The African Women Independent Forum (AWIF or “the Forum”) is a registered non-profit organization (NPO), established in March 2006. AWIF leads, coordinates and equips an independent network of strong women’s rights activists and organisations across Africa, in a common endeavour to achieve gender equality, as well as socio-economic and human rights for women.
It is an umbrella organization for over 100 organizations and individuals on the African continent and is committed to achieving both gender equality and also women’s socio-economic and human rights, through strengthening the voice, impact and influence of women’s rights advocates and organisations.
AWIF was formed in South Africa in response to the realization that the women’s movement in Africa needed to re-think its position and move from being so closely aligned with the general liberation movement and the democratization process in the country to a position that was more independent and more clearly addressed issues from a feminist or women’s point of view. It is envisaged that the AWIF will lead an independent forum of women across Africa to take up the challenges for women’s movements.
AWIF has recognized the urgent need to grow and harness the capacity of South African women to participate in transforming their societies and achieving gender equality. This includes the ability to participate in decision-making at all levels; influence policies from a gender perspective; and to address inequalities and injustices in social relationships. All members are therefore concerned with issues relating to women’s access to human rights, and making equality between women and men a reality. Members believe that gender disparity is an injustice which contributes to poverty and ignorance and thereby hinders development. They renounce violence and intolerance that limit creativity and cripple critical thinking and progress.
The Forum is geared towards improving women’s environments and building healthy, safe and strong communities and individuals by strengthening women’s activism at all levels, through both grassroots activism and substantive policy work. Although AWIF is an independent organization, its major strength lies in its ability to mobilize women from diverse organizations to forge strategic alliances in order to advance its cause. The Forum aims to achieve this through advocacy, training, research, institutional development and networking.
AWIF members are women of all ages, educators, activists, business people, policy-makers, development practitioners, and more. As an organization AWIF is convinced that working together is key if women’s rights and gender justice are to become a lived reality.
AWIF’s purpose is to bring together, under one umbrella, individual women and women’s organizations with diverse backgrounds and from a large number of countries, in a collective endeavor to work on women’s programs, to speak in one voice, to raise awareness in political, social, economic and cultural circles, and to improve the lives of women, communities and their families.
AWIF will continue to build the leadership of women’s groups and other key civil society organizations and provide advocacy skills training that will give women a greater voice in developing the political and economic agendas of their countries and communities.
AWIF will achieve its vision through taking a rights-based, feminist and action-driven approach to:
- Strengthening the voice, impact and influence of women’s rights activists and organisations in Africa, and achieve gender equality
- Growing the capacity of African women and organisations to participate in transforming their societies and achieving gender equality
It will do this through:
- Fostering participation of women in decision-making processes
- Taking the action required to break down structural barriers to women’s equality
- Addressing the ability, capacity and necessity for women’s active involvement in every field political, social, economic, cultural and civic
- Forging strategic alliances with others
- Advocacy, training, research, institutional development and networking
Particular challenges to be addressed by AWIF
Gender parity at all levels of decision-making, in the public and private sphere.
- Policy-making processes often operate in a top-down fashion, and are undertaken without the benefit of women's views and concerns
- The involvement of women and children is indispensable when rebuilding a society and its institutions after war. Therefore, peace operations must integrate a gender perspective into their activities at conceptual, strategic and operational levels
- Changes are required in constitutional, legal and social platforms, through which more women can exercise their voice and accountability in decision-making. This will require political will, and can be achieved through fruitful dialogue between civil society and governments
Implementation of laws and policies and accountability of governments.
- Despite numerous ratified international instruments, as well as regional and national instruments, concerns remain about women’s rights, gender equality, women’s empowerment and, in particular, violence against women (VAW)
- There is a need for an integrated body that monitors governments, and holds them accountable for implementation of these instruments
- To end VAW and achieve gender equality, it is important to put together a collaborative and Integrated response, which includes government departments, civil society, private and public entities and both women and men in Africa
- There is a need for zero tolerance of all forms of violence against women and girls, including ending all harmful practices such as human trafficking, unemployment unfairness, racism and child marriages
Transforming the values, attitudes, practices and priorities that inform development programs and initiatives
- It is important to integrate gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment
- Patriarchy and cultural barriers to equality must be addressed. These are generally a reflection of a system of social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women. Inequality between the sexes and the gender roles ascribed to each is evident in many aspects of life including the economy, the family, the church and culture.
- Structural inequalities must also be addressed. Attention is required to ensuring access to, control and ownership of resources for women. This includes land, information, energy, water, technology, agricultural inputs and financial credit for women.
- Attention is required to sexual and reproductive health and rights, including universal access to comprehensive and integrated services, information and education
- Climate change should be integrated into goals on related issues such as energy, food security, water and health, particularly for women in townships and rural areas
Capacity of NGOs, CSOs and women’s organisations
- While there are many organisations working with women, many lack the necessary knowledge and skills to provide empowering and supportive environments to enable women to exercise more authority, make better decisions and change their own lives for the better
- It is important to enhance the capacity of women’s organizations to participate in development, in political and economic structures and in policy-making
- A critical capacity to be developed is that of conflict resolution and participation in peace processes
- The aim is to strengthen NGOs and CSOs so that they can be effective actors with a strong voice in policy-making, conflict resolution and development processes in their countries