The African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) is a feminist network with over 700 members across 46 African countries, which IWHC has supported as a grantee since 2013. FEMNET coordinates African women’s organizations to advocate at regional and international levels.
IWHC talked to FEMNET about its role at the recent Commission on the Status of Women—the largest gathering on women’s rights, which takes place at the United Nations every year.
Why is the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) important to your organization?
CSW remains the largest normative global space dedicated towards advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment. CSW is also an important space for advocacy given that it is one of the unique policy spaces that is dedicated to solely for the purpose of discussing gender and women’s rights issues at the global level. It provides women’s rights organizations with the space to hold their governments accountable to the promises made under international agreements such the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly Goal 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
FEMNET ensures a strong presence and voice of African women in influencing and shaping the agenda at CSW to make sure there is “nothing about us without us.”
What role does FEMNET play in CSW’s regional process?
FEMNET plays a leading role in mobilizing African women and girls to identify their advocacy priorities. FEMNET believes that global advocacy must be linked to regional and national level work and enables women and girls to share their lived realities and experiences so that the priorities of African women can inform CSW’s Agreed Conclusions, the final outcome document.
FEMNET is a convener, organizer, and facilitator of dialogues prior to, during, and after CSW. This has ensured that African women’s organizations are well informed and updated on critical underlying issues on the theme of CSW and, therefore, are able to meaningfully contribute and strategically influence their government’s position.
What is the role and value of CSW’s regional caucuses?
Every year, FEMNET organizes “side events,” including the African Women’s Caucuses, which provide a platform to not only reflect and share learnings on the theme of CSW, but also to “facilitate and amplify women’s priorities and key asks for the final Agreed Conclusions.
It is clear that the fight for women’s equality is a global one, however African issues, much like any other region have a unique nuance.
It is in these regional spaces that FEMNET provides African women at CSW the space to convene and strategize to ensure an African narrative is collective, strong, and incorporated throughout the outcome documents.
FEMNET is a Steering Committee Member of the NGO CSW/Africa—one of the regional forums of the Non-Governmental Organization Commission on the Status of Women—established in 2013 as a substantive committee under the auspices Conference of NGOs.
What are FEMNET’s advocacy priorities at CSW, and what challenges do you anticipate?
This year’s CSW theme is “social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.” One of FEMNET’s key advocacy priorities has been bringing a pan-African feminist analysis to financing development. For example, public private partnerships (PPPs) are now being looked at as a way to deliver social protection for many African countries. They are also becoming the source of resourcing for infrastructure projects on the continent. However, the configuration of these PPPs attract debt which in turn has a negative impact on the lives and dignity of African women and girls.