Tag Archives: leadership



15 October 2014

On this International Day of Rural Women we, the undersigned organisations, call on African governments to end discrimination against rural women in Africa, especially in their access to traditional leadership roles and inheritance rights.

Currently, a number of countries in Africa deny daughters the ability to become chiefs solely on the basis of their gender, whether in terms of law or practice. For example, under the Chieftainship Act in Lesotho, daughters are prohibited from succeeding to chieftainship solely because of their gender. This blatantly discriminatory law was upheld by the Lesotho Court of Appeal despite the Constitution and applicable international and regional law prohibiting discrimination and guaranteeing the right to equality.

Similarly, a number of countries deny women equal access to inheritance, again, solely due to their gender. For example, countries, including Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, amongst others, contrary to constitutional and statutory protections, continue to deny women equal inheritance to men of family property.

These discriminatory laws and practices tend to have a greater impact on rural women leaving them vulnerable to poverty. They further reinforce women’s secondary status to men within the community. Given the recent celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child, this negative impact on girls must be addressed.

Furthermore, laws and practices discriminating against women violate key rights guaranteed under international and regional treaties. Women have the right to equality with men in terms of Article 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 3 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Article 3 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter), and Article 8(f) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol). In addition, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Article 26 of the ICCPR, Article 2(2) of the ICESCR, Articles 2 and 18(3) of the African Charter, and Article 3 of the Maputo Protocol all require countries to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.

A handful of countries in Africa have acknowledged the importance of ending discrimination against women in inheritance. For example, in Botswana, the Court of Appeal made it clear that any law that denied women equal access to inheritance solely on the basis of their gender violates the Constitution and laws of Botswana. This decision and its implementation by the government was a significant step forward in ensuring an end to women’s secondary status. Similar positive strides have been made by the courts in Kenya and South Africa.

However, despite a few positive steps towards ending discrimination, much more needs to be done. We call on African governments, including parliaments to ensure that women have equal access to inheritance and to traditional leadership roles to men. In addition, where courts have failed to uphold basic principles of the Constitution, as is the case in Lesotho, parliament must act to ensure that laws permit women the equal ability to inherit and rise to traditional leadership positions as men.


Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA)

Associação, Mulher, Lei e Desenvolvimento (MULEIDE)

Centre for Economic Social Cultural Rights in Africa (CESCRA)

Federation of Women Lawyers, Kenya (FIDA-Kenya)

Federation of Women Lawyers, Lesotho (FIDA-Lesotho)

Healing Hearts Widows Support Foundation, Nigeria (HHWSF)

Institute for Gender Equality and Development in Africa (IGED-Africa)

Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA)

Liga Moçambicana dos Direitos Humanos (Mozambique Human Rights League)

Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA)

Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC)

Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) Mozambique

Women and Law in Southern Africa (Regional Office)

Find more information here. 


According to the Sexual Offenses Act…


By Nebila Abdulmelik

By now, I think you must have heard about Liz’s story – and the #JusticeForLiz campaign that has been started.

We’re happy to note that over 600,000KSH was raised for Liz, who underwent surgery and is recovering. Doctors are hopeful that she should be back on her feet in six weeks. KNCHR (Kenya National Commission on Human Rights) and Fida-Kenya are suing the government for failure to protect.

I just wanted to bring your attention to the Sexual Offenses Act and the provisions within that must guide this case:
As per Legal Notice 10 on page 8:
Any person who commits the offense of rape or defilement under this Act in association with another or others, or any person who, with common intention, is in the company of another or others who commit the offense of rape or defilement is guilty of an offense termed gang rape and is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less fifteen years but which may be enhanced to imprisonment for life.

So why have Liz’s rapists been allowed to slash grass and go free??

As per legal notice 35, point 3 & 4 of the Sexual Offenses Act (on who bears medical expenses)
3)Notwithstanding the provisions of sub-section (2), the Minister responsible for health shall prescribe circumstances under which a victim of a sexual offense may at any time access treatment in any public hospital or institution.
4) The expenses incurred for the treatment or professional counseling of any person convicted of an offense under this section or a victim of a sexual offense as the case may be, shall be borne by the State.

So why did the public have to pay for Liz’s hospital bills? Why did she have to wait three months to undergo surgery? Where is the accountability of public servants??

The perpetrators are still at large, despite a police probe that was launched, concluded and handed over to the Department of Public Prosecutions  without any arrests. The police who handled her case very poorly have not faced any disciplinary action.

The online petition #JusticeForLiz now has over 934,000 signatures (as of 11:42PM Sunday) and counting. Join us in demanding #JusticeForLiz and in demanding public accountability, an end to violence and an end to impunity. We must never forget that Liz is one story – she is unfortunately not the first nor the last victim or survivor of violence, but we must use her story and this case as a rallying point – to express solidarity, to express our outrage and to demand action. We must act. For Liz, for Mbabazi and for so many others in similar situations.

Nebila Abdulmelik is the Head of Communications at FEMNET. Connect with her – communiation@femnet.or.ke or @aliben86 or on her blog – aliben86.wordpress.com.

Where Kenyan Women Stand: Assault on Hon. Rachel Shebesh


By Dr. Awino Okech

Like many Kenyans, I am deeply disturbed by the raw footage of Nairobi Governor Kidero’s vicious assault against Hon. Rachel Shebesh, Nairobi women’s representative, which occurred at his office on 6th of September 2013. I am troubled for two major reasons. First,  governor Kidero’s public display of uncontrolled fits of anger and subsequent “no recollection” argument tells us much more about his penchant for violence in conflict management than his spin-doctors weak public relations attempts. Second, I have spent the last decade working to create safe spaces for women. This is a commitment that is manifest through teaching in institutions of higher learning, working with communities of women and men across Africa and engaging policy makers in the region on the creation of effective gender equitable policies. I am committed to these safe spaces because like many Kenyans I have relatives who have died in the aftermath of violent attacks by their male spouses.

They did not die after one isolated fit of “provoked” rage but after years of physical and verbal abuse that begun with the proverbial slap. Silence was maintained in order to preserve a marriage, avoid public stigma and the “what did you do” question. I have friends who have been sexually solicited at work because they were seen as sexual objects irrespective of their qualifications and position in those companies. I have been part of institutions where sexual innuendos and commentary about women’s dress, look and inappropriate remarks about sex were casually uttered by senior male staff because he is an “African man” and this is what men do when they interact socially with women even within a professional environment. I have been violently mugged in the streets of Westlands with threats of rape casually bandied as the mugger left the money that was in my bag. Other women have not been so lucky since it did not stop at a threat. They were raped. These are indicators of where Kenyan women stand across class, ethnicity and age, which cumulatively frame Kenyans perceptions of the proverbial “Wanjikus” and the value we attach to her (our) contributions and place in society.

As I read Kenyans reactions to Governor Kidero’s assault against Hon. Shebesh, I was disturbed by the faceless reactions on twitter and facebook that affirmed how low we have sunk as a country. This assault has been argued to be a ploy by the government of the day to entrap the governor. It has been used to assert Luo masculinity specifically and Kenyan masculinity generally. Hon. Shebesh is framed as the anti-thesis of a “good Kenyan woman” because “she is too aggressive and needed to be tamed”. These arguments affirm the high levels of tolerance we have for brutish behavior. There is no code of conduct we hold our leaders to and therefore ourselves. The raw data generated from social media responses to the assault point to consistent efforts to control women through assertions about the “proper” way to exercise femininity, sexuality, physical movement and voice. They are palpable indicators of where Kenyan women stand despite laws and “opportunities”. It is a firm DO NOT CROSS THE LINE warning.

Governor Kidero show integrity, strength of character and courage – the same courage you displayed in publicly assaulting Hon. Shebesh – by halting the weak and embarrassing denials. Accept that you assaulted her, offer a public apology, handover the mantle to your deputy as this criminal matter is investigated and concluded. Deal with the consequences of your rash reaction.

Mr. Odinga, as the leader of the political party Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) that Governor Kidero is a card carrying member of, speak out unequivocally against this assault in the same manner you have spoken up about the allocation of finances to counties and a parliamentary system of government. This is not about a hierarchy of needs. Show us where Kenyan women stand for you and ODM.

Mr. President you have publicly declared your government’s commitment to ensuring economic, physical and social safety for Kenyan women. The Presidency must deliver a strong statement against this assault given that the Gender Directorate falls under your office. Making women a priority is not only about economic resources and quotas, it is about zero tolerance on all forms of violence. It is about holding all public office holders accountable including Nairobi Senator Sonko, to a minimum code of conduct that contains firm indicators that show us where Kenyan women stand for you and the Jubilee government.

Dr. Awino Okech is a researcher who lives in Nairobi.

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Reflections on WOMEN RISING


Ms Afropolitan shared her thoughts on the recent film we produced along with UNDP; WOMEN RISING: Poltical Leadership in Africa – we’re reblogging it here:

By MsAfropolitan/Minna Salami

I just watched Women Rising: Political Leadership in Africa, a documentary by FEMNET and UNDP and thought I’d share it with you all here (embedded below). To me, the need for more women in political leadership is possibly the most urgent task for the African feminist agenda. If women are not determining the future of Africa then the future will continue to disadvantage African women. Simple as.
You might be thinking, wait a minute, leadership is not only political, and women are moving forward in business, arts and other parts of public – and private – life. This is true yet we need more women in real, bonafide decision-making positions, roles that give women the power tochange the very foundation of the nation.

It took a Kenyan woman politician (Njoki Ndungu), for instance, to ensure the enactment of a Sexual Offences Law and in Rwanda, a gender-based violence bill was introduced into the parliament only after women were elected to nearly 50% of seats in 2006.

It follows that it is women ourselves who must take primary responsibility for ushering more women into positions of power and we must do so determinedly. The truth is African women have not taken enough measurements to secure seats in leadership positions today and are either absent or under-represented as a result. Nor have we sufficiently adapted the roles of Women Chiefs, Queen Mothers and other eminent women of ancient times in order to challenge structures and social attitudes that exclude women from leadership positions.
Sojourner Truth aptly said, “If women want more rights than they got, why don’t they take it and stop talking about taking it.”

The Women Rising documentary features women who indeed are taking it, if controversially at times.

It features President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, President Joyce Banda of Malawi, Boussaina Kamel, the very first female presidential aspirant of Egypt, Honorable Rebecca Kadaga, first female Speaker of the House in Uganda’s Parliament, Honorable Rabiaa Nejlaoui, youngest Member of Parliament in Tunisia, and Honorable Hlobisile Ndlovu, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture of Swaziland.

They share their their experiences and challenges running for office, their ambitions, their role models and their vision for a future of Africa with equal representation. I wish every young African girl can watch this and know that she too can become a future political leader.

What do you think readers?

Enjoy and share thoughts!

WOMEN RISING: Political Leadership in Africa


In Africa, as in the rest of the world, women are largely underrepresented in the political arena. However 2011 and 2012 saw an unprecedented number of female presidential candidates vying for office. 2012 also ushered in the second female Head of State as well as a female Chairperson of the African Union Commission for the very first time. Furthermore, Rwanda ranks highest in the world in terms of female representation in Parliament with over 50% representation.

Women Rising features President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and President Joyce Banda of Malawi amidst Boussaina Kamel, the very first female presidential aspirant of Egypt (2012), Honorable Rebecca Kadaga, first female Speaker of the House in Uganda’s Parliament, Honorable Rabiaa Nejlaoui, youngest Member of Parliament in Tunisia, and Honorable Hlobisile Ndlovu, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture of Swaziland.

These women leaders share their experiences and challenges running for office, their ambitions, their role models and their vision for a future of Africa with equal representation. All of those featured in Women Rising are trailblazers; women who have taken up the mantle and paved the way for others to follow suit. Is one born or made a leader? What are the lessons that can be learnt from those who have come before? What are the characteristics that lead to success in leadership? These are explored in Women Rising.

The documentary was commissioned jointly by FEMNET and UNDP and produced by InCA as part of a series on Women in Development in Africa.

©Copyright, 2013

FEMNET Congratulates Her Excellency Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma


 FEMNET Congratulates Her Excellency Dr. Nkosazana DlaminiZuma on her successful election as Chairperson to the African Union Commission

The African Women’s Development and Communication Network, FEMNET, joins African women in congratulating Her Excellency Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on her successful election as Chairperson to the African Union Commission (AUC), making her the first woman to take up the highest post at the AUC.  “This is a victory not only for African women, but for Africans as a whole,” states Dinah Musindarwezo, Executive Director of FEMNET. “This is an unprecedented time when African women are vying for the highest positions and succeeding,” she added.

FEMNET recognizes the extensive experience and exemplary leadership that H.E. Dr. Dlamini-Zuma has demonstrated in her previous posts at the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Africa. FEMNET is appreciative of the strides she has made for the betterment of African women, and has high hopes that H.E. Dr. Dlamini-Zuma will deliver on her promises, and will continue to promote  the agenda for women’s rights and gender equality. FEMNET is confident that Dr. Dlamini-Zuma will be able to respond swiftly and efficiently to emerging issues, such as the unrest in Mali, Guinea Bissau, and the continued conflict in DRC.

FEMNET stands ready to support Dr. Dlamini-Zuma as she leads the AUC, especially in the area of women’s rights which is FEMNET’s area of expertise. FEMNET looks forward to working with her and the African Union on a variety of issues including popularizing the African Women’s Decade as well as pushing for the ratification and implementation of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.

As a member of the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) Coalition, FEMNET further urges her to exert pressure on Member-States who have not signed, ratified, or implemented the Protocol do so. FEMNET is also confident that under her leadership, the African Women’s Decade will be given the attention and prominence it deserves and the lives of African women will significantly improve and transform.

For Further Information Contact:
Dinah Musindarwezo
Executive Director, FEMNET

For more information about FEMNET visit: www.femnet.co  

Public Forum on “Demanding Accountability”


The African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) is a pan-African organization that works to promote African women’s collective leadership for equality, peace and sustainable development.

FEMNET invites you to a Public Forum which is part of our Third Regional Conference for African Women in Political Leadership, taking place in Nairobi from 29th – 31st August 2011.

The discussants at the Public Forum will be Female Presidential Candidates and Members of Parliament from across Africa, who will be discussing their role in “Demanding Accountability: Opportunities for Accelerated Action in the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020)”


Tuesday, Aug 30th, 2011

Sarova Panafric, Nairobi Kenya
• Bothaina Kamel-First Female Presidential Candidate, Egypt
• Hon. Marie Jalloh, MP, Sierra Leone
• Hon. Maitre Ndeye Fatou Toure, MP, Senegal
• Hon. Betty Amongi, MP, Uganda