Friday, May 7, 2010


“Know Thyself”, a popular saying, is so real in my life. I have come to realise that lyrics of songs is my greatest source of inspiration. I have therefore programmed myself to listen to only good music every day.

I tuned into a radio station this morning and I heard an unfamiliar song but the lyric was so touching and real that I goggled the lyrics to get the words. The title of the song is “No charge”. It talks about a guy who sent a bill to his mum for all that he’s done and being doing that the mum never paid for. The mum turned the sheet and wrote on the paper all the things she’s done for the boy: from the nine months in her womb to the cost of his college fees that she never charged him anything, after reading, he was filled with so much tears and he told her of how much he loves and appreciate her effort.

Sunday 9th May 2010 is Mothers day and as usual Children are having lots of plans for their mum. My question this year is “Do we appreciate our mother’s everyday or we wait till Mother’s day to show our love”? For some, it’s just about getting her a voucher for a shopping spree and it ends there, for others, it’s all about the fact that they have the money and so can even buy the world for their mums.
Every mother’s greatest pride is to see her child do something to make her proud so for most mothers, little things like their kids receiving prizes at school and getting promotions at work or their chosen field of endeavours make them proud and it has always been the case.

Even as we mark this year’s mother’s day, I wish we would go the extra mile of telling our mothers how much we appreciate their effort, not through a text message but if possible seeing them face to face to tell them how much they mean to us, that I believe will make them proud of us.

They carried, nurtured and did everything we needed at no cost, so let’s give them our all not on mother’s day but as long as God gives us breath, for they deserve it.
Kudos to all mothers, No amount of money can be used to repay your efforts and for that reason you never and can never be able to charge us.
Love to you all

Monday, October 19, 2009

Grantee Highlight: GAMCOTRAP celebrates ex-circumcisers

Over the years, The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children - GAMCOTRAP has been engaged in consistent grassroots activism and social mobilisation through training and sensitization activities to raise consciousness of men and women on the Effects of FGM on the reproductive health rights of women and girl-children. The organization has worked closely with the communities through an empowerment process to be able to bring about change. As a result of the series of activities, the organisation has been able to register immense success leading to the first Public Declaration was made by 18 Circumcisers and 63 Communities to protect their children from FGM, on the 5th May 2007.

Sustained advocacy engaging the duty bearers at the community level has resulted to yet another success story. GAMCOTRAP will be marking the 2nd Dropping of the Knife event through a Public Declaration by 60 Circumcisers and 351 Communities in the Upper and Central River Regions of the Gambia.

As part of this land mark achievement, GAMCOTRAP will be organizing a great celebration to honour the ex-circumcisers and their communities on the 5th December 2009 at the Basse Stadium in the Upper River Region commencing at 9.00am. The Public Declaration has very strong support and commitment from their traditional rulers and Council of Elders as well as the Local Government Structures across the regions.

The activity will be presided over by Her Excellency, Doctor Isatou Njie-Saidy the Vice President and Secretary of State for Women’s Affairs. Also Secretaries of States and local and international dignitaries and young people will be in attendance.

Friday, October 16, 2009

World Sight Day: Gender and Eye Care

October 8 was world sight day and I am wondering how many of us heard about it and for those of us who heard about it, what kind of consideration we gave to it. The second Thursday in October every year has been set aside globally for awareness creation on blindness, visual impairment and the rehabilitation of the visually impaired. This year the theme for World Sight Day 2009 was “Gender and Eye Health – equal access to care”. The theme sought to highlight the fact that globally two-thirds of the people who are blind are women and girls.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), globally about 180 million people are visually impaired, of whom 45 million are blind with nearly two-thirds of people affected by vision loss being females. 80% of all cases of blindness could have been avoided with 20% being preventable and 60% being treatable.

Visual impairment is most prevalent in women and men 50 years and older. The majority of eye conditions for this age group, such as cataract, can be easily treated. However, women who form the majority of people with visual impairment do not benefit from this treatment as a result of inequal access to eye health care. In many places men have twice the access to eye care as women due to a number of reasons including accessibility in terms of cost and distance as well as lack of the power to take decisions affecting their own lives. However equal access to eye care for women and men could greatly reduce cases of visual impairment especially in developing countries.

It is ironic that in many parts of the world women do not have equal access to eye care despite the critical role they play in health care including eye health care. Women work as ophthalmologists, ophthalmic nurses, community workers, etc. Again at home it is usually women who carry the burden of care for family members who have lost their sight. In recognition of the role of women in eye care, the World Health Organization has pointed out the need to acknowledge the role of women in the prevention of blindness and visual impairment.

The causes of avoidable blindness are frequently associated with poverty and lack of access to quality eye care services. Avoidable blindness is more common amongst the poorest of the poor, women and marginalized populations. Data shows that 90% of the world's blind people live in developing countries and that people who live in the developing world are 5 to 10 times more likely to go blind than people who live in highly industrialized countries. Poverty therefore is a critical contributory factor to blindness.

Vision health could be maintained through improved access to health care, including regular, comprehensive dilated eye exams, which would facilitate early detection and treatment of eye diseases. Weight reduction is also a good strategy to prevent eye disease since obesity is a risk factor for diabetic eye disease.

It is therefore pertinent for women to take their health care into their own hands and seek regular medical care for all diseases that affect their lives especially their eyes. We all have a right to see this beautiful world.

Beatrice Boakye-Yiadom
Acting Grants Manager


A Review
Rose Mensah-Kutin (PhD)

1.0 Introduction
• NETRIGHT and interest in gender budgeting. 3-year capacity building initiative to benefit members.
• Awareness of a number of publications on the subject. Example: those under the South African initiative
• Pleasant surprise that a new addition had been produced.
• Congratulate the ACBF and all involved in the process and also to AWDF for hosting the launch, given its own leadership and commitment to gender equality promotion in the context of Africa.

2.0 Features of the book
• Published by the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), a renowned capacity building institution
• 187 pages, colourful, accessible language, handy.
• How to go about it
• Six sections: overview, Gender budgeting experiences analysed (3chapters); Comparative analysis across African regions; Conclusions and recommendations.
• Relevance and the modesty with which this is articulated

3.0 Key Issues In the book
3.1 Useful learning points from the model cases presented
• How it was done, challenges encountered, opportunities, successes etc
• Women’s active involvement as critical

3.2 Diverse nature of the experiences presented
• No one model is best
• Australian experience: first attempt and its implications. Shows the dangers of an initiative that is located only inside government
• South African model: Example of comprehensive research coverage of all sectors and all levels of government. It demonstrates an alliance between parliament and NGOs
• Ugandan model: A country where there are opportunities for an early participation in the budget process of non governmental- actors. It also shows the role of the World Bank and IMF in the process

• Rwanda Model
• Government political commitment to tackle gender inequality.
• One of the things Ban Ki-Moon, the UN boss first commended during his visit to that country in March was the country's attainment of gender parity at all levels.
• national consultations on gender responsive budgeting hosted by the line Ministries of Finance and Economic Planning and that of Gender and Family Promotion.
• During the consultations, findings quoted from a study conducted by United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), in some districts of Rwanda, indicate that there is an acute shortage of gender expertise necessary for gender analysis, planning and budgeting.
• This is basically one of the reasons these consultations were held, to emphasize the need to consider gender budgeting while considering the overall budgeting process.
• Rwanda, despite the fact that it has received a positive nod as one of the first sub-Saharan African countries to have attained one of the 3rd Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is at a shortfall when auditing the effectiveness of aid in advancing gender equality and women empowerment.

3.3 Methodological approaches
• Providing institutions with mechanisms to address gender inequities in development.
• Limits of the methodology: secondary data which is acknowledged by the study itself. So possibility for this to be addressed next time round.

3.4 Women demonstrating leadership in a male-dominated space:
• 80 countries have so far done it
• Women’s contribution to knowledge creation enhanced.
• Demystification of budgets/economics

3.5 Demanding accountability from governments on their commitments to gender equality.
• Locating this effort within the context of international instruments such as CEDAW. 192 countries of the UN, 185 ratified CEDAW. 90 are parties to CEDAW’s optional protocol; 51 of 53 African states have ratified CEDAW, 24 signed the optional protocol: International Bill of rights for women.
• Other instruments: AU Constitutive Act

3.6 Information on gender equality is provided
• International processes
• Civil society efforts
• What is happening on gender issues in case study countries

4.0 Relevance of the Book
• Politics : sharing of available resources
• Accountability issues
• Commitment to gender equality
• Role of civil society
• A way to do it and possible consequences and impacts
• “public budgets are not mere economic tools, but summarize policies in monetary terms and express political priorities.”

5.0 Limitations/Challenges:
• Gender budget in the context of neo-liberal economic development (no critique of economic policy frameworks: problematic)
• How do we ensure gender budgeting leads to poverty reduction?
• Financial crisis: two-sided argument
• Amount of work involved and complexity of the budgeting process itself and yet its relevance and therefore how it can form part of overall struggles of women
• What about the issue of reforming the budget process and budgeting itself?
• Methodology of secondary data and its limits. However the book itself acknowledges these limitations so in a way creates possibilities of overcoming them next time round.
• Concerns about limits of gender mainstreaming
• Extent of influence in decision-making processes
• No country in West Africa? Nigeria and Senegal have some processes.
• Nigeria
• There is work in progress in Nigeria on gendered budget analysis at the national and local levels.
• Women in Nigeria see the current political climate as an opportunity to follow up on the three important reviews concerning gender equality: the 10-year reviews of the Beijing World Conference on Women, the International Conference on Population and Development, and the World Summit on Social Development.
• This has provided an opportunity for Nigerian women to appraise their government, not only in terms of creating an enabling environment for women to participate fully in governance, but also for demanding gender equality policies for economic and social development.
• This is expected to contribute to defining a new and just political agenda, incorporating elements of government transparency and accountability in socio-economic policies, expenditure and social impact.
• Senegal
• Senegal government is supportive of women’s participation at decision-making levels, and women's representation in strategic ministerial positions has increased.
• However, despite growing trends towards participatory democracy, women’s contribution in the economy continues to be undermined and women’s work in the care economy remains invisible in national accounts and budget mechanisms.
• Given the emphasis on promoting an enabling environment for private businesses, it is crucial to monitor the implication of such policy shifts on the allocation of national budgets.
• Ghana
• Some efforts by Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs (MOWAC): Four Ministries.

6.0 Lessons:
• Best impact when led by governments and driven by civil society.
• Initiatives that involve only government or only civil society may not be effective. Combination is more likely to succeed.
• One off training events or seminars not an answer
• Should be institutionalised within the budgetary system and the budgeting process in the preparation of the budget and while through the outcome and performance budget so it is self sustaining, effective and mandatory.
• Importance of research and relevant research to provide needed base and facts to inform policy changes and support advocacy
• Donor driven initiatives not sustainable and don’t have required results. So need for political will and commitment to gender budgeting for it to be an effective tool to reach the goal of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

7.0 Way Forward:
• Women engaging economics
• What is happening in our own country?
• More Comparative analysis needed
• Primary data and analysis
• Critique of the framework and assumptions used
• Impact assessment studies over time.
• Measures of development: need to include those by civil society e.g. Social Watch.
• An important contribution to the store of knowledge on the subject of gender budgets: that it can be done.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

SOAWR Annual Review and Agenda-Setting Workshop

Theme: “Spreading our Wings: A Multi-Sectoral Approach to Women’s Rights”
5-7 October 2009, Panafric Hotel, Nairobi, Kenya


We, the undersigned members of the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition (SOAWR), a pan African Coalition of organisations working for the promotion and protection of women’s human rights in Africa: Having assembled in Nairobi, Kenya from 5th-7th October, in the spirit of partnership as SOAWR Coalition members, with representation from the African Union Commission (AUC), and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM);

Recalling the African Union (AU) member states’ commitments in the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA) in 2004 to achieve ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (hereinafter referred to as the Protocol) and usher in an era of domesticating and implementing the Protocol as well as other national, regional and international instruments on gender equality by all States Parties;

Reaffirming that implementation of the Protocol is imperative to the realisation and enjoyment of women’s rights and the achievement of Africa’s development goals and aspirations;

Concerned that despite the significance of this Protocol in the development process of Africa, as of October 2009 twenty-six (26) member states have not ratified the Protocol, including five (5) member sates that have not even signed on to the Protocol;

Further concerned by the democratic and economic recession in Africa characterized by: enactment of laws that curtail citizens, civil society and media freedoms; adoption and implementation of discriminatory laws such as indecent dressing laws; high levels of unemployment; food insecurity; and discrimination and attacks against sexual minorities; which individually and collectively affect the implementation of the Protocol and the advancement of women’s rights in the region;

Gravely concerned about the threat to lives of human rights defenders and infringements of freedoms of association that impact the promotion, realisation and enjoyment of human rights and women’s rights in some AU member states;

Considering the great opportunity presented by the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020) that will be formally launched in June/ July 2010 to facilitate the full and accelerated implementation of the Protocol and achievement of agreed gender equality targets at different levels;

Acknowledging that the full and accelerated implementation of the Protocol can only be achieved by using a Multi-Sectoral Approach which ensures that all organs of the African Union and governments as well as civil society actors and the private sector work together to promote the realisation of the rights guaranteed in the Protocol;

Hereby recommend as follows:

Recommendations to the African Union Commission

1. Commit resources in its annual budget for each of its Commissions to support the provision of expertise to support member states in the realisation of their commitment to adopt and utilise the Protocol at national levels using the mandates of the various government sectors e.g. health, rural development, etc;
2. Ensure that mechanisms are in place to urge member states that have not ratified the Protocol to take the opportunity to do so before the launch of the African Women’s Decade;
3. Lend support to member states who have difficulties in reporting on implementation of the SDGEA commitments;
4. Strengthen the office of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to report consistently on the status of implementation of the Protocol and make recommendations for further actions.

Recommendations to State Parties to the Protocol

1. Adopt measures that build the state’s capacity to domesticate, implement, and monitor the implementation of the Protocol;
2. Adopt a multi-sectoral approach as the framework to implement, monitor and evaluate implementation of the Protocol by aligning the linkages between gender equality and each sector of government and ensuring the necessary budgetary allocations,
3. Take all necessary actions to ensure that the provisions of the Protocol are mainstreamed in all national policy decisions, legislation, development plans, programmes and activities in all spheres of life and meet the reporting requirements as agreed upon under the SDGEA on progress in this regard;
4. Hold consultations widely with civil society organisations working on women’s rights issues, women’s groups, citizens’ groups and other strategic stakeholders when developing plans for implementation and review;
5. Repeal all existing laws that are discriminatory against women and ensure the protection of the rights of all women and their human dignity in accordance with the Protocol and other international human rights instruments like the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which has been acceded to by 51 countries in Africa;
6. Actively support the creation at the United Nations Human Rights Council of a new special mechanism that would focus on women’s equality before the law and thereby assist in the removal of all laws that discriminate against women.

Recommendations to Civil Society

1. Take the opportunity of the African Women’s Decade to advocate for the universal ratification of the Protocol by member states and demand for increased and sustained budgetary allocation for women’s empowerment issues as part of the regional and national development programs and agenda;
2. Strengthen partnerships with member states to facilitate comprehensive adoption of a multi-sectoral approach in implementing the Protocol;
3. Utilize the African Women’s Decade to mobilise African women at all levels in advocating for the implementation of the Protocol as well as to celebrate women who have significantly contributed to the promotion of women’s rights in Africa;
4. Actively advocate for the creation at the United Nations Human Rights Council of a new special mechanism that would focus on women’s equality before the law and thereby assist in the removal of all laws that discriminate against women.

Recommendations to the United Nations and other Development Partners

1. Allocate resources to support the successful implementation of activities for the African Women’s Decade and for adoption of a multi-sectoral approach in implementing the Protocol and other key human rights instruments which promote and protect women’s human rights and freedom in Africa;
2. With reference to the UN Resolution No. 1888 of September 30, 2009 demanding that all parties to armed conflicts take immediate action to protect civilians, including women and children, from all forces of violence, we urge the UN Secretary General to expedite action and appoint a special representative to provide coherent and strategic leadership to address sexual violence in armed conflict situations as recommended in the Resolution.

Adopted on the 7th of October 2009 in Nairobi, Kenya
[Original Text in English]

Alliance for Africa
African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA)
Cellule de Coordination sur les Pratiques Traditionnelle Affectant la Santé des Femmes et des Enfants (CPTAFE)
BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights
Centre for Justice Studies and Innovations (CJSI)
Coalition on Violence against Women in Kenya (COVAW)
Eastern Africa Sub-regional Support Initiative (EASSI)
Equality Now-Africa Regional Office
FAMEDEV-Inter-African Network for Women, Media, Gender and Development
FEMNET - African Women’s Development and Communication Network
Girl Child Network
Federation of Women Lawyers of Kenya (FIDA-Kenya)
Forum Muhler
Inter-African Committee on Harmful Traditional Practices (IAC)
Human Rights Law Service (HURILAWS)
Legal and Human Rights Centre in Tanzania (LHRC)
Oxfam GB
People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA)
Sister Namibia
Strategic Initiative for the Horn of Africa (SIHA)
Tomorrow’s Child Initiative (TCI)
Uganda Women's Network (UWONET)
Women of Liberia Peace Network (WOLPNET)
Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF)
Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA)

Blog Action Day: Climate Change and Women

I could not agree more with Arun Agrawal in his paper on the Social Dimensions of Climate Change, prepared for the Social Development Department, The World Bank, Washington DC, March 5-6, 2008 in which he stated “Climate change will be pivotal in redefining development in the twenty-first century. How nations, societies, communities, and households respond to the impacts of climate changes and variability to which the world has already been committed will in many instances determine their prospects for growth, equity, and sustainability”.

People’s (poor) response to emergencies and situations in general vary and this is more so when it is around issues of poverty and livelihoods. In Africa for example, it is a daily struggle for women and girls to address food security and livelihood issues. Women largely depend on natural resources such as land and water bodies for their survival and they have adopted different coping strategies and utilized varied networking systems to survive on these resources (which are depleting at a fast rate) and yet they have little or no control over these resources.

Today, the world is confronted by another huge challenge; the impacts of climate change and unfortunately this is not receiving the attention it deserves. The international community has failed to seriously and fully address the causes and consequences of climate change, which now poses a major threat to lives and livelihoods of people living in poverty, the majority of whom are women. It is indeed incredible and unacceptable to see, hear and read daily about the damage of climate change.

Climate change is environmental change, which is also driven by humans – it is fundamentally a human problem. The impacts of climate change are expected to seriously (and disproportionately) affect the livelihoods, health, and educational opportunities of people living in poverty. Those with special burdens and/or vulnerabilities such as women, ethnic minorities, and people living with HIV/AIDS are feeling yet another pressure in global warming – one that is fundamentally unjust.

It is time for institutions, governments and individuals and indeed each and every one of us to collectively and individually work at addressing or reducing the impact of climate change on people living in poverty who mostly have not contributed to the problem.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted at the 1992 UN Summit for Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. This agreement established the “Conference of the Parties” (COP) and the “UNFCC Secretariat” as the institutional frameworks to support an international process to promote and develop relevant strategies on climate change negotiations to ensure that participating countries commit to a universal objective of reducing emissions .Similar to other international processes however, these discussions have not sufficiently articulated the gender issue as critical for mitigating climate change. This is inspite of the increasing visibility of women’s agency in critical arenas at all levels and sectors of society. Even though some gender analyses have been done, especially around Clean Development Mechanisms (CDMs), the tendency has been to focus exclusively on women in developing countries . A huge gap therefore needs to be filled.

I will therefore like to recommend the following;

• A paradigm shift in the conception of economic growth and development for Africa. Dependence on western models should be transformed into context specific analysis of the real needs of different groups of women and men that builds on local knowledge and resources to promote the wellbeing and security of women and men. .

• Women’s experience and knowledge of climate change processes is critical. Their different relationships with men on natural resource issues must be acknowledged, harnessed and utilised in mitigation and adaptation measures. As well, their specific vulnerabilities must be well articulated so that appropriate responses and interventions can be made to enhance their well-being. In this regard, women’s own coping strategies in times of crises should be identified as sources of strength that could serve the basis for evolving innovative policies to strengthen their security in areas such as food, water, health, land capital and technology.

• The UN has mandated countries to promote gender equality and women’s rights in all processes of development. It is therefore important for the women’s movement in Africa to take full responsibility and ownership of the gender and climate change discourse to ensure the full implementation of UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol (KP) measures take women’s specific concerns into account. This requires that greater knowledge and awareness is crated around gender and climate change issues at all levels.

• While more work needs to be done around gender and climate change in industrialized countries, it is equally important to deepen analyses around gender equality issues and climate change in developing countries, especially Africa. This will create greater understanding about its implications for human security and promote alliance building for articulating critical priorities for women in local national, regional and international decision-making.

Nafi Chinery
Capacity Building Officer

P.S: This post is AWDF's contribution to Blog Action Day's focus on Climate Change

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Have you had your breast checked lately Sisters, especially the old “schoolers?” In fact this call is also to you “new and middle schoolers” as well. No Sister is exempt from this call.

The Month of October has been designated Breast cancer awareness month through out the world to create awareness around breast cancer, a devastating but treatable cancer that can be managed if detected early and the catch phrase is if detected early.

Many Sisters and some men have lost their lives, with its attendant economic and social consequences, to this disease that with modern medicine and technology can be managed. No sister should die or even suffer needlessly from breast cancer. A simple breast examination which can be done by one’s self can save a breast and even a life. If you have not mastered the art of examining your breast you can always ask your doctor or any medical personnel for that matter to conduct a breast examination for you. Sisters over 40 years are however encouraged to have a mammography screening once a year in addition to the regular breast examinations.
Many sisters fear the loss of their breasts and therefore would rather not examine their breast which can lead to the detection of a lump or other unusual changes that could give an indication of the need for a more thorough examination of the breast by a health professional. That is to say, many sisters would rather be in denial. But in this case what you do not know can kill you and fast too.

My mother lost her life to breast cancer, a battle she lost so early simply because the disease was detected too late, simply because she was not examining her breast regularly that is if she ever did, simply because awareness was not so pervasive.
Do we Sisters have to go through this same fate in this day and age when there is information explosion, when public health practitioners and activists are for ever reminding us to examine our breast regularly? Please do the right thing, go get a breast examination now and remember to regularly if possible monthly at least examine your breast.

It is very important that we imbibe the fact that regular breast examination will likely lead to early detection of any abnormalities of the breast and therefore can increase the chance of saving the breast and a life. Laziness, procrastination, “I don’t carism”, seeing oneself as being exempt, looking at breast cancer as being far fetched or a disease for a particular category of people can result in late detection of breast cancer. Therefore all hands on deck sisters, tout it as loud as you can, tell all the sisters who will listen, convince those who will not listen to examine their breasts regularly and let us save not only a breast but a life as well.

Beatrice Boakye-Yiadom
Acting Grants Manager