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Mama Zuma in solidarity with Kilimanjaro women

Mama Zuma in solidarity with Kilimanjaro women

letekidan.berhane 25 January 2017

 GIMAC celebrates ActionAid International Board Chair; Ma’m Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda

Kilimanjaro, Kilimanjaro, we gonna march up there x2let our voices  be heard, let  our demand  be known, that our land is our life!

The lines above were of a song the Kilimanjaro women, (mostly represented by members of RWFF)  repeatedly chanted during the 29th Gender is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) Pre-summit Consultative Meeting. The GIMAC event, which   followed the theme of this year’s  AU Summit “harnessing the Demographic Dividend through investment in youth” and on Gender Mainstreaming in the African Union Commission (AUC), was held in the Addis Ababa, 22nd – 23rd  January 2017.

Beyond gracing the summit with their chants, the women from villages of Africa  nicely used the meeting as a platform to further voice their concerns.  They explained how their concerns including those in the charter of demand they presented to the AUC Chairperson in October 2016,  cut across issues related to the wellbeing and advancement of the communities, nations and the continent as a whole.

H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini Zuma, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission whom participants addressed as “Mama Zuma” through out the meeting, endorsed the demands and recommendations of the rural women.   The way Mama Zuma retrieved and waved the emblem ( Kilimanjaro Branded Wrapper) of the Kilimanjaro women’s Initiative makes one associate her with the women and their initiative. Later, Mama Zuma also    joined the rural women dancing, at the end of the meeting. Every action was spectacular.

The session titled, “Intersectionality of climate change, gender and livelihood, on the realization of women’s rights,” presented practical challenges and experiences that depicted gender issues as cutting across climate change, livelihood issues, reproductive health, Young Women Empowerment and Entrepreneurship; Governance, Peace and Security; Education; and Health. The discussions portrayed problems and practical solutions. One can say, this was the liveliest session where women articulated very well  that addressing these is tantamount to curb  most of the key continental challenges.  At the end of the session, the participants, hundreds of representatives of African civil society organizations and African women and youth leaders, stood up in solidarity and respect as the women moved back to their seats, singing and dancing.

Constance Okeke, International Project Manager, Public Finance for Agriculture of ActionAid, who  coordinated the participation of the rural women delegation to the meeting, facilitated this session with two of the RWFF members as part of the panellists. The women noted lack access to and control over land as their biggest problem and mentioned the following as factors fuelling the problems.• Discriminatory culture and beliefs that inhibit women and girls’ land inheritance • Governance problems that fail to issue or implement laws ensuring gender equality• Financial problems that force women to use rudimentary agricultural methods and tools leading to minimal produce and earnings• Women’s lack of  control and decision making on the agricultural produce The women also raised issues around protection of communities’ interests to safe food against investments introducing genetically modified food products.

Recommendations the women suggested included:• Strengthen implementation of  the Africa union land policies• Ensuring women’s land tenure rights• Instituting rural financing as a solution to finance problem among women and girls• Banning harmful traditional practices inhibiting women’s rights• Ensure 50 percent representation of women’s voices in  national, regional and continental decisions affecting lives of females  • Involve women in decisions regarding land based investments in their surroundings

The demands and recommendations of the rural women are also very well addressed in the   29th GIMAC recommendations The fact that GIMAC honoured  and awarded ActionAid International Board Chairwoman Ms Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda as one of the legendary African Women during a side event   23rd January, kept ActionAid elevated throughout meeting. 

Our Chairwoman is recognized for her unique contributions for girls and women rights and empowerment. Ms Nyaradzayi, a human rights lawyer and activist for women and girls rights and leadership has been the AUC good will Ambassador for ending Child Marriage.

Ms Nyaradzayi is also the founder and chairperson of Rozaria Memorial Trust and active member of women’s organisations including the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association. She also took time to commend the RWFF women and the ActionAid team that were at the GIMAC event for the god representation and urged them to continue the good work and always know that she and the entire board and management give their support.

The meeting provided a platform for over 300 representatives of civil society actors from across Africa who  discussed the issues already mentioned and  put forth key recommendations to the AU Heads of States and Governments for accelerated action to secure youth  and women empowerment.

Actionaid supported 15 women farmers(4 had support from AUC)and delegated  five  staff to the meeting. Kilimanjaro initiative is an initiative of rural women organized to claim access and control over land and natural resources. The Kilimanjaro Initiative is for ending women’s lack of access to and control over land.

Kilimanjaro women
Photo: Letekidan Berhane