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Five reasons why the AWRA movement was founded

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Here’s why.

We, as a group of African women leaders have banded together to form the African Women’s Rights Advocates movement.

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1- It is a fact that women and girls are the most impacted when disasters or emergencies arise

 

Women and girls are the most and worst affected when disasters or emergency situations arise, especially in vulnerable communities across Africa. In many countries, they are confined to their homes because of strict social norms and therefore cannot easily evacuate in times of crisis. Horrific acts of violence and oppression include rape, trafficking, forced and early marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), and other forms of abuse often increase in times of conflict and natural disasters. At the same time, African women’s voices are often not included when emergency aid is being delivered. When emergency response is being planned by men or external donors, the unique needs of women and girls can be overlooked. Even when women and girls do manage to escape risky situations, they still face risks. At least 1 in 5 refugees or displaced women in difficult humanitarian situations are estimated to have experienced sexual violence, according to the UN.

 

2- African women deserve to be represented in decision-making circles

 

Founded by a group of women in the African continent and across the diaspora, AWRA recognizes the need to acknowledge and address longstanding power imbalances, gender inequality and inequity, and oppressive norms and systematic practices across Africa. Part of this involves recognizing women in leadership positions and ensuring that African women’s voices are not only heard at decision-making tables, but also accurately represented. AWRA also believes in analyzing the opportunities, as well as barriers that African women frontrunners face relative to their unique context, culture, and leadership roles.

 

3- Survivor-led movements are essential in order for women and girls to thrive.

 

As our world rapidly evolves, particularly in a post-pandemic era, survivor-led approaches are needed now more than ever before. With several survivors of some form of gender-based violence and FGM among its founding members, AWRA is designed to make sure solutions are provided in a careful and compassionate manner to survivors in order to minimize re-traumatization. Survivors often recognize that trauma and healing can be difficult to understand and respond to appropriately, and often include a multitude of layers. That’s why more survivor-led, African organizations are necessary in order to offer those who have survived or escaped violence the support of a community that will resonate with them.

 

4- African women, girls, and  youth must truly believe that they deserve to thrive.

 

In 2020, the world witnessed the Black Lives Matter movements go viral in the United States and around the world in response to systemic police brutality and killings of Black men, women, and sometimes youth. As news of the deaths of such violence goes viral, it can trigger responses of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD ) in black and minority communities around the world. Such emotional trauma can often hinder African youth from leading empowered and fulfilling lives. This is why African women and girls now more than ever need to know that they have global support systems. They must see other African women not only succeeding, but actively working to ensure that their voices are represented around the world. Black and African youth also need to believe that it’s their right to thrive in a world where the odds may seem stacked against them.

5- Sustainable development requires community engagement in decision-making and ownership of the implementation processes.

 

This is particularly essential on the African continent where sustained change is needed to address a broad range of socio-economic issues, including poverty, education, and abuse such as female genital mutilation (FGM), gender-based violence, as well as child marriage. For decades, large sums of international aid and private funds have been invested to address the above-mentioned issues. However, the change created has not matched the financial investments. This is due in large part to improper engagement with members of communities, as they are seen as recipients of charity and provided little to no agency in deciding their fates. That’s where AWRA comes in.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Reem Abdellatif

The Author

Reem Abdellatif is an AWRA founding member. She is the founder & director of Redefined, a digital communications consultancy based in The Netherlands. As a former foreign correspondent, her in-depth stories on women marginalization, gender-based violence, and domestic abuse are testament to her passion for creating social impact. Reem is Egyptian-American and is part of the first generation of women in her family to escape Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).