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As we wind up the year 2020, a year that has been difficult and exhausting, we have witnessed hard-won gains on gender equality, women’s rights and guaranteed fundamental freedoms being eroded and reversed across different countries in Africa.  We started the year with a Letter by African Women & Girls to the AU Chairperson, President Cyril Ramaphosa. The African Union theme of the year was ‘Silencing the Guns’ and so was our clarion call to silence the guns and defund the sector and invest more into social protection and gender equality. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in February/March 2020 exposed and exacerbated pre-existing systemic inequalities, normalized injustices and structural discrimination. As a result, the most vulnerable and marginalized populations, whose voices have been systematically silenced and whose interests are hardly ever served, have not only been left behind but also pushed further into extreme poverty. African women remain at the lower ranks of the development indexes. The pandemic exposed glaring gaps in contraception, comprehensive sexuality education, weak health delivery systems and insufficient social protection measures and systems. We end the year with more girls not expected to return to school due to teen pregnancies, we saw more girls than ever undergoing female genital mutilation and once again gender-based violence soared and it was clear to all that the home is not a safe place neither is the public sphere as we saw women and girls in all their diversity being violated by the system that is supposed to protect them.
 
However, in all these challenges African women demonstrated resilience, connected in global solidarity with other feminists, took opportunities to reach further and have their voices heard in regional and global platforms like never before and influences policies, processes and outcomes in the best way they could. It was the end of the Decade for African Women and the start of the Decade for African women and financial inclusion, yes from one decade to another the fight for women's human rights continues. 2020 the year we celebrated 25 years of the groundbreaking Beijing+25 blueprint and started the groundwork for the Generation Equality Forums and Action Coalitions – that promise to deliver concrete and transformative change for women and girls around the world in the coming five years and push for adequate resourcing and full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.  
 
At FEMNET we reminded ourselves of the need to be our sister’s keeper and why we must remain resolute in demanding for an equal, inclusive and sustainable Africa – grounded in the pan-African ubuntu spirit! We grow as a movement, we persevered at the secretariat we triumphantly finalized the 2020-2029 Strategic plan, did an organizational development exercise, moved office and saw a lot of transition. We cannot thank you our members, partners and alliances enough for collectively contributing to our success and learnings in the midst of the pandemic. ASANTE! Join us as we share with you our 2020 highlights below:-
COVID-19: The Inequality Pandemic
We have all witnessed how the COVID-19 pandemic like all other crises has disproportionately affected women and girls. While the pandemic is seen as a ‘health issue’, its management and impact has had critical economic, social, political and psychological consequences on the lives and realities for women and girls in all their diversity. Since March 2020, FEMNET has been at the fore working on and advocating for a feminist approach in all COVID-19 response plans and recovery strategies. FEMNET secretariat staff and FEMNET members co-developed the Pan-African Women COVID-19 Response Plan to coordinate and support African women and girls in their response towards COVID-19 while influencing public policies and state response to the pandemic. As we shared tips for collective well-being by way of the feminist sanity kit and sister care guide and had heart-to-heart conversations and checking-calls with our members and partners, FEMNET continued to collectively reflect on the impact of COVID-19 on African women and girls. The key practical recommendations for an #InclusiveLockdown response were shared with leaders during a webinar with the AU on the preparedness and response to COVID-19 and were a useful reference for information sharing and influencing.
 
In April 2020, FEMNET together with our members and partners, launched the Pan-African Women COVID-19 Online Hub. The Online hub is a one-stop web-based platform that continues to be updated regularly with critical information resources about COVID-19 in Africa from a feminist perspective. All the resources there in are available for use by advocates, activists and feminists to lobby and influence for dignified and inclusive COVID-19 responses and recoveries by duty bearers in different African countries - and most importantly to use the platform to share and tell their stories, lived experiences and realities during this pandemic. The Online Hub is managed by FEMNET on behalf of our diverse members and partners – and together continue to call for ALL national, regional and global COVID-19 response strategies and recovery measures to be INCLUSIVE and DIGNIFIED, so that the most vulnerable populations in our communities are identified, respected and reached first.

In feminist solidarity, FEMNET endorsed statements calling for feminist response and recovery to COVID-19 including the Feminist COVID-19 Policy; the Feminist Response to COVID-19 and the African Feminist Post-COVID-19 Economic Recovery Statement.

In October 2020, FEMNET hosted a webinar panel discussion on the role of the ACHPR in promoting women’s rights in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Webinar attracted 45 participants from global, regional, national and community based human rights organizations and defenders. The rich conversations during the webinar resulted in deeper understanding of the multiple intersecting impacts of the pandemic and explore practical ways to support women’s rights organizations across the divide working with women and girls in all their diversities. The discussions also enriched popular understanding of the African Human Rights System namely: i) African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR); ii) African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC); iii) African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) and iv) the African Union and their contribution to the wellbeing and promotion of women and girls’ rights in Africa.

We African Teenage Girls Continue to SPEAK OUR TRUTHS – are you LISTENING? when will you ACT?

 Throughout the year, FEMNET supported girls to access virtual platforms to network, amplify their voices and interact with decision makers. FEMNET hosted three virtual meetings with girls and young women from across Africa during the Day of the African Child, International Day of the Girl and another one to celebrate the work being done by girls and young women to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Thank you for the webinar today, it was amazing. Thank you for the work you do in ensuring we are represented and are present in spaces that belong to us. I'm deeply grateful and will keep making African teenage girls proud. I'm honored to be associated with FEMNET❤️. My heart blesses you️. Stay safe 🌹By Liz Lum, 17 years, Cameroon.

“I've always admired women's power. I've always dreamt to be a superheroine, to run the world, to save people from catastrophes. But now that I am a grown-up, I have realized that the only catastrophe in the world is patriarchy. I suffered to get achievements. What if I want to be a president? What challenges am I going to face? What challenges will the next generations face? What will girls and women around the world face? So here I am, energetic and enthusiastic, ready to take part in FEMNET.

I heard about it from a friend. I was astonished and wondered: am I too late to take part? Do I really want to ? Finally, I found myself -with high potential of leadership- ready to set an example for young girls around the world, to share my experience and success stories, to be an efficient member in this world, an efficient woman. I'm genuinely interested in this organization. It met up my expectations as I want to raise my voice high and express my feminist thoughts. I've googled it and searched a lot and I discovered interesting programs and opportunities that you offer for teen girls like me to express themselves. I would be really glad to take part in your next event and I promise that I'll measure up. Please, put in mind that that there is always here in Tunisia this ambitious feminist woman ready to be active and work hard. Stay safe and wash your hands 😄 “ By Maram Hannachi, 17-year-old, Tunisia

 

During the International Day of the African Child on 15th June 2020, over 60 girls and young women in all their diversity had the opportunity to continue to SPEAK their TRUTHS and interact with the African Union Goodwill Ambassador on Child Abuse, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda who retaliated the girls’ sentiments that “girls have rights that must be protected and should be made accessible to all. The police and courts should be friendly and treat girls who have reported cases of violations as survivors not perpetrators”. Ms Nyaradzayi committed to ensure that the girls’ needs and priorities were shared and acted upon in her AU office.

 

Letter to African Presidents by African Teenage Girls: Our URGENT Clarion Call to Action!

Dear Presidents, as our African proverb reminds us, “it is the one who lives in the house who knows where the roof leaks”. We as African teenage girls know where the “roof in our lives is leaking” – it is in the justice systems and institutions that are not child-friendly.

We hereby share with you our key priorities and actions that are fundamental for a child-friendly justice system in all countries in Africa.

  1. All justice systems and institutions in African countries must be child-friendly and transparent. All decisions and policies must be followed through by consistent and actual implementation at the local and national levels.
  2. Children do not belong in prison! All governments must establish children’s courts and expedite access to justice for all girls and boys! Justice Delayed is Justice Denied!
  3. African Governments must demonstrate political will to finance child-friendly justice systems and infrastructure. Governments must also be intentional in fighting corruption at all levels including in the judiciary.
  4. Provision of psychosocial support for the survivors of violation of human rights alongside access to justice while upholding confidentiality.
  5. Child-friendly justice systems must be accessible to all teenage girls regardless of demographic and geographical settings (e.g. rural or urban areas, informal settlements, refugee camps etc).
  6. Teenage girls are calling on all governments to adopt a feminist approach to dismantle patriarchy in justice systems.
  7. All official UN, AU and Government documents and policies must be revised to read Child Abuse or Child Violation NOT child marriage! Marriage as we know it in our societies is a between consenting adults not children!
  8. Child-friendly justice systems are underpinned by access to information in child-friendly languages. All policy documents and resources should be KISS (Keep It Short and Simple).
  9. Governments must put structures and measures to ensure there are more women represented in justice systems in all African countries.
  10. Governments, CSOs, and other development actors must make every effort to ensure teenage girls meaningfully access national, regional and global platforms to exercise their power, agency and rights.
  11. Governments must ensure the judicial systems and institutions apply a human-rights based approach that is inclusive and dignified especially in all COVID-19 response and recovery plans including supporting women’s human rights defenders and training the law enforcement agencies on human rights.

 

As African feminist teenage girls, we affirm the words of the African Union Goodwill Ambassador on Child Abuse, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda“girls have rights that must be protected and accessible to all. The police and courts should be friendly and treat girls who have reported cases of violations as survivors not perpetrators”.

Dear Presidents, we as African teenage girls continue to speak our truths – are you listening and when will you ACT!

Please accept the assurances of our highest regards,

African Teenage Girls 

Political Leadership and Governance: Women Must Lead!

FEMNET continued to lead discussions on women’s leadership and participation in elective positions. It’s not only about women ascending to leadership but also women taking key positions that enables them to participate in decision making spaces and have their views, priorities and analysis included in key decisions.  The policy dialogues mainly centered on how to ensure that the gains made so far on women’s leadership are safe guarded and multiplied.

In August 2020, FEMNET convened women political leaders and parliamentarians in partnership with the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) and Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE). The convening was timely as it aligned with the ten years after the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya (2010), and the women leaders were reflecting and strategizing on women’s political participation in Kenya - noting that several gains to women’s representation and participation in leadership continued to be eroded, ignored and replaced with self-serving interests. Click here to read the full report of the convening and the resulting statement “Women Must LEAD! We need feminist leadership in Kenya”.

In October 2020, FEMNET convened members of the Nairobi County Assembly Women Caucus on click here to read the statement “Women Must Lead not Bleed, Nairobi County Women MCAs resolve”. The convening allowed for the women MCAs to reflect, strategize and forge a formidable force in reclaiming their space and bonding in solidarity. A few months ago, the near death in-fighting witnessed in the assembly had resulted in division and disunity. The convening was therefore timely for candid conversations in the healing and reconciliation journey.
 
As women we must stand in solidarity with one another to move the agenda for equal and meaningful representation and participation of women in politics and decision-making spaces” said Hon. Martha Karua.
 
Power concedes to nothing without a demand, women must demand in solidarity for the 2/3 gender rule. Let’s push for the amendment of the political parties act, we don’t need to amend the Constitution”. Ms Daisy Amdany, Executive Director CRAWN Trust.
 
In the next two years, FEMNET, International IDEA and the Women’s Political Participation (WPP) Consortium partners are keen to enhance women’s political participation in Africa with a view to advance the goal of gender equality in politics and governance. This partnership is committed to contribute to an increase in the voice and presence of women in all political processes and institutions in Africa at the different levels at which they exist. Through policy advocacy, strengthening of capacities and generating research and knowledge, the WPP consortium partners will work with women leaders and institutions in Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania and Zimbabwe to expand awareness and demand for the meaningful inclusion of all women in their diversities.
 
In Tanzania, FEMNET expressed dissatisfaction on the shrinking civic and democratic space and increasing authoritarianism in Tanzania during the election period. FEMNET urged the United Republic of Tanzania to cease from the continued threats, harassment, intimidations and violation of human rights meted on individuals and organizations critical of the government. The independence and validity of the civil society and media is integral in building holistic and democratic states. FEMNET called on regional bodies including the East African Community and the African Union to mount pressure and ensure that Tanzania complies with its national and international obligations including the protection of individuals and their fundamental rights of freedoms of expression and association. With the elections concluded and the government formed there remains a fight to push for and ensure that peoples rights and freedom are respected and most important those of women (including aspiring women), activists and media. Click here to read the full article “A pan-African stand must be taken against political oppression in Tanzania”.
African Feminist Macroeconomic Academy (AFMA): The Audacity to Disrupt Feminist Trade Policy

 
In 2020, due to the COVID-19 protocols, for the first time FEMNET organized a virtual AFMA hosted on FEMNET’s e-learning portal bringing together a cohort of 80 activists and feminists in Africa and beyond. From Mali to Mauritane, from Cameron to Liberia, from South Africa to Egypt and even in the diaspora the 2020 AFMA cohort brought their specialties and engaged with the topic of Feminist Trade Policy - specifically unpacking the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and what it means for African women. The AfCFTA agreement has high potential to boost industrialization and position Africa as a regional giant in trade through the creation of regional value chains and improved agro-processing. However, for this to be a success, women’s leadership, meaningful inclusion and participation is essential in its formation and implementation. Equitable trade systems and structures are fundamental to women's economic justice.
 
Co-Leading the Action Coalition on Economic Justice and Rights

In 2020, as the world reviewed the 25 years of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the UN Women launched the Generation Equality Forum, a global gathering for gender equality, convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France in partnership with civil society and bringing together women’s rights activists, gender equality advocates and visionaries to push for adequate resourcing and full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The co-leaders of the Generation Equality Action Coalitions were announced in July 2020. The Action Coalitions will deliver concrete and transformative change for women and girls around the world in the coming five years. They will focus on six themes that are critical for achieving gender equality: (1) ending gender-based violence, (2) advancing economic justice and rights, (3) agitating for women’s bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights, (4) strengthening feminist action for climate justice, (5) technology and innovation for gender equality, and (6) feminist movements and leadership. FEMNET is a core-leader of the Action Coalition on Economic Justice and Rights.
Femininja Podcast

FEMNET launched the Femininja Podcast  in September 2020 and by end of December 2020, we had released 15 episodes. The podcast is a series of amazing and candid conversations around diverse topics including feminism, leadership, femonomics, reflections on the global commitments like the twenty-five years Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives and livelihoods of women and girls. Click here to hear from incredible women speakers as they tell their stories, share their insights and educate us on why we should all be feminists.
Digital Footprints and Conversations
 
FEMNET’s innovative use of digital and social media platforms has enabled her to effectively mobilize, influence policy, engage, network, follow up and share information more fluidly with her members and coordinate members around key moments. Throughout the year, FEMNET initiated, joined and contributed to online discussions curated in hashtags:- #Femonomics, #FightInequality, #WomenAtWorkCampaign StopGBVAtWork, RatifyILOc190, #InclusiveLockdown, DignifiedResponse, #JustRecoveryAfrica, #SRHRDialogues, #Beijing25Africa, #CSW63Africa, #GenerationEquality, #GenerationEqualityAfrica  etc.
 
In terms of followers on our social media platforms, the following depicts the steady growth in numbers:-
Year Facebook Page Likes Twitter Followers Instagram Followers
2018 15,375 28,638 1,146
2019 15,926 30,176 1,453
2020 16,600 40,759 2,049
 
Knowledge Products

The following include some of the knowledge products that were produced in 2020:-
FEMNET published Press Releases and Opinion Pieces in national, regional and global media platforms including:
 
Short clip Videos/ Documentaries that were produced in 2020 and used for influencing and documenting herstory journeys include:-
FEMNET’s Strategic Visioning  

In 2020 FEMNET embarked on the review of our 10-year strategic plan 2020 - 2029. The development of this ten years blueprint was inspired by a need for continued repositioning within the evolving operating context and to enable continued relevance and effective responses to the priorities and aspirations of African women and girls in all diversity.
 
The strategy is an outcome of a co-creation process entailing rigorous analysis, deep consultations, and authentic reflections by FEMNET staff, board members, organizational and individual members, peers, partners, and other stakeholders. FEMNET regards 2020-2029 strategic plan as a broad framework document that sets broad parameters to her programs and operations in the next ten years. The plan will be operationalized through three cycles of three-year tactical plans premised on periodic reviews.
 
The strategic plan will focus on the delivery of five thematic areas, which are; Ending violence against women & girls; Advancing sexual & reproductive health & rights; Transformative women’s leadership; Economic justice and rights and lastly Climate justice & natural resource governance. Together with our partners and members we will strive to ensure that we amplify, we strengthen capacities, we connect, we form consortiums, we mobilize resources, we learn and we share knowledge on these thematic areas.
 
FEMNET is truly grateful for the unwavering support from our members, partners and friends in our collective journey as we envision a society where African women and girls thrive in dignity and well-being, free from patriarchal and neoliberal oppression and injustices.
 
We look forward to welcoming 2021 with great hope and readiness to further amplify the voices and interests of African women and girls in all their diversity.
 
Happy Holidays!

In Solidarity & Sisterhood,

Memory Kachambwa, Executive Director, FEMNET
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