Women building bridges

Proposals from the South for global change

Concept note


The Women for Africa Foundation has been working alongside African women leaders to transform politics ever since it was set up in 2012. Its goal is to turn Africa into a continent where women are the true protagonists and equality is the driving force behind development policy agendas.

Thanks to the commitment and far-sighted support given by Banco Santander, and following ten years of intense work to promote transformative women’s leadership on the continent, what we have achieved so far is of extraordinary importance and has come to a head in the creation and reinforcement of key networks of women leaders in all walks of life. One of the networks that we have helped develop with the backing of our sponsor Santander Universidades, is a powerful network of over one hundred women leaders currently holding high-level political office or who been in that position in the past, as well as female activists working in politics from within civil society where they do an important job scrutinising, working on the ground with and adapting at a local level decisions taken by national or international governance structures.

Following the success of six consecutive editions of our Leadership Forum for Strategic Impact held in the prestigious setting of Yale University it is now time to make the impressive network of African women in politics that we have successfully built up around the Foundation’s key areas of work and goals much more visible.

Working alongside the international academic community we have encouraged an ongoing and highly productive exchange of views about innovative ways to be involved in politics and strategies that can address the major challenges facing the continent and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. All of the major themes around education, equality, forms of violence, terrorism, the economy, the environment and renewable energies, corruption, migration, peace-building, and health, have been at the heart of the debate.

A total of 70 women representatives from politics at the highest level in some 40 African countries have participated in the debate. They include presidents and vice-presidents, ministers and former ministers, secretaries of state, women MEPs and senators, members of the judiciary and activists who have made a name for themselves through their ardent defence of women’s rights and equality. These are all women who have become the best example possible of the huge transformative potential of women in leadership and of the new models of political engagement.

In Spring 2022, when the Women for Africa Foundation will be ten years old, we are planning to hold an event that will bring together all of those women leaders and so benefit from their shared experience in order to draw up a common road map for democratic principles, human rights, governance and equality. Without these essential values there can never be inclusive and fair development for all.

Today it is more necessary than ever. Today, due to a reality that was unimaginable a short time ago, such as a war in Europe, we are forced to emphasize global governance, respect for international legality and the search for peace that has always accompanied women’s struggles. Because equality brings peace.

The voice of women must be heard and taken into account so that all of us together can be able to move on to another stage, a stage in which power is not the exclusive fruit of male values, but also of the values of women and feminism, which are values of peace.

All women, especially the women from the south who are taking part in this summit, must unite for peace and continue to fight, as we have been doing for so long, for a world transformation that will take us away from this terrible spiral. We must seek ways of living and acting in politics, in society, in culture, in all spheres, that unmask, limit and discredit violence.

Building and establishing an ethic and a policy of equality, as opposed to the policy of hatred, is, without a doubt, the most effective way to achieve this. That is why, in this summit we are going to work towards this. A summit that is destined to be a milestone in the commitment of Fundación Mujeres por África to strengthening women’s leadership in politics and transformative policies.

The conference will be a landmark event in the Women for Africa Foundation’s continued commitment to strengthening women’s leadership in politics and transformative policies. Consequently, we also want to hear from and harness the experience of other women leaders in the South and so there will be women from Latin America joining us at the event too. Through this summit we aim to formalise and consolidate our network, and then to expand it into a transcontinental movement because inter-regional cooperation is the only way to tackle the major global challenges facing us today.

Essentially, the Women for Africa Foundation wants to contribute to building bridges between Spain, Africa and Latin America. Bridges that can carry experiences, thoughts, ideas and proposals back and forth between continents.

Women build bridges with our shared visions and conflicts. We are bound together by the ties of our endeavours to attain common goals.  All of us want to be free. All of us want to be independent, to stand on our own two feet, to be capable. And we have made it clear that we do not accept the old ground rules set by the patriarchy. We feel united by our common path and by the progress we make together. We have understood that there are values that pertain to each and every one of us irrespective of race, status, country or creed, and that these values were and still are at risk. By defending our human integrity, we have gained a better understanding of what political integrity, social integrity and economic integrity entails and we are convinced that our vision is the most valuable one there is to transform the world into a place with more integrity.

We acknowledge everything that unites us as women who are calling for a fairer and more inclusive world, and in addition to that recognition we accept that the realities of women are diverse and that in many of those realities the life many of us women lead is all about navigating through a maze of intersectional discriminations or multiple discriminations stemming from economic status, ethnic background, sexual orientation, etc. As feminists we must have the  necessary sensitivity to recognise the particularity of these situations and the need to take these experiences of discrimination into full account.

Each woman who sees, who understands and who wants a better world, is a light that is turned on. When many women come together, they can shine a light on the global reality and bring forth a new leadership that can illuminate that sombre reality.

In our Women Building Bridges conference we want to supply that light that can make a compelling contribution to promoting equality and generating strategic lines of joint political action around all the big challenges faced by women in the world today using the experience built up in Africa and in the South, but also to making stronger democratic political models and good governance structures for the global community in which the new generations can see themselves reflected.



The importance of the process through which this road map will be drawn up with the input of all the women leaders participating in the summit must be underscored. It is a process that will unquestionably add value, richness and depth to the debates that will take place at the event.

Between February and May those same leaders will be divided into working groups to analyse the following themes:

  • Legal equality, political rights and participation in public life
  • Governance and key global challenges
  • Women’s human capital (health, education)
  • Forms of violence, women, peace and security
  • Economic, technological and digital empowerment

The Women for Africa team has sent all participants some initial thematic ideas that will provide a basis for the work to be done in each group.

Some of the Latin American women who will be participating in the summit will also work in each one of the groups to provide their own perspective and vision from another continent.



The women participating in this event are, first of all, the 68 prominent female political leaders who made up the six cohorts of women who have attended the Strategic Impact Forum organised by the Women for Africa Foundation at Yale University with the support of Banco Santander.

Attending the conference with them will be other top-level African women leaders who sit on the Foundation’s Advisory Council or who are part of the Foundation’s network. They include Graça Machel o Gertrude Mongella.

They will be joined by around fifteen women leaders holding positions of responsibility in politics from Latin America to build out those bridges.

And lastly, a small group of African journalists tasked with making the ideas and outcomes of the summit available to a wider public will be attending the event together with another group of African women film-makers who have been involved in our Ellas son Cine programme. This programme that screens films made by female directors from Africa will be holding its tenth edition to coincide with the conference.



  • Showcase the work done by African women and the Women for Africa Foundation in building up their political leadership and developing their equality agenda.
  • Show the strength of women from the South and the need for women from Africa, the Americas and Europe to work together.
  • Highlight the importance of women’s political power and their capacity to draw up proposals that make a global transformation possible.
  • Raise the profile of women’s engagement with the implementation of the 2030 Agenda
  • Build bridges between women, by launching an intercontinental network of African, Latin American and Spanish women in politics.
  • Set in motion a process for the women participating in the event to reflect on and produce a diagnosis and a road map of common strategies on a global level.
  • Disseminate the road map drawn up at the conference to all African, American European and international agencies and bodies.



Making the approaches and proposals that will come out of this process known to a wider audience is a particularly important part of what we are doing here. They need to be given as much publicity as possible both among international institutions involved in global governance and among the general public.  We want everyone to be made aware of the fact that this summit of women leaders was not only about the speeches and panel sessions that took place over a period of two days but rather about the work women have been doing for months together pooling their knowhow and experience.

To highlight the importance and ambitious nature of this process and in line with the Foundation’s decision very early on to incorporate the audio-visual sector and film into its work to empower women, promote gender equality and support women-led development we are going to produce a feature-length documentary. The film will be directed by Spanish film-maker Inés Paris with the participation of at least three African female directors and will constitute a visual record of this whole initiative.

On the back of this project the documentary will also reflect the key challenges of governance, development and equality in Africa. It could be screened in national and international film festivals and in that way the audio-visual sector will accompany us on this journey as it brings our ambitious programme to a wider audience. Because there is no better companion  for commitment than the cinema.

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