Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Climate Change and Sustainable Development

 By: Vivian Ngonzi Butamanya, HR Officer Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA)

Makerere University Centre for Climate Change Research and Innovations (MUCCRI) convened a short course that was attended between 20 – 25 June 2016 and I was privileged to be a part of this training. The initiative was in response to increasing demand for increasing climate change awareness and building a knowledge base to tackle climate change among practitioners in government, academia, researchers, civil society and private sector.

Climate change is one of major human development challenges of the 21st century. The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (IPCC AR5) observes that since the mid-19th Century, world average temperatures have increased by about one degree (0.850C), and continue to rise, as a result of increased Greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions from human activities.

While the cause of climate is global through activities that increase GhG emissions, it will lead to different impacts in different countries and regions depending on different economic and environmental condition, and level of vulnerability and ability to cope with the impacts. The conclusion therefore is that since many people in developing countries are highly dependent on natural resources, they are highly vulnerable to the effects of a changing climate. Therefore, climate change will inevitably affect the development prospects of many developing countries, and the attainment of sustainable development. 

There is therefore an urgent need for local and global action through two parallel tracks: adaptation and mitigation. Adaptation because some effects of the climate changes can no longer be avoided and solutions such as new agricultural techniques and adequate infrastructure need to be identified. Mitigation because we need to reduce emission of GhG to reduce the magnitude of the changes.

Addressing climate change in the development context not only has the potential to increase climate resilience and reduce poverty but will also contribute to the achievement of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

The training basically provided an introduction to climate change issues in the context of sustainable development. This learning programme is believed not turn participants into climate change experts; but rather provide an informed platform for engaging in concrete activities in the participants’ organizations and jobs. The programme also introduced common and individual responsibilities and opportunities, and presented tools and mechanisms for adaptation and mitigation actions at organizational and individual level. Through the training, focus was drawn to the understanding of the relationships between climate change and development and the need and the how to integrate climate change response actions in the development agenda.

Important to the women’s agenda and in relation to SDG 5, something that caught my attention was the session on ‘Addressing gender in climate change adaptation and mitigation’. The injustice of climate change is clear, people living in poverty all over the world;  who have done the least to contribute to greenhouse gas emissions that trigger global warming, these are worst affected by climate change impacts. 

Gender inequality is a long-standing and pervasive social injustice. We cannot deliver sustainable development without tackling climate change, and we cannot tackle climate change without tackling the root causes of poverty which is gender inequality. It will only worsen if the injustices of climate change and gender inequality are not tackled together, and fast. 

Moving forward, there’s need for activation of participatory bottom up planning and ensuring Climate change impacts are localized. It’s also critical that Gender analysis and vulnerability assessment be part of development planning tools and last but not least the need for measuring impact and reviews - M&E framework.   

AKina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) is one of the four partner institutes of the African Centers of Excellence (ACE) for Women's Leadership program run by the Institute of International Education (IIE) , Sub Saharan Africa- Ethiopia Office.

For more on IIE , ACE or AMwA please follow the links below.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

AMwA's guest of the month, Josephine Watuulo

Dear Reader,
Ms. Josephine Watuulo
It is a great pleasure to share with you the leadership journey of another distinguished alumna of African Women Leadership Institute. In this exclusive interview, Ms. Josephine Watuulo shares her AWLI experience and how it has influenced her personality and career growth. I hope you too can borrow a leaf or two from her experience and perhaps consider undertaking the AWLI training if you haven’t.AMwA. Kindly tell us about yourself

Josephine. My name is Josephine Watuulo. An African Feminist who was introduced to feminism including women’s movement building and Women’s rights Advocacy in 2007 during the African Women Leadership Institute(AWLI). I hold a Master’s Degree in Sociology and a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Sciences. I am passionate about advancing women’s rights and have advocated for the rights of women behind the scenes. Through my work as a Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Specialist, I have over the years ensured that all data collection tools, questionnaires, templates, frameworks and institutional M&E strategies have female and male segregation. I have also ensured that this trickles down to the reports and results write-up and dissemination.

AMwA. Which animal character would you best relate yourself to and why?Josephine.I think for me the cat is one animal that resonates with my character in so many ways; I find it to be beautiful, caring, intelligent, social, warm, welcoming, flexible, loving a team player and helps others to grow, all of which define my personality.

AMwA. “The African Women leadership Institute is said to be a life changing experience for many African women” Do you in any way identify with this statement?Josephine. Absolutely! Through the AWLI I took with me key learnings that have continued to influence and shape the way I perceive the world in so many ways;
Human Diversity

I learnt how to appreciate Human Diversity. That people come from different backgrounds, experience different norms, cultures, and ways of life that shape their character. This in turn determines how they relate to colleagues at the work places, family members and relatives at home, friends and family and community members at social, political, religious gatherings or events.This diversity need not to be only appreciated but also recognized.
The AWLI had participants from over 10 African Countries, with whom we shared meals and hotel; there was 100% degree of interaction during sessions and breaks all which greatly contributed to a cross-cultural interaction and exchange. I am now more comfortable working with people from diverse backgrounds from all over the World.
Public versus Private

I learnt how to balance the public versus private spheres of life. Through the AWLI I learnt to effectively and efficiently do my work to produce results while at the same time be in position to take care of my family and create ample time to socialize or ‘me time’.

“ME Time"We were introduced to the concept ‘me time’ at the AWLI in which we appreciated the need to take care of ourselves in a much deeper and meaningful way. For example today, I can take a two-three day retreat to develop an individual strategic plan for myself. I appreciated my body, mind and soul bringing me to realization of how much we as women and girls have for long been socialized to despise our bodies and sexuality. I learnt how to make myself feel and look good. The ‘me time’ concept went a long way in enhancing my self-esteem, enthusiasm and career growth. It is no surprise that I now have self-confidence to talk on different panels, in interviews, present to large audiences some of which were the most dreaded actions earlier in my career.

AMwA. In your opinion, what would you consider as the greatest achievement for African women in our strife for gender equality since the Nairobi Conference of 1985?

Josephine.There have been a number of achievements through the struggle for gender equality that we ought to celebrate. I have particularly been inspired by the resilience and determination of African women in building a strong women’s movement, in which many organizations including Akina Mama wa Afrika have continued to pool resources and collectively pushed the gender equality agenda forward. As a result we are now seeing more and more visibility of women in spaces which were predominately for male folks; women’s voices are now being heard in places where they were unheard of. And the simple fact that in some institutions and /or companies gender equality is like a given. It’s not much of a debate anymore rather it’s a consideration or key requirement even during recruitment/hiring of new employees.

AMwA. Uganda just concluded the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections some of which results were contested at the Presidential, Parliamentary and local government level.” In your opinion, what opportunities and /or challenges did the women of Uganda encounter both as candidates/ or even as voters during this election?

Josephine. Reflecting on the elections; I am drawn to state that Ugandan women had the opportunity of an increased awareness among the citizenry of the capability of women to lead and be voted. This is demonstrated by the fact that Uganda has witnessed an increased rise of women parliamentarians up to 35% with a number of them holding executive leadership positions. Therefore this could have in a way enhanced their chances of being elected to leadership. Despite the aforementioned opportunity, Ugandan women still face many challenges, the greatest being the lack of and/ or limited financial resources to run a campaign especially at a time when elections have been commercialized. In addition many Ugandan women have very limited power to access loans and credit compared to men; thus greatly affecting their liquidity or financial capacity which is a major requirement for effectively running campaigns.

AMwA. What is your message for any young African women interested in political leadership?Josephine. My Message for young African women interested in leadership is wrapped in the following elements;

  • Understand your goal and vision
  • Promote your goal and vision and objectives
  • Live your goals and vision
  • Market your goals and vision
  • Implement your vision and objectives
  • Learn to self-motivate
  • Build responsible and relevant partnerships with women organizations like AMWA, ACFODE, FOWODE, UWONET, ISSIS_WICCE etc

As an expert in M & E what are some of the best practices that women’s rights organizations would learn from to improve their reporting especially in an environment where resources for women’s human rights work is dwindling and competition is high?
Josephine. Monitoring and Evaluation is a value that each organization ought to build into its structure and practices; In improving M & E I would urge organizations to;
  • Develop an Activity Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Action plan
  • Put in place an M&E policy for the organization
  • Develop an M&E strategy, M&E plan, M&E chart
  • 10% of budget allocation to M&E. Develop M&E budget
  • Continuously build staff skills in M&E
  • Participate in trainings and networking
AMwA. Which one thing would you want the world to remember you for?Josephine. I would like to be remembered for having supported individuals to grow to top positions while appreciating gender balance and gender sensitivities. 

AKina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) is one of the four partner institutes of the African Centers of Excellence (ACE) for Women's Leadership program run by the Institute of International Education (IIE) , Sub Saharan Africa- Ethiopia Office.

For more on IIE , ACE or AMwA please follow the links below.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Feminist: The Label That Fit Me Like a Glove

By Annette Mukiga, Program Officer for RWN

The partnership between RWN and IIE under the African Centers of Excellence for Women's Leadership (ACE) program started in 2013 and I have been part of the different ACE convenings and activities since then. The most common threads in all these events have been feminist transformational leadership, personal reflection and promoting self care and love as well as our personal “her stories” as a way to keep our feminist principles alive and working in practice.

I have been working for Rwanda Women Network (RWN) for more than a decade and for the first time I could sense that this world that I entered as a young woman was feeling more like home. I finally had a name “Feminist” and it fit me like a glove. I am shameless and unapologetic in taking it and flaunting it as my own.

In most countries and cultural contexts, the word “feminism” carries a negative connotation, with feminism being seen as a western ideology that demonizes men. Feminists are caricatured as “man haters” and “home breakers”. The term feminism may have originated in Europe, but we lived it as Africans before we even knew what it meant.

There have been many struggles by women in challenging traditional and patriarchal systems all over the world and close to home, the famous Rwandan folktale of Ndabaga, the young woman who disguised herself as a young man in order to be admitted in a military camp is a powerful story of a woman who pushed and challenged the gender boundaries of that time.  As a single woman and mother continuously challenging society norms that want to shrink and shape me into “a submissive, virtuous and good woman” I identify with this woman.

For me this journey has led to both personal and professional growth. When I sat through one of the self-care sessions in feminist transformational process, I was hesitant at first. But after I went through a few and did some of the exercises including the body map for the first time, I began to understand body politics and the importance of space for myself. It was rejuvenating, I have learnt to love myself. I found this only in a feminist space!

Naturally, I am a person that is very reserved and like leading from the sidelines and hate the limelight. I have come to love me. For me to give back to the world I have to love myself first and not feel guilty about it. I have had to learn, know more and be in tune with who I am, my journey and where I want to be in this world. To know my strengths and my weaknesses in order to go where I want to go – it is not an easy journey and needs continuous reflection and keeping the bigger picture in focus.

As I continue to grow and take on bigger leadership responsibilities especially around promoting women’s rights, holding leaders accountable and advocating on gender and women’s issues like violence against women and girls, women’s safe spaces, women in decision making, reproductive health, family planning as well as contentious issues like abortion; I am counting on my strength as a woman as well as feminist principles to guide me through.

Feminism - a perspective that values all people as equal, women and men, boys and girls.
“Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke………………. She will need her sisterhood” Gloria Steinem.

Rwanda Women's Network (RWN) is one of the four partner institutes of the African Centers of Excellence (ACE) for Women's Leadership program run by the Institute of International Education (IIE) , Ethiopia Office.
For more on IIE , ACE or RWN please follow the links below.

Monday, April 11, 2016

By Eunice Musiime- Executive Director, Akina Mama wa Afrika
The United Nations 60th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW60) was held from the 14th-25th March in New York. This year's theme was "Women's empowerment and the link to sustainable development. Representatives of UN Member States, UN entities and Non – Governmental Organisations (NGOs) accredited by the UN Economic and Social Council attended the CSW60.

 At the opening, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the UN Women Executive Director and a UN Under-Secretary-General, said "This session marks the beginning of the countdown to 2030 to the future we want, in which no one is left behind." She also emphasized the fact that Governments cannot solely deliver on this very ambitious development framework; calling on Member States to collaborate with various stakeholders including civil society and women's rights organizations. She added that greater support and protection of civil society is needed to ensure greater political space and capacity for them.
 In his opening remarks, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged the strides made. He noted that he had appointed more than 150 women as Assistant Secretary-Generals or Under-Secretary-Generals. "When I took office, there were no women special representatives – often known as SRSGs – in the field," Ban observed. "Today, nearly a quarter of UN missions are headed by women. That is not nearly enough, but it is a major step in realizing the Security Council's historic resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.”
Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) was one of the organizations that organized a parallel session on women, peace and security and its link to achieving sustainable development. The panel composed of the African Union Special Envoy on Peace and Security, Ms Bineta Diop,  the Chairperson of AMwA: Ms. Thokozile Ruzvidzo; A renown Feminist from Zambia Ms. Sara Longwe; A peace and security activist from Democratic Republic of Congo, Ms Josephine Malimukono, The Executive Director of FIDA-Uganda, Ms. Irene Ovonji; Ms. Muadi Mukenge from the Global Fund for Women and Ms. Eunice Musiime, the Executive Director of Akina Mama wa Afrika.

Ms. Thokozile Ruzvidzo, Director African Centre for Gender and Social Development speaking at AMwA Parallel Event
Ms. Thokozile Ruzvidzo, Director African Centre for Gender and Social Development speaking at AMwA Parallel Event on the 18th of March 2016, Salvation Army 

With the current conflicts in the region, the panel and participants shared experiences of how they are working to advance the women, peace and security agenda but noted that there is still a lot more to be done. A broad critique of the failure of several policies and frameworks such as United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 to increase the participation of women in peace processes was discussed, citing that mechanisms developed have not focused on creating inclusive processes as a result of patriarchal norms.

 The AU Special Envoy on Peace and Security noted that “When women groups have the opportunity and capacity to exercise effective influence on the peace process the likelihood of peace agreements being reached and implemented is much higher.” She pledged to work with women rights organizations in advancing women’s participation.
 Reflecting on the different panels and sessions, one of the key take –always is how to replicate best practices on the local, national and global level rather than re-inventing the wheel.
Overall the question of women, peace and security remains central to the realization of the Agenda2030, and should be one of the issues African governments especially from the Great Lakes Region focus on as they seek to prioritise which goals of the agenda to implement.

AKina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) is one of the four partner institutes of the African Centers of Excellence (ACE) for Women's Leadership program run by the Institute of International Education (IIE) , Sub Saharan Africa- Ethiopia Office.

For more on IIE , ACE or AMwA please follow the links below.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

I am a child of abused mother

In recent past Kenya has witnessed escalation of violence against women. While others have been left injured with disabilities other women have been killed. Quite recently a young woman was beaten by her partner and thrown out of a four-floor building. She was then electrocuted by the fence at the gate and hit the floor with her head. She died instantly. This has made me wonder so many things. Perpetrators of violence often instill fear to their victims and that their self esteem is no more and the strength to leave is not there. I kept on wondering what about children who witness these crimes and violence, what about them? 

Recently I caught a story by a child of a survivor of violence and this is her story. Her name is Nancy* and this is her story;

This is particularly hard for me to share, first because I love my mother very much, and secondly, because I know this update will bring scrutiny to her, and I am not sure she wants that part of her life known but anyway.

My mother was in an abusive marriage for as long as I can remember. First emotional abuse. He broke her little by little. First she had a terrible lip color, next the blue dress made her look like a slut. Then the heels sent the wrong message to men, and then she was spending too much on expensive clothes or shoes or perfume that was not good anyway. Then, her friends were not good enough. One was too opinionated, the other loose morals, the other a smart mouth, and yet another a bad influence. My mother, caved to all of her husband's demands, because he loved her, and he was her prince charming, and his comments, however nasty, were coming from a good place. After all, aren’t partners supposed to be brutally honest?

Then we were born, and mom did not have enough time to look as good anymore. All she wanted was her kids to be fed and happy, and her business to run successfully so that she could provide for her family. Then the incessant complains intensified. Her clothes now were dirty, did not fit properly, she smelled, did not do her hair... etc. etc. Mom still stayed despite the hurtful things he said, because, men are visual beings, and father was just asking for more instead of roving. Soon after, the beatings started. First it was a slap for talking back, which was followed by remorse and an apology. A black eye here, bruises on the stomach there etc. mom stayed. After all, her kids were tiny and they needed her. Then the aunties started. He would bring them to live with us, so that they could go to college while living with us. They were always his distant cousins. When mom was away at the family business, he was home sleeping with his "distant cousins" he was so careless that we saw it, but we were just too young to know what we saw. We told our mom, and her heart broke into pieces. When she confronted him, the "distant cousin" was thrown out and my mother beaten black and blue. She had had it, so she moved upcountry to her parents in law's farm, hoping that they would intervene.

They did not, they told her to vumilia (persevere), go back to her husband and kids and figure it out. After all, 'wengi wamevumilia na wanaishi'- many have endured and lived. By then I was around 10, and my father was already emotionally abusing us the kids, especially me because he had some deep seated hatred for the female gender. We were completely alienated from our friends. He picked at everything we did, and I was often punished for my brother's mistakes, so much so that my brothers actively avoided trouble to keep me from beatings. My elder brother, at 13, dared my father to hit me ever again; he was beaten, but at least my father knew his son had grown up enough to start challenging him. That night, we told our mother to leave. We packed her stuff, she left in the morning to go to the business as usual. We packed some of her clothes in a school bag, and with those she left. Left an abusive marriage, an abusive man, a toxic life.

When a woman gets a chance to leave it takes a lot of strength and at times children also play a major role to that shift. We should support survivors and end Violence against Women and Girls.

By Esther Wambui- Executive Director for YWLI

Young Women's Leadership Institute (YWLI) is one of the four partner institutes of the African Centers of Excellence (ACE) for Women's Leadership program run by the Institute of International Education (IIE) , Ethiopia Office.

For more on IIE , ACE or YWLI please follow the links below.  

Thursday, March 24, 2016

WISE is like a mother to me!

My Name is Ayelech Esubalew. I am a member of the 'Mekaleya' Self Employed Women’s saving and Credit Cooperative. I was born in a small rural village in Ethiopia in 1972 but I grew up in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.  My family had a good life, but my aunt fetched me to Addis when I was nine years old, promising to enroll me in school.  I helped her with the household work. There was not much to do and I was attending my evening school. I was able to attain until seventh grade while staying with her. However, as the years went by, the workload got heavier and conflicts developed with my aunt. So I left her house and got hired as a maid in another household for three years. Meanwhile, I managed to continue with my education.   
At age 19, I became pregnant and it created arguments within my family. They wanted to give my child for adoption. However, I was determined to sacrifice myself to raise my son. I immediately started searching for my father who then was living in Addis. We found him but he passed away five months after we met.  We continued living in my father’s house where I went through lots of struggle to raise my son. I did a variety of menial work. At the last place I worked, the lady who employed me paid me a monthly salary that only covered half a liter of milk for my son’s daily consumption. After two years of working for her, she lent me 100 birr (around $10 at the time) and I started selling berbere (chili powder). It was just at this juncture that WISE’s staff began introducing the work of the organization around where I lived. That was in 1998.
Having joined WISE, I started becoming optimistic immediately after I took the basic business skills training. I became full of hope. It made me think that anything is possible. Shortly after the training, I took a loan and continued my business of selling ‘berbere’ and diversified it to an extent by selling charcoal. My business gradually started showing improvement.  Over time, my business reached a better level. I was able to provide everything my son needed and later enrolled him to school.  He was a very thoughtful child. He preferred books over cloths. I did my best to provide everything that he needed for his education. I raised him single handedly without support from anyone.  I was both a mother and father to him. He scored the highest point when he joined preparatory school. Later when he joined the university, I bought him a laptop computer. I always prayed that he achieves his best. And God heard my prayers. He has now graduated in Civil Engineering from a University in Ethiopia and currently leads a ‘40/60’ condominium housing construction scheme.
There are a number of changes in my life. I was able to build a better house.  We used to live in a small rundown corrugated iron sheet house I inherited from my father. Now I changed that into a three roomed house. In addition to my own living quarter, I built one more room which is rented out.  Of all the achievements, educating my son is the one thing that makes me happy and proud. He secured a job immediately after he graduated. I also supported my nephew to pursue his education and he is now employed with the Ethiopian Air Lines. Currently, I have a good life.  There are many families who were not able to send their children to school. To contribute my share as a citizen, I am currently seeking out to support a child from a poor family.
My saving is not what it could have been. Previously, my priority was not saving but investing on my son’s education. I was able to provide for all his needs.  Yet, I have 15,000 Birr (around $1500) saving with my cooperative and 15,000 ($1500) Birr in the bank. I took different round of loans according to my business needs.  The highest loan I took so far was 15,000 birr ($1500).
I served my cooperative for the last 15 years at different capacities including as the treasurer and as member of different committees in leadership positions. Currently, I am the group leader in my cooperative.
My immediate plan is to sell household utensils in addition to my current business.

The message I have for other women who are interested to work and improve their living but are home bound is that they must come out and join WISE to benefit from the knowledge and financial services. WISE is like a mother and a home. WISE is my confidant.  I am so grateful to WISE for helping me to get here, next to God. 

Women in Self Employment (WISE) is one of the four partner institutes of the African Centers of Excellence (ACE) for Women's Leadership Program run by the Institute of Intenrational Education (IIE), Ethiopia Office 

For more on IIE , ACE or WISE please follow the links below.