African Women – Powering the African Dream

We invest in women's power to change the status quo!

Did you know today – 31st July – is Africa Women’s Day?

In 1962, African Women’s Day was declared by the Africa Union Assembly after the first Pan-African Women’s Conference that was held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

It’s a day to honour and celebrate the achievements of all African women and at the same time reflect on persistent barriers to the realization of gender equality and women’s empowerment especially backlashes to women’s gains, their rights and liberties.

Women in Africa are richly diverse but majority still exist in communities where their interests are often marginalized. As long as women do not engage in political processes, their interests will continue to be marginalized. Meaning, if we are going to make significant headway on economic, political and other fronts, women need to have a physical presence in legislatures and other political institutions.

How Can You Join in Advocating for and Shaping African Women’s Leadership?

On 10th – 12th November 2014, FEMNET together with Urgent Action Fund – Africa will be hosting the Women’s Political Leadership Convening in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire to advocate, communicate, mobilize and support women’s leadership capacities across the continent, with a special focus on women’s political participation in conflict and post-conflict related countries. This unique Convening will seek to capacitate women human rights defenders and leaders for more effective engagement in their spheres of power; inter alia in parliaments and community governance structures.

Today on 31st July, we launch the weekly twitter conversations and invite you to join @UAFAfrica & @FemnetProg every week on Monday as we advocate, organize, & mobilise for women’s political leadership in Africa. #AfricanWomenLead

To start us off, post on the hashtag #AfricanWomenLead and let us know how can you enhance the participation of women in government and politics?

PR: A Historic Win For Our Grantee Transgender Education and Advocacy (TEA)

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Press Release
24th July 2014
For Immediate Release

Transgender Group in Kenya wins Historic Court Battle

Nairobi, Kenya, 24 July, 2014. – In a historic court battle lasting three years, Urgent Action Fund–Africa (UAF–Africa) grantee, Transgender Education and Advocacy (TEA) has been handed a landmark victory in Kenya’s high court. After being denied the right to register as an NGO, the organisation working for transgender rights sued the Kenyan NGO Co-ordination board for discrimination and violation of their fundamental human rights. The group had previously been denied permission to register by the Kenyan NGO Co-ordination Board because three transgender women listed in the application – Audrey Mbugua, Maureen Muia and Annet Jennifer – did not have names that “reflected their gender.”

On 24th July 2014, Justice George Odunga stated that in failing to register TEA, the Kenyan NGO Co-ordination board had acted in a manner that is “unfair, unreasonable, unjustified and in breach of rules of natural justice.” He further found that Ms Mbugua, Ms Muia and Ms Jennifer had provided sufficient evidence that they had legally changed their names via deed poll. The Kenyan NGO Co-ordination board has been ordered to register the organisation immediately and provide compensation for legal costs incurred over the three year-long legal battle.

Audrey Mbugua welcomed the ruling, stating “This is a watershed moment for the transgender community in Africa and a show of the capabilities of the transgender community to extricate themselves from State sponsored discrimination and marginalization. Through the support of UAF-Africa, a team of dedicated legal practitioners and transgender people we won a very hard battle and the TEA will continue to exert more effort to see the implementation of the judgment. We pray that transgender people across Africa will be able to access more resources to build firm architectures to eradicate transphobia and discrimination. “

Despite todays win, across Africa, the battle to secure LGBTI rights continues. Transgender individuals in Kenya, and across much of the African continent face systematic and extreme legal and societal hardships making it difficult for them to, amongst other issues, have their names changed on legal documents including educational qualifications and seek medical support during and after their transition resulting in extreme poverty, ill-health and social exclusion. Although there is little research on the legal status, economic and social well-being of transgendered individuals on the African continent, TEAs win not only sets a precedent for other marginalised groups seeking recognition in Kenya, but sets a timely example for the entire region.

UAF-Africa is a consciously feminist and women’s human rights pan-African Fund. As the first rapid response Fund on the continent, UAF-Africa supports lesbian and transgendered women claiming their sexual citizenship by challenging discrimination and prejudice. Ndana Bofu-Tawamba, Executive Director of UAF-Africa stated, “This court ruling is not only instructive and precedent setting as to how the judiciary should approach such issues, it is a breath of fresh air and an absolutely clear message to countless marginalised communities that it takes courage and conviction to pursue what is rightfully within our latitude of human rights. Today, at Urgent Action Fund-Africa we celebrate with TEA on this landmark delivery of social justice and become even more strengthened to pursue human rights for ALL with URGENT vigor.”

For more information contact:

Fareen Walji
Programmes Manager
Urgent Action Fund-Africa
Tel: +255 756 560 610
Email: fareen@urgentactionfund-africa.or.ke

Tooni Akanni
Communications and Knowledge Management Officer
Urgent Action Fund–Africa
Tel: +234 705 176 7625
Email: tooni@urgentactionfund-africa.or.ke

Leading Libyan Female Politician Gunned Down

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By: Miriam Berger, BuzzFeed

Gunmen shot dead a leading Libyan female lawmaker in the restive city of Darna on Tuesday, as rival militias and government forces continued to battle for control of a major airport in the capital, Tripoli.

Unknown assailants gunned down Fareha al-Barqawi near a gas station, a Libyan official told the Associated Press. The official spoke only on condition of anonymity and did not provide further details, fearing for his own safety. Darna is a known stronghold of Islamic extremists.

Al-Barqawi was a prominent voice in a liberal-leaning bloc in Libya’s outgoing parliament. Her husband is also politically active, and was held as a political prisoner under former President Muammar Gaddafi.

Targeted killings and kidnappings have spiraled out of control since an armed rebellion backed by NATO deposed Gaddafi in 2012. Libya has since struggled to overcome political divides and pull together a unified police, military, and judiciary, while rival militias that helped to oust Gaddafi continue to battle the government for political and economic power. In recent months, rebels have repeatedly attacked Libya’s already troubled parliament, further weakening the country’s chances of progress.

Meanwhile, on Thursday fighting in Tripoli between rival militia’s vying for control of Libya’s main airport continued into a fifth day. Eye witnesses reported that several shells hit the main terminal, shattering windows and damaging the ceiling.

Libyan officials closed the airports in Tripoli and Misrata City on Monday, a day after the fighting began. Libya shut another airport in Benghazi two months ago, and the oil-producing country has now been left without a functioning major airport. On Wednesday, airport comptrollers in western Libya went on strike to protest the Tripoli shelling. Eight people have died so far in the fighting, according to the BBC.

Following Monday’s announcement, United Nations pulled its staff out of Libya, saying that the deteriorating security situation and closure of the Tripoli airport had made it impossible to fulfill its mission

Press Release: 2 Women’s human rights defenders physically assaulted during their arrest

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By: Nazra for Feminist Studies 

On 8 July 2014, woman human rights defender Ms. Nahid Sherif was permitted a visit by her family at the Qanatir’s Women’s Prison, during which she confirmed that she was physically assaulted by police officers during her arrest.

Woman human rights defender Nahid Sherif (known as Nahid Bebo) was arrested on 21 June 2014 along with six women human rights defenders and others for protesting peacefully against the Protest and Public Assembly Law. The other six women human rights defenders were Ms. Yara Sallam, Ms. Sanaa Seif, Ms. Hanan Mustafa Mohamed, Ms. Salwa Mihriz, Ms. Samar Ibrahim and Ms. Fikreya Mohamed (known as Rania El-Sheikh).

During the visit, Ms. Nahid Sherif confirmed that following the protest on 21 June 2014, she was assaulted by police officers during her arrest. After she was recognized by a police officer while she was standing on a side street in the district of Heliopolis on the same day, she was taken to a police check-point near the Ittihadia Presidential Palace, where she was kicked in the face by a police officer on her nose. The woman human rights defender sustained an acute nose bleed and currently has a horizontal scar on her mid-nose as a result of the assault. She was also slapped several times on her face both in the micro-bus transporting her to the Heliopolis Police Station, and during the prosecution’s investigations with her. The police officer had originally recognized her as she had been arrested in June 2012 after participating in a protest at the High Supreme Court during a sit-in by judges, which had been attacked by both civilians and police forces. Ms. Nahid Sherif consequently served one year and nine months after she was handed down a two year sentence.

Meanwhile, Ms. Nahid Sherif also confirmed that Ms. Fikreya Mohamed was also assaulted on 21 June 2014 on a public bus leaving the district of Heliopolis. Civilians chased down the bus to stop it, beat the driver and then beat Ms. Fikreya Mohamed and dragged her off the bus, handing her over to the police.

Nazra for Feminist Studies denounces the physical assaults that both Fikreya and Nahid have experienced, calls on the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation to identify perpetrators and hold them accountable, and reiterates its call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the women human rights defenders and the other detainees and drop all charges directed at them stemming from the legitimate exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

For further information on this case, please refer to Nazra for Feminist Studies’ urgent appeals and updates dated 22 June 2014 and 29 June 2014 respectively. 

 

11 Years of the Maputo Protocol: Women’s Progress and Challenges

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By: Faiza J. Mohamed, Equality Now Regional Africa / SOAWR Secretariat Director

Eleven years ago, African states made formidable progress by jointly adopting the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa, also known as the Maputo Protocol – regarded as one of the most progressive women’s and human rights instruments in the world. Its signing, ratification and implementation would have a momentous effect on the rights of women on a continent that has historically seen women bear the multiple brunt of poverty, exclusion and experience wars and civil unrests. In the journey towards its adoption, the courageous women and men of this continent did not see this as a reason to shy away but rather felt that this was precisely why such a legal instrument was needed – as a way to hold governments to account on the rights of women and girls.

They saw it as a bridge to protecting women during armed conflict, ensuring a right to the education of women and girls all over the continent, as a step towards the right to participate in making decisions that regard them politically and socially, social and welfare rights for all including widows, the aged, the physically handicapped and distressed, just to name a few. To achieve this progress meant that different African states had to work towards the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, do away with harmful practices such as female

genital mutilation and child marriage that were limiting the potential of women and girls in the name of tradition and give women full access to information and justice in matters regarding reproductive rights but also in marriage, separation, divorce and annulment of marriage among others – not as a secondary but as an equal stakeholder. These have been sensitive issues traditionally as well as religiously, and getting there was going to be an uphill task. 

Adopting a legal instrument is one thing, but ratifying or rather endorsing it officially is an additional process that required the same tireless women and men of the continent who believe in its potential to pick up their advocacy tools and convince different states to join in the campaign. After years of imperialism, concepts such as “rights” are at times misunderstood and either viewed with suspicion as “Western Concepts” – particularly by sensational African

politicians. In order to break ground, campaigners needed to recruit women’s organizations that understood the context – organizations that work with women facing the challenges aforementioned on access to justice, who see the challenges faced by those who go through harmful traditional practices and who interact with those denied the right to make decisions that pertain to their own bodies and lives. There are now 44 organizations across 24 African countries that have joined the campaign to make sure that their governments ratify the Maputo Protocol and then implement and domesticate (make part of their own laws) the Articles within the instrument. This homegrown approach has borne fruits over the past 11 years.

Yet challenges continue to require that tools are not stored away and each celebration is swiftly followed by a strategy to combat the next challenge. Take for instance the country of Sudan.

Despite being one of the original State Parties that contributed to the drafting of the Maputo Protocol and one of the first African countries to sign the Protocol in 2008, Sudan has stalled in ratifying the essential women’s rights instrument. As such to a certain extent, regionally, Sudan has remained unaccountable for the continuous and significant abuses being subjected onto the country’s women and girls. Although Sudan’s initial step in signing the Protocol was a positive reflection of the country’s commitment towards advancing and ensuring women’s rights and protection, efforts to domesticate and implement such measures have stalled significantly attributable to internal conflict, subsequent separation from South Sudan in 2011, and continued political conflict between the Army of Sudan and Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF). Any efforts to develop and advance human rights measures have slowed significantly. 

While CSOs, NGOs, and private actors continue work to ensure that such development continues, it is ultimately the responsibility of the State to ratify and implement such measures. Without laws and means of accountability in place to ensure their protection and equality, women on the continent remain particularly vulnerable to grave abuses. Ratifying and incorporating the Protocol into domestic laws is a step towards making sure that issues disproportionately affecting women would be addressed and at the same time meet international standards of fundamental human rights. Certain countries have exhibited commendable efforts in measures to safeguard and advance the rights of women and girls. Algeria, Kenya, Senegal and Zimbabwe are among thirteen countries who have reformed their laws over the past ten years in a bid to address gender discrimination, particularly those that concern passing on nationality to their spouses and children. Twenty out of twenty-nine countries that traditionally practiced FGM have specific laws against the procedure across the continent. It is through an African led coalition that the

United Nation declared a ban on the practice of FGM in 2012 (Resolution 67/146), giving a much-needed boost to the campaign globally. Governments are adopting maternal healthcare practices across the continent with maternal mortality declining by nearly half since 1990 – but the aim is to achieve universal healthcare for all by 2015 (Millennium Development Goals).

Enrolment of girls has seen considerable increment with gender gaps almost firmly closed in all countries, and family planning is becoming a reality for women in rural and urban areas. Women’s representation and participation in the labour market and in politics is a reality in countries such as Rwanda with healthy quotas of gender parity in others that promises sustainable change in coming years.

 Only four countries – Botswana, Egypt, Eritrea and Tunisia have neither signed nor ratified the instrument. Yet even those who have signed and ratified are a work in progress in as far as implementation of the rights enshrined within the Protocol is concerned. Harmful traditional practices such as FGM in countries such Mali, Liberia and The Gambia continue, and governments here have not come out strongly by establishing structures and measures to protect women and girls by introducing a law. Nigeria’s dire security situation has been exposed in the recent past where abductions of girls by the terrorist group Boko Haram demonstrated that political battles continue to be fought over the bodies of women. Civil unrest in Libya has undone years of progress and recently, where activists such as recently slain Salwa Bughaighis  are killed in broad daylight. The Democratic Republic of Congo bears the shameful title of the world’s rape capital, with rape being used as a warfare tool, in a country that abounds in wealth ranging from fertile soils to numerous minerals that benefits only a few, while the violence in Central African Republic has flourished unabated.

 Within their capacities, SOAWR coalition organization and others are working to ensure that the Protocol remains on the agenda of policy makers and to urge all African leaders to safeguard the rights of women through its ratification and implementation. These organizations give visibility to both progress as well as violations of the rights enshrined therein. There are organizations working within the law systems to bring violations of rights to book, particularly  for women and girls with little or no access to justice. Others carry out research in a bid to

boost documentation of the dynamics that are taking place in different countries from the eyes of those who experience it on a day to day. By networking with each other, they have brought the articles of the Protocol to life and both directly and indirectly are shaping policies that positively impact not only on the lives of women, but on their countries. Even with States where governments continue to show reluctance to ratify and implement the articles of the Maputo Protocol, the wave of progress means that they are forced to recognize the changes taking place in the region. This has sometimes lead to an unpleasant backlash of repression, arrests and closure of organizations, particularly in the field of human rights. Recent incidences

include the arrest of human’s rights defenders in Egypt and the closure of Salmmah’s Recource Centre in Sudan. 2015 will be a year of reckoning as the deadline for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals expires, and examination of each country will reveal varying disparities. It will also see the African Union dedicate the AU’s summit theme to be “the Year of Women’s

Empowerment and Development Towards African’s Agenda 2063”. These are fantastic opportunities that cannot be missed. It will be an opportune time for those who believe in the rights of the girls and women of Africa to demonstrate that an instrument that works hard for its constituents already exists and all we need to do is put it to work to see progress, including the MDGs, become no longer a dream, but a reality.

For more information on the states that have signed, ratified and not-ratified the Protocol, please see: http://www.au.int/en/sites/default/files/Rights%20of%20Women.pdf

Disability Rights Fund Releases Second 2014 Request for Proposals

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July 10, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE              

Contact: Diana Samarasan, Founding Executive Director

Telephone: +1-617-261-4593

Email: dsamarasan@disabilityrightsfund.org

 

BOSTON, MA – The Disability Rights Fund (DRF) – a grantmaking collaborative between donors and the global disability community which supports the human rights of persons with disabilities – today announced its second 2014 grants round, “Our Voices, Our Rights, Our Future.” Grantmaking in this round will be targeted to disabled persons’ organizations (DPOs) in Bangladesh, 14 Pacific Island countries, Rwanda, Uganda, and Peru. The deadline for proposals is August 21, 2014.

The broad objective of the Fund is to empower DPOs in the developing world to participate in ratification, implementation and monitoring of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD).

In the second round of 2014 grantmaking, applicant organizations from Rwanda and 14 Pacific Island Countries (Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu) may apply for grants through an open Request for Proposals process. Organizations from Bangladesh, Peru and Uganda may apply by invitation only.

Organizations may apply as:

a) Single organizations or partnerships for one-year Small Grants;

b) State (in federal systems), regional, or district-level DPO-led coalitions for up to two-year Mid-Level Coalition Grants; and/or

c) National DPO-led coalitions for up to two-year National Coalition Grants.

Small grants will range from USD 5,000 to 20,000 and will support efforts to increase DPO participation in decision-making and to implement projects on specific articles of the CPRD.  Mid-level Coalition grants will range between USD 30,000 – 40,000 per year (60,000 – 80,000 over two years) and will support passage of specific legislation or policy to accord with the CRPD at state, provincial, regional or district levels, and achievement of governmental budgetary measures at these levels to implement the CRPD.  National Coalition grants will range from USD 30,000 to 50,000 per year (60,000 – 100,000 over two years) and will support advocacy toward ratification of the CRPD/Optional Protocol, passage of specific national legislation to accord with the CRPD, the production of or follow up to civil society reports to UN human rights monitoring mechanisms (including the CRPD Committee, other treaty bodies, and the Human Rights Council), and advocacy to national or international agencies responsible for development planning to ensure that the CRPD is taken into consideration in strategy and goal development & assessment.

 Interested organizations are urged to review the full eligibility criteria and application details posted at the Fund’s website, http://www.disabilityrightsfund.org/grantmaking.  Any questions on the proposal process should be directed to info@disabilityrightsfund.org.

Since 2008, with its sister fund, the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund – which supports advocacy for ratification and legislative change in DRF’s target countries – nearly $13 million has been granted to organizations in 28 countries (Bangladesh, Cook Islands, Ecuador, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Ghana, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Kiribati, Lebanon, Malawi, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Namibia, Nauru, Nicaragua, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Rwanda, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, and Vanuatu). 

Fund supporters include: the American Jewish World Service, the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Leir Charitable Foundations, the Foundation to Promote Open Society, part of the Open Society Foundations, The Sigrid Rausing Trust, and UK Aid.

AU declares 2015 Year of Women’s Empowerment

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By: Oxfam International, Liaison Office with the African Union

The 23rd Ordinary Session of the Summit of the African Union concluded  in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea on 27 June 2014. The summit’s Assembly, comprising Heads of State and Government of the African Union, was held from 26-27 June 2014 under the theme: “ 2014 Year of Agriculture and Food Security”.

 The Heads of State and Government adopted a number of key decisions with a view to enhancing the socio-economic and political development of the continent, notably in the areas of education, health, agriculture, trade, women and youth development.

 The Assembly agreed to hold its 24th Ordinary Session at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 30-31 January 2015 under the theme: “Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”.

 The Assembly received an update report on the development of Agenda 2063: the 50 year vision for Africa. The popular version of Agenda 2063; the Africa we Want was tabled, and the Assembly instructed the Commission and the NEPAD Agency, together with the UNECA, the African Development Bank to popularise it widely and solicit further inputs from the African citizenry.

 

Women In Political Leadership Concept Paper

We invest in women's power to change the status quo!

Urgent Action Fund-Africa (UAF-Africa) and The African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) are organising a convening on Women in Political Leadership. How is it that the African continent seems to be talking against inequality and injustice at the same time that the consensus about women’s rights is cracking- resulting in a steady rollback of our rights? How is it that our triumphalism is littered with a wave of repressive legislation in different African countries that is giving rise to increased violence for women human rights defenders who are being targeted for what they do and who they are? How can we as African women transform the power of our activism into sustained change for real justice, inclusive leadership and equality? This concept note outlines the background and urgency of the proposed convening, including the meeting methodology. Download attachment here:  English version &  French version

 

PR: 7 WHRDs and others from the Ittihadia Presidential Palace Case Attend the First Court Session

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Published by: Nazra for Feminist Studies- 29 June 2014 

On June 29, 2014, the first session of the case of the 7 women human rights defenders was conducted, among others, known as the Ittihadia Presidential Palace Case, and the judge adjourned the session by postponing it until September 13, 2014. The session was moved this morning from the Heliopolis Misdemeanor Court to the Police Institute near Tora Prison. The judge presiding over the case left the courtroom without informing the lawyers of his decision, and the lawyers were only able to confirm the judge’s decision 3 hours later, which they had initially obtained from the security staff at court. 

The seven women human rights defenders are Yara Sallam, Sanaa Seif, Hanan Mustafa Mohamed, Salwa Mihriz, Samar Ibrahim, Nahid Sherif (known as Nahid Bebo) and Fikreya Mohamed (known as Rania El-Sheikh). The seven aforementioned women human rights defenders were arrested on 21 June 2014 along with others for protesting peacefully against the Protest and Public Assembly Law.

Yara Sallam and Sanaa Seif are both prominent women human rights defender. Yara Sallam is a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and she was awarded the North Africa Shield 2013 for her work in Egypt with Nazra for Feminist Studies. Amongst the other women human rights defenders arrested are Fikreya Mohamed and Salwa Mihriz who are both activists from the Mahalla (Gharbia governorate). Salwa Mihriz works specifically on the rights of the wounded and the wikithawra documentation initiative.

The charges that have been directed at the women human rights defenders along with the other persons arrested have been updated as follows: (1) Participating in an unauthorized demonstration whose aim was to stop the implementation of the law and influence the effectiveness of the public authorities during the carrying out of their work. The possession of safeguards and tools that could cause death if they had been used as weapons; (2) Organizing a demonstration without prior notice as stipulated by the law and the participation in a demonstration that breached and threatened public security and the interests of citizens and disrupted transportation and transgressed public and private property; (3) The use of force and violence to terrorize and intimidate citizens; (4) The deliberate destruction of property owned by the aggrieved party as proven through investigations.

Nazra for Feminist Studies reiterates its call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the women human rights defenders and the other detainees and drop all charges directed at them stemming from the legitimate exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Moreover, the judge’s exit of the courtroom without informing the lawyers of his decision today is a breach to the detainees’ right to a transparent and just trial.

For further information on this case, please refer to Nazra for Feminist Studies’ urgent appeal on the case dated 22 June 2014.

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