About 20 network partners of the MenEngage Africa network had an annual meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, to reflect on the work of the past year and to strategise on the work going into the next year.
The meeting opened on the second day of the observance of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, the very work that the MenEngage Africa network partners are heavily involved with in the different countries they hail from, including Burundi, Namibia, Lesotho, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe.
Giving opening remarks, Bafana Khumalo, co-chair of the MenEngage Africa network, reminded partners that the meeting takes place at a time when some parts of Africa experiencing serious political conflict.
“The work that we do around gender justice is grossly affected and undermined by political conflicts that take place in various parts of the continent. We cannot extricate ourselves from the political unrest that some of our countries experience as these have a direct impact on the work that we do”, he said.
“During times of conflict, women and girls often bear the brunt of abuse, and that makes our work political”, Khumalo continued.
Khumalo cited the political instability in Burundi in the Great Lakes region where a conflict is brewing over whether current president, Pierre Nkurunziza, should run for a third term as president. If Nkurunziza does run for a third term this will be in contravention of the Constitutional dictate that a leader can be president for only two terms. He also cited the situation in Nigeria where the militant Boko Haram is causing instability in its efforts to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state.
“We are also having this meeting at a time when the world has just adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at enhancing the development of all nations of the world. The challenge is in the detail”, he added.
“How do we hold our leaders accountable to the agreements they have made by signing the United Nations SDGs document?”, he asked.
“We have a duty to challenge our governments to make sure that they implement what they have agreed to for women’s, girls’, boys’ and men’s development.
“This meeting also comes at a time when the world is facing a huge economic crisis. The implications for this are that nations and donors will not see dealing with gender justice and gender-based violence as pressing and, thus, funds will be diverted from these crucial issues that form the basis of our work. We need to strategise in order to mobilise against this”, Khumalo said.
Julio Langa, also co-chair of the MenEngage Africa network pointed that he has an “expectation that the meeting will be used as an occasion to discuss some of the internal and strategic challenges that we have within our network”.