policies including TICAD-6, UNCTAD-14 and HLM-2 processes

and many more…

Click to download and read the FEMNET Review in 2016

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CSO Nairobi Declaration on the Nairobi HLM2

We, the Participants at the Pan African CSO conference on  “CSO Preparatory meeting towards the second high level meeting  for Nairobi under the theme of ‘Fast tracking SDGs Implementation through Effective Development Co-operation’ held in Nairobi, Kenya on 24th – 25th October 2016, have come together as African Civil Society Organizations, including women’s organizations, labour unions, faith based groups, and networks, in the spirit of solidarity and partnership and as key actors in the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation  from 35 African countries with over 500 million citizens of Africa to consolidate our position in our preparation to the second High Level Meeting .

Reaffirming that if the citizens of Africa are to see transformational and sustainable change in their quality of life in the Sustainable Development Goals context, the means of implementation and particularly the global partnership for effective development goals (GPEDC) must place gender equality, youth and women’s empowerment, as well as children at the centre of its focus in effective development co-operation.

Click to Download and Read the CSOs Nairobi Declaration towards HLM2


#SRHRDialogues on how to facilitate and advocate for #RightToHealth with a special focus on access to Contraception for Young Women Living with HIV

Insights from Juliana Odindo on #Voices

 Q1. What barriers do young women living with HIV face in accessing Contraception?

Young women living with HIV don’t have many contraceptive options. This is due to the fact that they are forced to reduce the pill burden  given that some of the Anti-retrovirals interact with some of the contraceptives. There are also challenges with service providers giving incorrect and coercive information (in some cases the women are illiterate, in some cases the language used is confusing or presents a different meaning to the woman i.e. if a nurse says “your tubes will be tied” the woman accepts the option knowing and assuming that her tubes can be untied at some point) . Young women especially do not have the confidence to probe for more information and in some instances there is just no time to ask more questions. The barriers are further amplified by the lack of variety in contraceptive options in  which case facilities offer only what they have. This creates a situation where there is no consistency in local and small facilities where most young women access contraceptives and pose a big challenge for those not on long term methods.

 Q2. What impact does this have on their sexual and reproductive health?

Young women living with HIV sometimes lose faith in service provision and the systems failure that they are forced to deal and contend with. This means that access for them is precarious which deprives young women living with HIV their voices, agency and control over their reproductive destinies and rights. This spirals into young women living with HIV ending up with children beyond their economic means, further amplifies the risk of infection for their children if not infected already including preventable infant mortality. In overall this has a negative effect on the health and well being of young women living including their sexual and reproductive health

Q3. What Policy and programs can address the barriers

 We need to avail resources for research  so that all the methods and options that are showing promising results should be finalized and released to into the market keeping to enable diversified access for young women living with HIV. This will enable us embody the leave no one behind principle as per 2030 agenda for sustainable development.  Available SRHR programs have documented challenges and recommendations that should be taken into account. We should leverage on the lessons learnt to design responsive, inclusive, integrated and comprehensive programs for enabling access to contraception for young women living with HIV.  Active participation of beneficiaries( in this case young women living with HIV)  is key and central as most successful programs have documented and emphasised on the need for meaningful engagement and participation.  Integration is  key to success, if the health system can be structured  in such a way that service providers have access to patients history without disjointment, this would facilitate access to holistic and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services for young women living with HIV including better data management.

Q4. As a young woman leader, what has worked in shaping the leadership and meaningful engagement of young women in HIV response. Why?

 Mentorship has worked, this is because experience matters but with recognition that it should be directed and shaped to fit the lived realities and experiences of young women living with HIV. When shaping the leadership amongst young women living with HIV impact is demonstrated and linkages between contextual grassroots work and national, regional and global policy fostered. The overall funding decline for gender equality and women’s empowerment has affected the work of women rights organizations who interface with young living with HIV in communities. We therefore need access to  opportunities availed to enable young women living with HIV learn from the best leaders and funding that  recognizes social and technological innovation that facilitates young women living with HIV access to SRHR including family planning. This should extend to funding their contribution planning, policy and programming

 Q5. Moving forward Kindly outline what young women need and what is the role of various actors in making this happen?

In my opinion meaningful involvement of young women is not there yet as we still have very few young women in important spaces where decisions regarding our lives are made. Whenever efforts  made for us to be present, the end results has proven that it was tokenistic since in most case, nothing about your contribution features anywhere in the final policy documents. The few young women who are skilled and end up in the leadership positions are overwhelmed to the extent that they lose touch with the reality on the ground or are forced to transition from grassroots activism to policy advocacy at some point. Our communities don’t benefit from our representation; there should be a monitored bottom up approach and vice versa channels. Strengthen communication is required and also access to more opportunities for young women living with HIV to influence processes.

 Q6.What is your parting shot?

 Even among young women living with HIV there is diversity that no one magic bullet can address. This is how our contraception needs presents as well, especially interfaced with the special needs that comes with various ART regimens.  If I were in a position to do anything, I would look into the gaps and challenges that face the current systems and address them before I invest on any new method. Sometimes we don’t need new we just need improvements of the current.


 Read more about Juliana Odindo’s work and personal story  published on the International Aids Society  website where Juliana is a member -Growing up HIV; From Diagnosis To Activism


We Must Recognize the Care Economy and Redistribute Care Work This is #TheAfricaWeWant!

Research shows that women do over 75 per cent of all unpaid care work, with that proportion rising to even higher levels in some countries.[1] The socially defined norms entrenched in patriarchy assign this type of caring work as ‘women’s work’.

Unpaid care work takes place both in the household and in the wider community; it includes domestic work such as cooking and food preparation, cleaning, washing clothes, water and fuel collection, and direct care of people including children, older persons, persons with disabilities and able-bodied adults.

The Executive Director for the African Women’s Development & Communications Network (FEMNET) Dinah Musindarwezo while attending  the UN-Women High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment held in New York during the 71 UN General Assembly, September, 2016, made a resounding presentation highlighting the reality of the gaps in unpaid care work. The panel consisting of representatives of government, business, and civil society was chaired by the outgoing UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. It explored the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to improve economic outcomes for women, and promote women’s leadership in driving sustainable, inclusive, gender-responsive and environmentally sensitive economic development.

Contributing her perspectives to the released Report of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, Ms Dinah Musindarwezo, joined other women’s rights advocates in calling for the recognition and valuing of all unpaid care work disproportionately done by women and girls especially those that are underprivileged and most marginalized.

This ‘call-to-action’ report sheds light on the centrality of unpaid work and care, which is one of the most pervasive and significant barriers to women’s economic empowerment noting that “the gender differences both in unpaid work and in all types of paid work are large and persistent, reflecting constraints on women’s economic opportunities and outcomes”.

Consisting for the most part of cleaning, cooking, and caring for children, the elderly or the sick, this work is carried out mainly by girls and women. Emphasizing the importance of care work, Dinah Musindarwezo argued that this work sustains countries’ economies as it maintains the current work force and nurtures the future work force. She added that this work is neither recognized nor given any value and as a result, it restricts women’s ability to earn income from paid work, channels women into low paid work, undermines girls’ education and thus their future earning potential, diminishes women’s health as they cannot enjoy leisure time and prevents women from participating fully in politics and decision making.

Ms Dinah Musindarwezo’s intervention at this High level event presented both the consequences and possible solutions[2] towards addressing unpaid care work as follows:-

The considerable time and opportunity-costs involved in unpaid care work have the following consequences on the care-givers majority of whom are women:-

  • restrict women’s ability to earn income from paid work,
  • channels women into low-paid work with poor conditions,
  • undermines girls and women’s education and thus their future earning potential,
  • diminishes women’s health,
  • reduces the time available for social activity and to have leisure time
  • prevents their full and meaningful participation in politics and economic decision-making.

 To rectify this:-

  1. Women and men should share unpaid care work more evenly.
  2. Governments should invest in high-quality public services essential to free up women’s time while also ensuring that quality care services are universally available.
  3. Carers should be actively included in decisions around care provision.
  4. Employers should be obliged by law to provide paid maternity and parental leave and flexible work proportionate with caring responsibilities.[3]
  5. Recognise, measure and value the amount of unpaid care work that is carried out by women. Time-use surveys have proved a valuable tool; donors and governments should look to fund such surveys in every country to count the full extent of unpaid care work

Dr. Mary Otieno, a lecturer and supervisor of Educational Planning and Policy Studies at the Kenyatta University and a member of FEMNET shares her experiences in a compelling opinion piece, “growing up as a ‘victim’ of unpaid care”. She was fortunate to escape its worst consequences and now uses her influence as an educator to speak against its negative effects on girls´ schooling.

To address this issue of unpaid care work and achieve wider change in African society, a comprehensive approach is needed. First is the recognition of the vast amount of unpaid care work being performed today and its central role in society, next is the reduction in the time and drudgery involved in providing care and finally, is the redistribution of responsibility for this care from households to the state through the provision of public services.

The inequalities of unpaid care work may be a new concept to internalize for many societies but a key fact is that it continues to be alive within patriarchal communities and thus must be addressed. Governments and policy makers must make this a priority if they truly care about bridging the existing inequality gender gaps.



[1] ODI (2016)  Women’s work: Mothers, children and the global childcare crisis at http://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/odi-assets/publications-opinion-files/10333.pdf 1.5.16

[2]Woodroffe, Jessica and Capraro, Chiara. (May 2016) Breaking down the barriers: macroeconomic policies that promote women’s economic empowerment in the Gender & Development Network (GADN) Briefing  – accessible online  http://femnet.co/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Breaking-down-the-barriers-macroeconomic-policies-that-promote-WEE-1.pdf

[3] Woodroffe, Jessica and Donald, Kate. (July 2014) Unpaid Care Work in the Gender & Development Network (GADN) Briefings –  accessible online https://gad-network.squarespace.com/s/GADN-Unpaid-Care-briefing.pdf


Today 28th September we invite you to #StepIntoOurShoes and let’s #BreakTheStereotype – #LetsTalkAbortion and end #AbortionStigma

The Young Women’s Leadership Institute (YWLI) a member of FEMNET from Kenya is a feminist center of excellence for young women’s leadership that was founded in 1999 as a platform to facilitate young women’s engagement and integration into the women’s movement in Kenya and in national governance and development processes. As a young women led organization, YWLI main area of focus is delivering young women’s leadership programs with a feminist lens. The programs focus on advancing women’s agenda on reproductive health, girls’ education and economic empowerment among adolescent girls and young women from diverse backgrounds.

FEMNET spoke to YWLI’s Programme Officer, Felister Gitonga on YWLI’s advocacy around safe abortion in Kenya. Below is an excerpt of the conversation:-

  •  Why is it critical to commemorate September 28th

It is critical because we need an honest conversation about safe and legal abortion. A lot of women and girls experience stigma and are shamed for having an abortion.  September 28th is critical for us to open the conversation to communities and build a culture of tolerance, empathy, and support for access to basic health care in our society and create an enabling cultural environment for the policy and legal work of the abortion rights movement.

  • How has YWLI engaged in safe abortion advocacy and what has been the progress from that?

The Young Women’s Leadership Institute has worked with other like-minded organizations to advance abortion rights in Kenya and beyond. We are part of networks such as WAK (Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights Alliance Kenya) where we have partnered with other grassroots organizations to take the conversation of safe and legal abortion to the community by training and educating community members. We have also joined other organizations in the call for the release of standards and guidelines to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity which is an advocacy process that is still ongoing.

  • In your opinion and informed by the Kenyan context what is the most urgent call for action

We urgently need the government to release the standards and guidelines to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity. Kenyan Government has the opportunity to save the lives women and girls by reinstating this framework that guides service providers on measures that address all causes of maternal mortality including unsafe abortion.

  • How has YWLI shown solidarity to women & girls across the world and what support do you call upon from partners in ensuring that safe abortion advocacy centrally focuses on women’s rights?

As a feminist organization that works with adolescent girls and young women from diverse backgrounds, YWLI empowers young women through leadership trainings to equip them with an understanding of their rights and ability to assertively negotiate for them. My key asks to partners is to remain firm and steadfast in the fight for safe and legal abortion even as that space threatens to shrink.

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) set the pace in January this year by launching the Decriminalization of Abortion in Africa campaign. This continental campaign seeks to bring attention to unsafe abortion which poses a serious threat to women’s and girl’s rights to sexual and reproductive health.

During the launch, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa, Commissioner Lucy Asuagbor reiterated,

   “Laws that criminalize abortion presume that the threat of arrest or imprisonment will prevent women and girls from having abortions. This means the state has punitive power over women’s reproductive autonomy. When these laws are enforced, women’s rights are denied. As a consequence, women and girls are punished for making reproductive decisions in the interest of their own health and wellbeing. However the evidence that exists shows that restrictive laws do not prevent women from seeking abortions: they only make them unsafe.”

Globally, a group of United Nations human rights experts have recently called on UN Member States across the world to repeal restrictive abortion laws and policies, and all punitive measures and discriminatory barriers to access safe reproductive health services.

“We urge States to repeal restrictive laws and policies in relation to abortion, which do not meet the international human rights law requirements and that have discriminatory and public health impacts, and to eliminate all punitive measures and discriminatory barriers to access safe reproductive health services. These laws and policies violate women’s human right to health and negate their autonomy in decision-making about their own bodies.”

#StepIntoOurShoes      #BreakTheStereotype       #LetsTalkAbortion     #AbortionStigma