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Pan-African Feminists’ retreat calls more efforts to fight for women’s rights

Wednesday 13 October 2021
    Yasomwe na

Mutesi scovia

The Pan-African Feminists Retreat that took place from October 12 to October 13 has called for more coordinated efforts to fight for women’s and girls’ rights by combating gender-based violence.

The retreat held every two years is part of the ‘programing conference’, led by the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET).

Due to COVID-19 pandemic which has laid bare structural inequalities embedded in African societies, the 2021 Pan-African Feminists Retreat was conducted in a hybrid format, mostly virtual with limited in-person convenings in Nairobi and watch parties across the continent.

African feminists, gender and women’s rights activists in all their diversities have connected, reflected, and rekindled their resolve to advance women’s and girls’ rights especially now in light of the pandemic so that gender justice is foundational to a just and inclusive recovery.

The retreat also called for women with disabilities’ rights calling for discerning different disabilities they have.

Memory Zonde-Kachambwa, The Executive Director of African Women’s Development and Communication Network (known as FEMNET) said that Pan-African Feminists’ retreat has brought together women’s movements in Africa and the network’s members to critically look at key focus areas that are for women’s rights in Africa.

The retreat, she said, prioritizes and helps to share some of the issues affecting women and girls and look at together what to do.

“We do this every two years but last year due to Covid-19, we postponed it to this year,” she said, adding that Covid-19 has had an impact on feminists’ organizations, communities and families.

“We need to come together as a retreat to reflect and to rethink what are the strategies , the stories of resilience of African women because most of the time we are not telling our stories, we are not recording how we are overcoming but also what are some of the gaps.

Giving a quick example we have women with disabilities who have to share their experiences during Covid, in terms of messages and how messages for example are not friendly to the visually impaired persons,” she noted.

Zonde-Kachambwa said that when women come together and share experiences, they discuss issues that are affecting them and seek solutions.

“When we talk about sexual reproductive health, one of the key issues is that it has a link with gender based violence. Persistent gender based violence has been consistent. We have heard a lot of young girls, teenagers impregnated during the pandemic,” she said.

She added that there are a lot of bad cultural practices including child forced marriages and inequalities.

“We have to end child marriage,” she said adding community and government as well as gender ministries have to take responsibility.

Rwanda lauded for its step

Zonde-Kachambwa lauded Rwanda over having consistently been on top of gender index and women in leadership.

“Women are in leadership in parliament but also in strategic systems such as the justice system, governance system. This is really commendable. I admire it because a lot is being done in Rwanda because we have transformative leaders who are women,” she noted.

She reiterated that women must lead, adding that society had only privileged men.

Diana Umurungi, who spoke on behalf of Rwanda Women’s network, talked about sexual reproductive health in the past four years.

She said that there has been a lot of change in terms of issues that are being addressed.

“Women have the ability to express themselves as it is a human rights issue. Sexual reproductive health issue is something that is being discussed within dialogues, social media and periodically we have dialogues which brings together stakeholders to discuss sexual reproductive health issues,” she said.

This is especially in the areas of sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, violence and other discriminations are discussed. In this context within four years we have seen a lot of change that issues are being addressed. For instance we see the support from donors because they understood these issues and gaps, she noted.

“We are looking forward to a better understanding and supportive environment to tackle sexual reproductive health issues,” she said raising however that there is still issue of discrimination.

Sexual issues are not discussed openly. With initiatives and structures in place we see that women are speaking out, Umurungi added.


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