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Connecting girls and inspiring futures through the women’s movement

rookellos Icon Posted by Rosemary Okello-Orlale

March 14th, 2012

This year’s International celebration brought it a nostalgic feeling for the women to engage with the young people. Yet over the years the women’s movement has not taken a deliberate approach to connect with and inspire the young girls.

This has made the phrase “women’s movement” sound archaic and many a times, it is referred to as a dead cause.

Recently, several women organisations from Eastern Africa met in Kampala, Uganda to interrogate the notion of women’s movement and its place in the 21st Century. Most importantly they wanted to look at how to re-energise the cause so it becomes part of the national agenda.

Under the theme of Strengthening The Women’s Rights Movement, the meeting organised with support from Ford Foundation and Wellsprings, offered an opportunity for the women to look at themselves in the mirror and ask hard questions. They queried facts like what it means to be part of the women’s movement; how does one know when they get there and how does one know then they see and most importantly how can the women’s movement be made sustainable.

Agreeing that women’s movement have been based on a vision, almost 114 years later, the women are in agreement that the movement did over the years has helped them bond.

This then made them realise the need to strengthen the articulation and orientation of women’s rights organising on a feminist principles, ideologies and politics.

As Dr Jacinta Muteshi-Strachan observes in her paper entitled Continuing Relevance for African Women, with the women’s decade, more women organisations and NGOs were started and they began to play an important national, regional and international role with the United Nations, which granted some of them an interactive role with the creation of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

“The NGO presence at the world conference would henceforth provide numerous opportunities over the course of a conference for diverse stakeholders from around the world to exchange experiences, knowledge and develop strategies intended to influence their governments and international community for the advancement of women,” notes Muteshi.

Indeed women leaders are cognisant to the fact that without the movement, such spaces, voice and even resource around women’s rights and work could not have been realised if there was not formidable movement reminding leaders of their commitment to women’s issues.

For example this year’s, 56th Commission on the Status of Women whose theme is; the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenge, are some of the spaces women’s movement have been able to open.

It is noted that the women’s movement still has the power to connect girls, women and society to inspire the future through increased fulfilment of women’s rights driven by a transformative and inclusive movement.

Just like the women did in 1868, when the global women’s movement started in Geneva with the first transnational women’s organisation the Association Internationales des Femmes which was founded by women organising on suffrage and secular education, today’s movement in East Africa should be concerned on how they can frame the women’s vision based on local realities.

“This entails coming up with a frame, problem statement and figuring out what we are going to articulate well, strategy for actions and ways we can make others to take part,” observes Usu Mallya, Executive Director of the Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP).

However, most importantly is how the women’s movement in Eastern Africa will ensure government’s accountability on women’s rights.
Ndanatsei Tawamba, Chief Executive Officer for Urgent Action Fund-Africa argues that if Governments can commit themselves to women’s rights using an international framework that exists, then national discourse can enhance social justice and recognition of women’s rights.

“We are talking about laws, policies, involvement of women in government and ensuring that every woman feels connected with the women’s movement no matter where they come from,” notes Tawamba.

This will be done by showcasing the impact of the women’s movement in East Africa, identifying policy agenda and building on what exists.
The women will also develop a clear strategy for action as well as take advantage of opportunities which they can use to build a vibrant women’s movement in the region. This way, the younger and future ‘generals’ will have found a platform from which to spring to greater heights.

Rosemary Okello is the executive director of African Woman and Child Feature Service (AWC) a development media organisation in Africa. You cna follow her on @rookello on twitter

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