#SouthWomenBridges

Women building bridges

Proposals from the South for global change


Summary of the conclusions

Summary of the conclusions reached at the international summit

WOMEN BUILDING BRIDGES PROPOSALS FROM THE SOUTH
FOR GLOBAL CHANGE

 

1 LEGAL EQUALITY, POLITICAL RIGHTS AND PARTICIPATION IN PUBLIC LIFE

Coordinators: Julia Duncan and Meaza Ashenafi

1.1 The principle of gender equality, including the prohibition of discrimination based on gender, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, must be formulated as a fundamental principle of international and national law.

We demand the full implementation of international and national legal provisions proclaiming this principle. Even in countries where legal equality exists, real equality has not been achieved.

1.2 Ratification of existing international treaties on women’s rights. These treaties serve to empower women and civil society in general.

1.3 Repeal of discriminatory legislation and policies that are still in force in too many countries.

1.4 Adoption of laws that promote gender equality, with a focus on intersectionality. We demand adequate funding for gender-sensitive policies. Creation of monitoring and oversight mechanisms to ensure implementation of laws and policies as well as accountability.

We must not only aspire to achieve legal equality, but also to promote gender-sensitive public policies that respond to the principle of gender mainstreaming and are amply funded.

Both laws and public policies must rise to the challenge of achieving real equality in the main areas that are the essential structure of women’s lives: political rights, education, health (including mental health), sexual and reproductive rights, the fight against gender-based and sexual violence, access to land and access to work, among others.

1.5 Combat any attempt to roll back the recognition of women’s rights. Any strategy aimed at discrediting and undermining feminist movements must be resolutely rejected.

1.6 Elimination of traditions and practices that go against women’s rights. These practices are not culture. They are violations of human rights. To eliminate these harmful practices it is not enough to enact laws prohibiting them, other measures are needed such as: dialogue with community and religious leaders, sensitization and education of local community members, including men. Law enforcement by the judiciary could also be key.

1.7 Promoting women’s political participation. Electoral laws should establish quotas that guarantee women’s political participation. We should aim for parity. Nothing less.

The participation of young women in politics should be specifically promoted. Creation of intergenerational alliances that bring together young and veteran women.

1.8 Eliminating all forms of political violence against women

Political violence against women must be prevented, prosecuted and adequately punished. All forms of political violence against women must be stopped.

 

2 SOCIAL PROTECTION AND PUBLIC GOODS

Coordinators: Otiko Afisah Djaba and Nana Oye Bampoe Addo

2.1 General Ideas

There are three fundamental axes/components of well-being which are health (including the right to sexual and reproductive health), education and employment or access to income. Women’s well-being is negatively affected by lack of resources to address very basic needs such as food, water, education and housing. This can be related to the concept of Human Security (living without fear and without needs).

Women’s personal security and autonomy (under the human security paradigm), including the choice of whom to marry and how many children to have, is one of the biggest challenges that also hinder women’s well-being. This is aggravated by limited reproductive health education and services, including family planning, which burden women with unplanned children.

We must recognize the importance of Mental Health and the need for attention to psychological and psychiatric conditions affecting women.

In the current global security situation, we must ensure that increased military spending does not undermine investment in social policies

2.2 Proposed interventions:

Social protection, gender-sensitive policies, affirmative action, pro-poor and gender budgets, technology, support from African regional agencies as well as international ones and donor agencies, increased support for non-state actors and civil society organizations working for gender equality.

Ensuring that women in Africa transform their lives requires governments to provide “immediate, mandatory and sustained attention” through deliberate gender-sensitive policies, social protection for poor and vulnerable women, and legal interventions.

Women, through concerted efforts, must organize themselves to be at the center of these interventions.

 

  1. GOVERNANCE AND GLOBAL CHALLENGES

Coordinators: Edith Kah Walla and Jestina Mukoko

3.1 Governance at the National Level: Constitutions, Elections, Accountability and Corruption

Constitutions

It can be argued that the subject of governance is based on constitutionalism, as many of the structures and processes are pronounced in the supreme law. While many African countries have invested in constitution-making processes by their people, the sad fact is that there has been a surge of politicians taking advantage of their offices and power to modify constitutions for their own benefit and consolidation of their power. Some constitutions are progressive to the extent that they are clear on equality between men and women, but what remains elusive is the actual implementation, there are always excuses.

Elections, women and power transformation

Today, in many parts of the world, elections are seen as a means by which elite groups take control of the State for specific rather than general interests.

Many African countries have enacted quotas that have allowed women to approach parity in legislative institutions. However, the demands on behalf of women in decision-making positions go beyond achieving parity and aspire to place human well-being at the centre of governance. Having women in power is an achievement, but until power is transformed to serve the welfare of human beings in every decision made, African women will not have achieved their goal.

In order for elections to become a means by which citizens can demand accountability and truly select rulers, for women to participate fully in elections at all levels; fundamental freedoms must be respected, citizens must be seen as the ultimate power holders and elections must be conceived as part of an overall framework to improve governance and enable citizens to exercise their power.

Accountability and the role of civil society

Civil society organizations play a key role when working at the grassroot level and facilitating the necessary governance and constitutional literacy. Unfortunately, the space for civil society organizations continues to shrink, as they are seen as conflictive and too demanding for leaders who only want to expand their power and benefit from resources.

Some African countries are far ahead of the rest of the world in terms of citizen participation in policy making and governance. Unfortunately, this type of activism receives very little support at the national, continental and international levels.

Also left out of the civic space are very broad segments of civil society that do not fall into the categories with which international donors work. These are organizations that bring together many people and are based on traditional and historical forms of organization in Africa. These include market women’s associations, informal savings and loan groups (tontines), agricultural groups, village associations, and other forms of organizations. These groups are often overlooked by the classical NGO landscape working on issues of democracy, human rights, justice, etc.

Civil society offers one of the greatest hopes for governance in Africa, as there are huge grassroot movements across the continent demanding good governance. These grassroot movements must be recognized, supported and incorporated into decision-making at the national, continental and global levels, so that the popular demand for rights, principles and fundamental values is not drowned out by the elites that today control the State.

Corruption

In the area of corruption, African citizens and citizens of the global community must unite to demand governments at the global level and African governments to focus on key areas.

  1. Respect for the rule of law and conditionality by donors.
  2. Human rights as a necessary component of multinational corporations.
  3. Elimination of tax havens for stolen money.

3.2. Governance at the regional and interregional level

African states must hold each other accountable for the provision of basic services to their citizens. The African Union should have some basic indicators on which Member States should be held accountable: access to water, electricity, healthcare, education… The lack of progress on these indicators should affect the rights of member states in the African Union. Peer review mechanisms should be restructured in this regard and should include naming and reporting if key indicators are not met.

Participation in the African Union should not be limited to governments. The African Union is about the African people. Grassroot organizations that are structured and have developed regional synergies should be involved in discussions and policy development.

Africa must develop and promote exchanges with other continents in the global south.

 

  1. PEACE AND SECURITY FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS – FEMINIST PEACE

Coordinators: Hibaaq Osman and Caddy Adzuba

.1 The promised agenda of women, peace and security is not yet a reality, but it can be.

More than 20 years after its adoption, the Women, Peace and Security agenda should be very well established and institutionalized into diplomacy. It remains enormously important and valuable, but the reality of the experience of women and girls in conflict is that it has not yet been adequately implemented. This has a disproportionate impact on the African continent, where there are currently happening 15 of the 34 current global conflicts. Conflict-related sexual violence remains a serious problem and survivors are not adequately supported. The securitization of the agenda has displaced it from its original roots: human rights. The women’s and children’s agenda must focus on conflict prevention and resolution, not on making war safer for women and girls. We need to return to its roots in human rights. Significant progress has been made regarding safety and health matters, but political will and resources are essential to make sure that the agenda is properly implemented and that frameworks are in place, especially in conflict.

Possible recommendations:

  • Governments have made commitments, which should be implemented in national laws so that they can be held accountable for the implementation of the resolution 1325.
  • Require quotas in international institutions. Having more women in decision-making positions in international organizations and structures would make it easier for them to participate in high-level peace negotiations.
  • Increase financial support to women’s organizations, which are essential actors in the implementation of the WPS Agenda.
  • To consider adopting international sanctions against states that do not comply with the commitments under the WPS Agenda.

4.2 Women’s full and significant participation in society is fundamental to achieve peace and to end violence against women and girls.

The exclusion of women from decision-making is the cause for the relation between the failure to implement the WPS agenda at the international level and the slow progress in ending violence against women and girls.

We must deny legitimacy to decision-making bodies in which women are not adequately represented. For example, we should not accept the legitimacy of any negotiating delegation in a peacebuilding process in which women are not included. Some examples include Syria, Yemen or Ukraine.

4.3 Support for women on the ground level is essential.

Women’s civil society can translate international frameworks, such as WPS, into a local agenda that recognizes local priorities and needs, and that can be taken on by the community. Women activists have assumed enormous responsibilities in their communities and need to be recognized and supported. Not only in terms of capacity, but also in terms of their well-being. The space for civil society is shrinking and the effects of the pandemic have altered the sustainability of activist groups.

4.4 Violence against women and girls is not simply a matter of law: it is a cultural and social problem.

Ending violence against women and girls requires addressing the social and harmful practices that sustain this violence, as well as reforming the legal frameworks that enable and endorse violence.

Eradicating conflict-related sexual violence is one of the pillars of the women, peace and security agenda. Nonetheless, we are far from achieving this goal. The survivors’ point of view must be applied. Creating new national, international and hybrid mechanisms should be considered in order to fight impunity and ensure that these crimes are investigated, documented, prosecuted and punished.

Possible recommendation: 

  • Education as a mechanism to challenge and question stereotypes and harmful cultural perceptions of women must be at the center of our response to violence against women and girls.

 

  1. ECONOMIC, TECHNOLOGICAL, SCIENTIFIC AND DIGITAL EMPOWERMENT

Coordinators: Ayat Mneina and Obiageli Ezekwesili

5.1 The economy, technology and digital empowerment present great opportunities for women, but we need to be clear about where we stand today.

Although women may be “represented” within the labor force, they are often relegated to low positions and therefore, low rates of formal employment are predominant. Only one-third of businesses are owned by women. However, these are mostly women entrepreneurs who have done so out of necessity.

5.2. We will never achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) if we do not do as much as we can to empower girls and women in every aspect of our society, including science and technology.

Addressing the challenges around women’s employment, giving them access to credit and mobile financial services, right to ownership and inheritance of land, harassment-free workspaces, recognition and bringing dignity to care work, national and international support for women’s innovation and women’s participation in STEM careers and in the field of innovation.

5.3 Technology and the digital world as patriarchal instruments: a radical change is needed!

The digital world is the latest medium used to perpetuate discrimination and violence against women. Technology embedded in the patriarchy will always oppress women unless it is actively deprogrammed by women, for women and in our case, for African women.

We must ensure that the algorithms introduced in digital applications do not contain gender biases. Digital technology must not reproduce the prejudices and stereotypes that disadvantage women.

5.4. Technology and digitization offer enormous opportunities for African women. These can be harnessed through deliberate and intentional strategies that places them in the position to participate in the rapid expansion of the digital component of the global economy. Which, according to what UNCTAD estimates, could reach a 25% by 2030.

5.5. Emphasizing the positive aspects is just as important as highlighting the challenges that need to be addressed to ensure that the already unequal economic, social and political conditions are not exacerbated by technology. For example, technology is starting to narrow down the financial access gap through the rising trend of FinTech in Africa and the inclusion agenda. Agricultural productivity of most women in subsistence agriculture is beginning to improve marginally as a result of technology-enabled information services to inputs, outputs and markets.

5.6. In Africa, women represent around 30% of the technology professionals in the continent. In the 2020 West African Start-up Decade Report, Techpoint Africa estimates that between 2010 and 2019, only 10% of start-ups from West Africa with a female co-founder raised over a million dollars. “But the percentage of their presence is increasing, which can be in part attributed to the fact that female technology professionals are setting a path for future generations to overcome “the broken rung” on the career ladder. Obviously, these initiatives rely heavily on a healthy support system that connects women in the field of technology, including a broader network of “Women in STEM” professionals who work to improve their mentoring and networking abilities.”

5.7. There is a fundamental role for the governments working in partnership with the business sector to make technology into a transformative tool for African women across all sectors and borders.

 

In construction

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