The UK WILPF Voices of African Women campaign started in November 2008 when grassroots African women campaigners from several African countries travelled to London to share their stories. The campaign has been ongoing ever since and has inspired and empowered many women.
While the African women were together, they drafted a declaration that highlighted their key concerns and took part in a seminar series focussed on the impact of NGO policies, as well as national and international politics on Africa’s past, present and future.
Since 2008, women from many African countries who are living in the UK have come together with British women to develop the campaign and take their concerns to decision makers in national governments, the international community and non-governmental agencies.
The campaign calls for governments everywhere to:
- Stop the support of oppressive regimes and call for effective governance of African governments
- End the proliferation of small arms and foreign military bases on Africa’s soil
- Implement UN Security Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security
- Implement UN Security Resolution 1820 on sexual violence in armed conflict
- Conduct national consultations with civil society women’s organisations before any national law affecting women is passed
The development of the campaign
The Voices of African Women campaign group meet regularly to plan activities and develop a greater understanding of the issues facing African women. Presentations are made by African diaspora women to the group about the situation in their countries, the conferences or activities they have attended, and the visits they have made to women’s groups in their home countries. Workshops and conference are organised to highlight and further the campaign in the UK. Around 30 diaspora African UK residents have joined WILPF through the activities of this campaign.
The campaign has developed contacts with UK-based African Embassies and the Department for Development (DFID) and UK WILPF Vice President, Marie-Claire Faray-Kele contributed to a “Gender Transformation” Conference organised by DIFID in Addis Ababa in April 2010.
Two workshops were organised by the campaign to introduce international instruments including UN Security Council Resolution 1325, CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of All Violence Against Women) and the Maputo Protocol, among others, to the members of the group. Voices of African Women has continued to arrange visits to the London embassies of African countries to raise the issues outlined in the Voices of African Women’s Declaration of 2008, and encourage them to listen to women in their countries.
Delegations secured and attended meetings with the Sudanese and D.R. Congo embassy ambassadors respectively. The delegation that visited the Sudanese embassy raised the issue of the repeal of article 13 of the Sudanese ‘Child Act’ (2009). The repeal of this article decriminalizes the act of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The delegation that visited the embassy of the D.R. Congo raised the issue of Violence Against Women. We also sought the assurance of the ambassador that three members of the Voices of African Women campaign would be safe on their travels to Bukavu, Eastern Congo for the Third World March of Women in October 2010.
The launch of the African Women’s Decade 2010 – 2020
The WILPF Voices of African Women campaign initiated the UK launch of the African Union’s designated African Women’s Decade (2010 – 2020). This event, hosted by the Gender Studies Department of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) of the University of London on 31 July 2010, African Women’s Day, attracted over one hundred people.
Representatives from DFID, the US embassy and the African Union (AU) were present and as a result the Voices of African Women campaign was invited to lead a workshop at the AU launch in Nairobi in October 2010. Maie El-Hag,, Rai Sow, Marie-Claire Faray Kele and Sheila Triggs worked hard researching and making applications for funding for this without success. So we were not able to take up this opportunity. However, the AU Gender Directorate is now in communication with UK WILPF Voices of African Women.
The Voices of African Women campaign has drawn up its own road map of actions for the Decade which will form the basis of the work of the campaign.
Various African women members of WILPF have been able to attend meetings at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW), the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC), the African Union (AU) and other bodies in Africa.
We now have WILPF Voices of African Women women from Sudan, D R Congo, and Chad who visit and are in contact with active women in their countries who are interested in WILPF and have started the process of building WILPF groups in these countries.
The Congolese members of the Voices of African Women campaign in collaboration with women of WILPF DRC group drafted a statement that was delivered at the United Nations’ 13th Session of the Human Rights Council on the 19th March 2010. The Statement was made for the 2nd Seven Special Rapporteurs Report on the DRC and emphasized the situation of women in the D R Congo.
The Sudanese members of the Voices of African Women campaign drafted a statement which was delivered at the United Nations’ 15th Session of the Human Rights Council on the 20 September 2010. The Statement was a reaction to the independent experts’ report on the Sudan’s Human Rights record. We raised the following three issues:
- The decriminalization of female genital mutilation (FGM).
- The engendered suffering of Darfuri women in and around Internally Displaced Persons camps.
- The Sudanese government’s non-ratification of CEDAW, Maputo protocol and lack of a NAPs (National Action Plan) for UN SCR 1325.