Building Feminist Momentum to Prevent VAW in Africa

Submitted by Raising Voices  

“I remain hopeful despite the challenges we face. I am inspired when I experience and witness transformation in my life and in the lives of others.  I am inspired when I dance, when I cry, and when I laugh.  When I work with others to overcome a huge challenge or achieve a goal, it gives me the energy to move on. When I learn new things and experiment with different ideas or ways of doing things, it is invigorating. When I am reminded that I am not alone and that I have the ideological, moral, and emotional support of others who are in the struggle for social justice, I am inspired.  And when I witness the resilience of women all over the world, rising above the most difficult situations, I am reminded that I can never give up.”

  • Zawadi Ny’ongo | Kenya123 Voice, Power and Soul |Portraits of African Feminists

The biggest driver of policy change on violence against women is the work achieved by feminist movements—this is a global reality. African women have always been at the forefront of change and resistance across the continent, organizing efforts to transform inequalities and ensure women are valued and respected. Women’s rights movements are responsible for the increased commitment to end violence against women at the national and regional levels, in the African Union, within the international community, and across a diverse range of donors—from development assistance organizations to private philanthropists.

Feminist leadership, coupled with strengthened investments in programming and policy have shifted the discourse from violence as inevitable to preventable. We know now that we can prevent violence against women (VAW) within a traditional project timeframe, transforming social norms and creating a more equitable reality for communities around the world.

Where’s the funding for women’s rights organisations?

While investment has increased in VAW from governments and international organizations, the funding for women’s rights organizations is minimal. In fact, “99% of gender-related international aid fails to reach women’s rights and feminist organizations directly,” according to AWID’s recent report “Towards a Feminist Funding Ecosystem.”

Another OECD study determined that, in 2014, although $10 billion was given to civil society organizations for gender equality work, 92% went to international non-governmental organizations. This means that only 8% went directly to CSOs in developing countries. Power and decision-making remains in the hands of those in the Global North, rather than locally led women’s rights organizations who have the political and social context needed for transformative change.

The Equality Institute’s Scoping of Advocacy and Funding for the Prevention of Violence Against Women and Girls further explores the limitations of the violence against women prevention funding—“while funding has increased, it is often poor quality, short-term and sporadic.” Despite an evidence base that emphasizes the importance of applying systematic, coordinated and longer-term approaches, we have yet to see this translate into practice at a significant scale. 

Sustainability is elevated when work is led by and in mutual partnership with community members. This is because women know their own lives best—rather than prescriptions from outside stakeholders, solutions are best grounded in the reality of women’s lived experiences, across their respective contexts.  

To fund women is to trust women.

And to trust women, means not just allocating more project-based funding to women’s organizations that predetermine their vision and their priorities. Rather, it involves ensuring “flexible and sustained core funding to activists,” a key Feminist Funding Principle according to the Astrea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. For Astrea, that means providing a majority of grants to cover general operating costs, and building partnerships over the course of 5 to 10 years.

Funding for preventing violence against women is increasingly available yet we are far from making the crucial progress on our commitments—at the national, regional, and international levels—to foster a safer, non-violent world where women can thrive. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider how and where money is spent, and ground efforts in longstanding evidence that local women’s movements are our soundest investment in preventing violence against women.

Our recent publication, “Preventing Violence Against Women: A Primer for African Women’s Organizations,” highlights the leading role that local women’s organizations have had in the field of violence against women prevention, elevating evidence-based practice in the region. It describes practice-based experiences in scale, ensuring accountability to women and girls, and managing backlash. The user-friendly guidance on the emerging field of violence against women prevention on the continent aims to strengthen African women’s organizations to lead ethical and effective programming, advocacy, research, and activism. The Primer holds a feminist vision for ending violence against women in Africa—a vision that can best be realized under the leadership of wholly funded women’s organizations.  

Promising Practices for Violence Against Women Prevention in Africa

To read more on promising practices in violence against women prevention across Africa, read “Preventing Violence Against Women: A Primer for African Women’s Organizations,” developed by Raising Voices and the African Women’s Development Fund. You can access the primer in both English and French. To continue the conversation or share your experiences with VAW prevention in Africa, please email info@raisingvoices.org.

You can follow us at @GBVnet under #FeministAfrica and #VAWPrevention

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