Going Back to the Drawing Board – Linking Pan Africanism to Beijing +20

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Reflecting on my participation at the 8th Pan African Congress held a month ago in Accra, Ghana, it was so clear that the role of women in the Pan African agenda was a non negotiable and it was high time women began to take their place in the struggle for justice in Africa and beyond.

The timing of the Pan African Congress was appropriate taking into account of the fact that many women’s rights activists also converged in New York, during the same month to review progress made in implementing the Beijing Platform for Action since 1995, known as Beijing+20 under the banner of the United Nations CSW (Commission on the Status of Women). The outcome of the Beijing+20 processes showed that a number of gains that had been made by many women’s rights NGOs and social movements were being reversed, as a result of their non inclusion in the negotiation process within the CSW space. Given that scenario, so many questions come into my mind–Where did we go wrong as African women? Did we do our homework right? What should be the next strategy?

I am arguing my case because 2015 is a critical year, where the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals), will be reviewed since they were formulated in 2000, with the aim of formulating a new framework, sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015. Furthermore, within the African Union (AU) level, 2015 is the Year of the Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063. In addition, the AU blue print Agenda 2063 clearly outlines Africa’s vision for the next 50 years, and clearly states the role that women should play in making that vision a reality. At the same time, within the Southern Africa context, heads of state will be reviewing progress made since 2005 when they signed to the SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) Declaration on Gender and Development which was later elevated to the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development in 2008 doing the SADC Heads of State Summit in South Africa.

This becomes a great opportunity for African women to go to the drawing board, as a collective force, assess the key demands and ensure that the new framework embraces the lived realities of African women and promotes the spirit of Pan Africanism, taking into account of current challenges affecting the continent. Today marks 1 year since more than 100 girls were abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria and not much action has taken place. A week ago about 147 students from Garissa University, Kenya, were killed by Al Shabab. In South Africa, as I am writing this blog, many foreign African nationals are being killed by fellow South Africans, without action being taken by the law enforcement agencies. The list is endless, and at the end of the day, women and girls bear the brunt of all these atrocities.

Looking forward, feminists and gender justice activists in the continent and beyond who believe in the cause for women’s rights and Pan Africanism, need to converge, have a common purpose and agree on a plan of action towards ending injustice across the continent, especially on ending violence against women and girls. Women in public service, parliament, local government, faith based organizations, academia, creative industry and civil society as a whole have a duty to preserve the lives of women and children on the continent and ensure resources for implementing plans of action are availed. Given the fact that the UN FfD Third International Conference on Financing for Development will take place in July in Addis Ababa, voices of African women and girls should be loud and clear, demanding for transparency and accountability towards mobilization of resources at the local level, and ensuring that illicit financial flows are eradicated by governments and private sector especially the multinational companies!

There is need for every gender activist to take advantage of the processes taking place at national, regional and global levels. Some of these include;
World Economic Forum on Africa – June 2015, Cape Town.
African Union Summit – June/July, Johannesburg.
SADC Heads of State Summit – August, Gaborone.
UN Summit on Post 2015 – September, New York.

With all of these upcoming convenings, women’s rights activists have a lot of work to ensure that the gender agenda remains a key priority in the above processes. We owe this to our children and future generations to put things in the right context, to reclaim our dignity as African women and have the courage to speak out when human rights abuses take place, even in our own backyard! Only then can we become truly free and be able to stand tall in the midst of all challenges that life will throw at us!

By Tafadzwa Muropa, a gender activist and political economist affiliated to FEMNET, Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) and Federation of African Women Media in Zimbabwe. She is engaged in NGO consultancy work and has over 10 years working experience in the NGO sector in Southern Africa. Connect with her at tafadzwa.muropa@gmail.com or @TafadzwaM37.

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About FEMNET

FEMNET (The African Women's Development and Communication Network) is a pan African, feminist organisation working to advance the rights of women and girls in Africa. FEMNET has carved a niche in Informing and mobilizing African women in order for them to participate and influence policies and processes that affect their lives. FEMNET has hundreds of members in over 40 countries in Africa as well as in the diaspora. It has played a critical role in building the women's movement in Africa since inception in 1988.

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