Category Archives: CSW (Committee on the Status of Women)

Faiza on SOAWR & the #MaputoProtocol


As SOAWR, the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition celebrates 10 years of its existence and its efforts to continuously breathe life into
the Maputo Protocol, one of the most progressive instruments on women’s rights globally, we caught up with one of the founders; Faiza Mohamed, Nairobi Director of Equality Now, where the Secretariat of the SOAWR Coalition lies.

1.  Why SOAWR? Why was it necessary at that point and has it lived up to its objectives?

The collective organizing and lobbying of African women to ensure adoption of a stronger Protocol inspired us that we should continue to make it a reality for women and that it will not be reduced to being powerless and on paper only. So, SOAWR was born in Sept 2004 to advocate for ratification and speedy entry into force of the Protocol so it becomes binding on state parties, to popularized throughout the continent and to push for its implementation. This means we wanted state parties to take actions to ensure the rights provided therein are enjoyed by women.It is work in progress but I believe we have covered great ground. Protocol is widely known in the majority of countries in African Union, 36 countries are state parties and we know more are going to join this list soon, in several countries lawyers are now using the Protocol in court to get justice for women whose rights were violated, Several countries have also adopted multisectoral approach to ensure all sectors of government are working together in fulfilling their obligations under the Protocol, and so on…

2. 10 years down the line, what have been some of the milestones? Your personal favorite moments?

When on 25th October 2005 Togo (the 15th member state to do so) deposited its instrument of ratification and paved the way for its entry into force on 25th November 2005.
When we issued score cards and the Delegation of Senegal made a statement at the summit claiming they should be given a green card as they ratified the Protocol. The African Union was not aware since Senegal had not deposited. Amazingly as the delegation promised the President brought their instrument of ratification to that summit (Jan 2005). This further influenced more countries to deposit their instruments of ratification which is why by October 2005 we had the required 15 ratifications for the Protocol to enter into force.

3. Moving forward, what do you envision, for the coalition and the realization of the Protocol?

The coalition has really done a lot and we should all be proud of our achievements to-date. However, we can’t rest until we reach a point where women are enjoying their rights to the fullest. The continent is big but with our collective energy we can move mountains. The coalition’s vision is still relevant and we have a lot of lessons to build on and a great deal of opportunities to take advantage of. This is the year of African women’s empowerment. That itself is a wonderful opportunity!



On Beijing+20 – How we must move forward


By Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda

November is a month of collective local and global reflection about women’s rights, empowerment and equality as we review the Beijing Commitment. I share with you my thoughts and some of the issues that have been sitting in my belly as I reflect on the journey from 1995 to the present.

Beijing agenda was a feminist agenda. It was about discourse on power and patriarchy; resources and opportunities for women; our knowledge and innovations. It was about women shaping communities, defining peace and development agenda. It was about  women as citizens, shareholders and stakeholders. I was young and breastfeeding; I felt that I can change the world. I knew that government and others have to play their role and be accountable, but essentially I believed in my own agency and that of my sisters, I found my voice, validated my lived experiences and did shake of a number of labels that confined and restricted my identity and my potential. I hope that in Addis, we will rise beyond the technocratic arguments, of crossing the t’s and REALLY reclaim our African feminist voice…beyond gender mainstreaming.

The Beijing Platform for action was about WOMEN! Gender equality was a subset and an ideal to work towards; as we sort to ensure that WOMEN and girls have rights and dignity. I often worry, especially these days when the Beijing review is reduced to a review on extent towards achieving “gender equality”. I think the goal post was about women having opportunities, choices and possibilities in life, and as we work towards these, we will be reducing the gender inequality gap. I just hope that Africa will reclaim the agenda and reframe the conversation so that at the centre is the WOMAN! I often find ourselves losing the focus on women and girls, in all our diversity in the pursuit of the elusive yet important equality ideal.

I do anticipate that in the Civil Society meetings, and in even the government meetings, there will be a lamentation about MEN. Someone will definitely ask “Where are the men?”.This for me is often not the right question. I assume that those men who understand, are supportive and convinced of the agenda will be in the room with us. I just find the whole discussion a distraction from the real focus which should be on male RESPONSIBILITY and ACCOUNTABILITY. Men are there always there, every day and in everything, in our families and our lives. Men are the majority in parliaments, making policies and approving budget; they are in board rooms, defining resources allocation and employment options; they head key sectors services such as education, agriculture and health, making far reaching daily decisions on access to services; men led in media organisation defining public opinion and shaping the discourse; and lead in the faith and cultural institutions driving the norms and the values of society. Men are involved, they simply need to be responsive to women’s rights in their daily lives.  It is in these spaces that we expect them to deliver for women’s rights and gender equality, in their everyday space of decision making.

My sisters, we must go beyond the traditional thinking, that women’s issues are only social and micro! Yes, the social sectors are fundamental, as it is the space within which we reproduce society. However, we should step up and make the women’s agenda in Africa MACRO and MACRO. We should talk about women in mining, construction, trade and finance; women defining technology. For instance, the women’s market in Africa should not be viewed as micro, requiring micro credit, but MACRO demanding huge investments and prioritisation. We must claim our global citizenship as define our local actions.

Africa is rising and we must shape a new narrative that goes beyond  Africa’s labels of poverty, starvation, disease, death and wars.  I hope we can all work on a clear re-articulation of Africa, and reclaim how the continent is filthy rich even if the African women and girls are licking the spoon. Yes, we have to demand our government to invest more in health care (ebola and HIV crisis); etc; and this should be from a perspective of building a prosperous Africa at peace with itself, and not from a hand to mouth and humanitarian lets save lives perspectives.

Africa is more than its borders. The seed of Africa is on all the continents, if we count from the shipment of ancestors to far-off lands during the slave trade, the plunder of Africa and its people during colonialism and now the new diaspora and wave of economic and political migrants. The discourse on Beijing for Africa should embrace and seek solidarity with issues of women and girls of African descent, and turn the brain drain of the continent into the brain grain.

It’s about Inter-generational justice. I hope as we celebrate Beijing, and the road Mama Getrude Mongella and others paved, we will be lifting the leadership, voice and capabilities of young women and girls. For us to unleash such potential, we have to really recommit, roll up our sleeves and address some of the unacceptable human rights violations and practices such as child marriage, which I know we can end in a single generation.

I understand there will be No Agreed Conclusions at CSW59, but a Political Declaration. Therefore we have to be clear about what we are demanding and asking of our governments. Lets call for FULFILLMENT of the Beijing commitments accompanied by an ACCOUNTABILITY and a RESOURCING Framework. Yes, we need a stand-alone goal on gender equality with clear means of implementation.

I share these thoughts as I honour the many women who inspire me every day in the YWCAs; each one of you as my sisters; my late mother, Rozaria and daughter Farirai.  Unfortunately, I am unable to join you in Addis this time.

I celebrate you, wish you strength and courage. Africa is indeed rising. You are Afrika.  Arise.

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda is the General Secretary of YWCA. Connect with her @vanyaradzayi. 

Engage Online – Beijing+20



As you may know, the 20 year review of the Beijing Platform for Action, a landmark moment and declaration for the rights of women and girls is underway.

A statement read by FEMNET at the Beijing Conference in 1995 signified the Vision for African women. “Our vision is that we the African women will reclaim, reconstruct, and transform Africa, on the basis of gender equality, giving credence to the principles of democracy and human rights; mobilising and utilising human and other resources; and take our rightful place in the global arena, on the basis of equality with other nations, from now into the future, in partnership with our men, girls and boys.”[2]

Countries and regions have been undergoing reviews and submitting reports, with civil society organizing and submitting regional shadow reports. 51 African member states have submitted their reports.

The inter-ministerial meeting for Africa will take place at UNECA in Addis from the 17-19 November. Prior to that, CSOs will be convening from 14-16th November. Please join us as we engage online.

Please find a Beijing+20 Social Media Toolkit with sample twitter messages and targets. Kindly make use of it – and forward to your communication focal points please. The hashtags we’ll be using are #Beijing20 (to link to global conversations on the BPfA, and #TheAfricaWeWant to tie it into our Africa regional perspectives.

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR): The African Agenda


“When we allow sexual and reproductive health to include rights, as Africans we are accepting to be influenced by western culture that of accepting persons with different sexual orientations which is not in line with our African culture”. African Leader

These were the sentiments of an African leader negotiating on behalf of Africans at the global level at the Commission on Status of Women 58th Session in March 2014. It has been four months ever since the Agreed Conclusions were adopted and these sentiments are stuck in my head and I wonder when was SRHR narrowed down to promotion of persons with different sexual orientation (LGBTI). Are some of our African leaders that narrow minded? Do they really understand the issues of Africans and are they burying their head in the sand by not recognizing persons of different sexual orientations exist in Africa? Are they fit to negotiate on our behalf if some of them do not understand the issues well? These are some of the many questions that have been lingering in my mind for some time now. I believe that universal access SRHR for all encompasses the rights of women with regards to their sexuality.

The right of women in regards to sexuality as in accordance to Beijing PFA (1994), para 96 includes, their right to have and to control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to the sexuality. These rights have numerously been recognized a number of times by the African governments in different declarations and commitments at the Global level such as the Rio +20 (para 146) which states that “We commit to reduce maternal and child mortality, and to improve the health of women, men, youth and children. We reaffirm our commitment to gender equality and to protect the rights of women, men and youth to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including access to sexual and reproductive health, free from coercion, discrimination and violence. We will work actively to ensure that health systems provide the necessary information and health services addressing the sexual and reproductive health of women, including working towards universal access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable modern methods of family planning, as this is essential for women’s health and advancing gender equality” This is not new to Africans and the #TheAfricaWeWant is where all women have full control over their bodies and sexuality.

In 1995, 189 states committed to Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) and its 12 critical areas of concern for women which includes universal access to quality health care for all women at all ages. Over the years the review process of BPFA has been cognizant of the language of SRHR and African states have committed to this language in all the global policy making processes. I fail to understand their sentiments about this foreign language (SRHR) that is not part of the African Agenda according to them.
Statistics show that every year at least 36,000 African women and girls die from unsafe abortion, accounting for 14 percent of all maternal deaths in the region. 287,000 women, most of them in Africa and Southeast Asia, died from preventable complications of pregnancy, childbirth and unsafe abortion (13% of maternal deaths). In other words we can say that in Africa, women’s death results from complications related to giving life. African leaders are aware of these phenomena, they cannot afford to say that access to SRHR services and needs for women is not an African agenda. African women need leaders who understand the issues and can negotiate on a language that will ensure every woman, throughout her life, have access to; a comprehensive, accessible, and integrated package of sexual and reproductive health services of high quality that fully respect and protect her sexual and reproductive rights.

Are we going to sit back relax as our sisters, daughters, cousins, nieces, friends and neighbors die every year due preventable deaths as they bring forth life? It is My, Yours, Our responsibility and that of our leaders to protect women and girls of Africa. We need to hold our leaders to account as they make decision about women’s bodies at the global level, we must ensure they are aware of the issues and are passionate about emancipation of women and full realizations of women’s rights. Take action today by joining in the women agenda in your country. It is our collective action that will bring forth change in Africa.

 “You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health. And Reproductive Health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal and safe abortion” Hillary Clinton

* Written by Esther Kimani, a feminist & human rights activist and currently Consulting with FEMNETs Advocacy Programme. Connect with her on twitter @kelsiekim and email:

Join us at CSW58


The 58th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women begins tomorrow (March 10-21) under the priority theme, “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls” – Find out more here .

Join us at some of our events – including the African Women’s Caucus sessions. If you’re not able to join us in person, join us online at #TheAfricaWeWant #CSW58 #Post2015.

Join us in calling our governments to endorse a transformative stand-alone goal on gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment, in addition to ensuring that these are cross-cutting priorities across the entire framework.

African Women's Caucus Side Events

CSW 58 Expert Group Meeting Report


In accordance with its multi-year programme of work for 2010-2014, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will consider ‘”Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls” as its priority theme during its fifty-eighth session in 2014.

As the 2015 target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approaches, intergovernmental and UN-led processes are well under way to inform and design a post-2015 development agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 58th session of CSW in 2014 will provide a critical opportunity for evaluating the current MDG framework from a gender perspective to better understand the achievements and challenges in implementing the MDGs for women and girls, accelerate progress in achieving the MDGs, and inform the ongoing debate on the post-2015 development framework and the 20-year review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

To take stock on current research and assist the Commission in its deliberations, UN Women, in collaboration with the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), convened an expert group meeting (EGM) on “Structural and policy constraints in achieving the MDGs for women and girls” from 21 to 24 October 2013 in Mexico City, Mexico. The aim of the EGM was to:

• Identify the challenges, including the structural and policy constraints, for achieving the MDGs for women and girls;
• Identify the policy priorities and critical issues for achieving the MDGs for women and girls and for the post-2015 agenda; and
• Develop action-oriented recommendations to accelerate achieving the MDGs for women and girls.

Read the report of the Experts Group Meeting on structural and policy constraints in achieving the MDGs for women and girls.

NOTE: Expert Group Meeting was conducted in English and all documentation in English.

Source: UN Women

Advancing Women’s Empowerment & Gender Equality in the Next Decade



The new decade demands a boldness of vision, of action and collaborative action across constituencies.

By Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda

Today, the women and girls of the world are echoing the same key issues that they raised twenty years ago as they gathered in Beijing for the 4th World Conference for Women. It’s the same 12 critical issues ranging from poverty, economy, violence against women, education, health, role of women in the media, rural women, the girl child, environment, and institutional mechanisms for which there is a call for greater implementation. This is in addition to the emerging issues of the last two decades that have found greater sharpness and focus, the concerns related to a bundle of issues related to health and rights ranging from maternal mortality, sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV and mental health, to the emergence of modern technologies and social media that is shaping the forms of communication, the norms of accountabilities and the creation of greater opportunities for accessing services. Yet the world remains with deep inequalities and inequities across regions, within countries, across the full spectrum of socio-economic indicators, and participation and access to opportunities as well as the digital divides.

In order to accelerate the actions for achieving empowerment of women, young women and girls and the reduction of gender inequalities,  there must be a strong investment of political will, technical and financial resources towards practical programmes in communities that impact the social and economic rights and well being of women and girls. These should be accompanied by a clear investment in mobilizing the leadership of the underutilized resource  contributing to and influencing decision making at all levels of society. The changing of norms and values is crucial towards achieving some of these, and requires harnessing the positive attributes, practices and tools that is engrained in the ways of living and knowledge banks of communities including indigenous knowledge. At the same time, we must  vigorously and openly work to reject negative practices such as female genital cutting, early and forced marriages. Fundamentally, it is not sufficient to address the manifestations of inequality, it is also important to root out the structural and patriarchal causes that often find expression in legislation, socialisation of men and boys and limiting opportunities for women and girls. The new decade demands a boldness of vision, of action and collaborative action across constituencies.

Accountability to existing commitments at the national level as enshrined in our constitutions; at the regional level as reflected in various policy and legal instruments, such as the Maputo Protocol; and at the global level as informed by Beijing Platform for Action, CEDAW and resolution 1325 among others is crucial. It remains imperative that we advance the women’s human rights jurisprudence, and normative framework as part of global drive of vision.

UN Women, established in 2010 was a culmination of years of advocacy by women’s networks and engagement of the member states on the need for an effective mechanism within the UN that has status, is well resourced and can deliver impactfully in its mission. The position of Executive Director for UN Women therefore comes with huge and complex responsibilities! For which a greater expectation still exists for this organization, which is essentially in its infancy. The importance of providing policy, advisory and technical support, strategic partnership with civil society especially women’s groups and women’s fund and foundations, internal engagement for the UN to deliver effectively on gender equality for the individual mandates of programmes, funds and agencies as well as the role in leveraging quality and sustained relations with donors and the media remains at the core of success.

The founding Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet established a good foundation and raised the profile of the organization as it took its baby steps in the last two years. The emphasis on political participation, economic empowerment and violence against women remains at the centre of priorities today as it has done for years. What is key at this moment is to have a leader who can bridge the strong visionary perspective contributing to shaping the future of the development agenda especially at this moment with the MDG 2015 process underway, the 20 year review of the Beijing Platform for action and the ICPD review. It’s even much more important to have a leader who can leverage the opportunities that exist for delivering programmes and interventions in communities in a way that women and girl’s lives and well being is improved, that they have more opportunities for accessing education, healthcare services, food sovereignty, water and technology. These are the core social and economic rights that lie at the centre of daily struggles for billions of women across the world and through which gender inequalities manifest themselves. Women and girls should not continue to be a statistic, a case study and an anecdote in the humanitarian, development and security agenda. Rather, it is crucial that women and girls are leaders bringing knowledge, innovation, expertise and experience that lie at the centre of solutions and sustainable development.

For me, the daily struggle for women’s rights, a life of dignity and equal opportunities is not a job but a calling and a way of life since birth. Born and brought up in rural Zimbabwe during the war in a very resource poor family, selling vegetables and fruits to supplement school fees, raised by a widow, improvising the situation of women is not theoretical. I experienced first-hand the life of violence,  affected by health issues of family members such as HIV, walked the long distance to fetch water, firewood and goods. At the same time, I have also had the opportunity to access  good education, graduating as a lawyer and going further to study conflict resolution, human rights and gender. This theoretical and academic grounding is further reinforced by my experience. For more than twenty years, my professional life has been focused on women and children’s rights, spanning quality time in civil society, working in government and ten years in the United Nations.

Today, I lead the World YWCA, a global network of 25 million women and girls, present in 125 countries with services and programmes in 22,000 communities. Its main mission is to develop the collective leadership of women and girls for collective action towards a world of peace, justice, dignity, health and care for the environment. The intergenerational and transformative power of women, the commitment to take action and provide services in communities as well as raising the voice to in advocacy defines the organization’s approaches.

*Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda is General Secretary of the World YWCA and Founder of Rozaria Memorial Trust and a nominee for the Executive Director Position at UN Women.