Women’s rights in Africa: where are we?

By: PfP
Date: 14-02-2020
The rate of violence against women is particularly high in Africa, with nearly half of the continent’s countries reporting a prevalence of more than 40%, according to the United Nations’ The World’s Women 2015: Trends and Statistics.

Across Africa, the women’s rights movement and civil society organisations have led the charge when it comes to combatting violence against women and girls. At our conference in Johannesburg on 4 and 5 December, the A
frican Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) distributed Preventing Violence Against Women: A Primer for African Women’s Organisations.

“The past two decades have witnessed extraordinary growth in the efforts to address violence against women,” the organisation said in the booklet. The AWDF is the first pan-African foundation to support women’s rights organisations in Africa. The booklet is aimed at broadening understanding of trends in Africa’s “rapidly evolving field of violence against women prevention”.

From signing up to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to developing sub-regional African frameworks, governments across the African continent have promised to work to eradicate violence against women and girls. Much of this is thanks to the tireless work of African feminists.

Now is the time to defend and extend their gains. African women’s organisations face new challenges, the AWDF says. These range from reduced funding for civil society organisations to funding agreements that position them as implementing partners in international campaigns, reducing their organisational autonomy and privileging western or northern approaches to tackling gender-based violence.

African women’s rights organisations also face backlash against the gains they have made for women. This can range from verbal or online harassment to physical attacks, including those of a sexual nature.

“Attacks on both individual and collective activism are exacerbated with the growth of religious fundamentalism, the rise of authoritarianism and shrinking operating space for civil society in Africa. These trends have a direct impact on women’s rights organising and pose great obstacles to the violence against women prevention movement.”

The AWDF calls for individuals and organisations to build solidarity across feminist and civil society networks so that the social norms that underpin violence against women can be disabled.

For further information, download the primer here:

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