Women’s rights leaders and activists from Ghana, Kenya, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Uganda gathered for WLP’s capacity-building workshop on reforming discriminatory family laws. WLP’s partner in Nigeria, the Center for Advancement of Development Rights (CEADER), hosted the event in Lagos, which ran from August 27 to 30, 2018. The participants were members of WLP’s African partner organizations, as well individual African activists committed to amending family laws in their respective countries.
The four-day workshop covered topics such as inclusive leadership, the connection between inequality in the family and violence, and advocacy skills for legal reform. A number of WLP-produced resources were used during the training, including manuals like Beyond Equality, Victories over Violence, and Leading to Choices.
Participants presented information on the status of family laws in their countries and forged a collective vision for achieving gender equality in the family in African contexts. For the final activity, participants jointly planned and presented advocacy pilot projects that will be implemented in the following months.
Workshop participants were also tasked with carrying out step-down trainings for their networks. In this way, strategies and resources for family law advocacy are further disseminated to others. In the weeks following the training, a number of workshop attendees had already replicated what they learned in their own communities:
- Nigerian participant Aizighode Obinyan organized a step-down training for her colleagues at Spaces for Change, an NGO that promotes human rights in social and economic governance processes.
- Ugandan participant Hellen Tanyinga, Executive Director of the Rape Hurts Foundation, conducted a step-down training in a village where her organization works. She distributed the Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials with family law reform messaging that were provided during the August workshop.
- Nigeria participant Biola Ogunyemi organized a step-down training targeting women in three local districts in Lagos: Kosofe, Apapa and Ojo. She also distributed the educational materials she received at the workshop.
Campaigning for Equality in the Family
Capacity-building workshops like this one are a key part of WLP’s global campaign, Equality Starts in the Family, which aims to reform unequal laws and practices relating to the family. Women all over the world face restrictions on their rights and roles within the family, inhibiting their ability to freely marry, travel, work, inherit property, or pass citizenship on to their children. This kind of discrimination robs them of resources and control over their own lives, making them vulnerable to violence. Inequality within a household also reproduces itself outside of the home, affecting the ways in which women and girls are treated in school, the workplace, and politics.
WLP’s African partner organizations are working to change family laws within their own contexts, depending on the most locally pressing needs. In Senegal, WLP’s partner GIPSWAR advocates to reform laws that favor male family members in land ownership rights. WLP’s Moroccan partner, ADFM, challenges parts of the family code that allow polygamy or unfair inheritance practices. WLP’s partners in Mauritania, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe focus their efforts on changing the cultural norms that perpetuate child marriage and repealing the laws that permit it.
The August workshop strengthened solidarity among WLP activists and other allies working for equality in the family, and built their capacities as leaders in this movement. See highlights from the training in the video below created by CEADER, or click here to view additional photos from the training.
Around the world, the spread of COVID-19 is changing how civil society organizations (CSOs) are able to conduct their work and the global women’s movement in particular is facing extraordinary challenges. Organizations that amplify women’s voices and choices on issues ranging from personal status laws to reproductive health are now confronting unparalleled hurdles but are also finding innovative approaches to continue their work. Women’s Learning Partnership’s has mobilized to ensure that the needs of women are not overlooked in emergency responses to the pandemic. Our partners are adapting their programs and campaigns to address the evolving challenges by moving their events online, using messaging apps and social media to disseminate information, sensitizing journalists about the pandemic’s particular threats to women in the home and outside, raising funds for populations most at-risk, and even broadcasting messages by megaphone in communities where there is limited technology infrastructure and access to the web.
Across the globe, governments are enacting measures to combat the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19. They are closing borders, shuttering businesses, and ordering people to stay in their homes. However critical these lockdowns and curfews are for public safety and health, women’s rights activists are concerned about their potential unintended consequences for women. They fear that the government guidelines may lead to another public health crisis—a rise in violence against women in the home. Isolation, financial worries, and constant anxiety can contribute to violence in the home, and most often the victims of this type of violence are women in the family.
WLP’s partners around the world are aware of the escalation in violence towards women, and are mobilizing to respond.