Women Deliver 2023 reflections


Sonke Gender Justice and Men Engage Africa participated at the Women Deliver 2023 conference which took place in Kigali, Rwanda in July. The conference gathered over six thousand, three hundred women’s rights advocates from around the world, to engage on gender equity, sexual and reproductive health, and rights (SRHR) and women’s rights.

The conference which also attracted over two hundred thousand online participants, was a significant milestone in the ongoing fight for reproductive rights, and it served as a beacon of hope for women around the world speakers at the conference included some of the most prominent voices in the field of women’s rights, and their insights and experiences were invaluable to the attendees. The magnitude of the gathering and level of engagement was a testament to the importance of the issues being discussed, and it underscores the urgency of the fight for gender equity.

Although the conference has now ended, the momentum it generated will continue to push the fight for reproductive rights. The attendees left the conference feeling energized and empowered, and they are now more determined to effect change in their communities. The Women Deliver 2023 conference was a truly transformative event, and it will be remembered as a turning point in the ongoing struggle for gender equity.

Under the overarching theme of Spaces, Solidarity, and Solutions, Sonke Gender Justice and MenEngage Africa, in partnership with UNAIDS, SAfAIDS, Q-Initiative, Plan International Uganda and Communication for Development Foundation Uganda (CDFU) gathered to exchange ideas and enhance the well-being of women and girls. 

During the conference, Sonke Gender Justice and MenEngage Africa hosted a concurrent session and a solidarity space. The concurrent session focused on Positive Masculinities in Gender Transformative #SRHR: Engaging Men and boys. The session explored, celebrated, and critiqued policy and program interventions from Eastern and Southern Africa that work to promote male engagement as an essential tool in improving and sustaining sexual and reproductive health and gender equality. 

The session also offered a learning space for participants to discuss and boldly strategize together on masculinity within SRHR. Panelists and participants shared their perspectives and expertise on strategies and models that have effectively disrupted the status quo and advanced SRHR and gender justice, contributing to establishing anti-patriarchal masculine identities.

Speaker left to right Nankunda Babihuga, (CDFU), Jude Thaddeus Njikem (Sonke Gender Justice), Rouzeh Eghtessadi, Executive Director, SAfAIDS Regional, Anne Githuku-Shongwe (UNAIDS), Lucy Nyambura (Q-Initiative C.B.O) and Grace Ageno (Plan International Uganda)

“If we don’t walk hand in hand with men and boys, we miss out on opportunities to engage them in gender norms transformation.”  said Director, UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa as she emphasized and recommended the need to work with institutions that are influential in communities such as churches and engage church leaders to mobilize  men and boys to improve their own health-seeking behavior and promote gender transformative behaviors. She also urged that it is critical to work with chiefs on what change they can lead at the policy level to lead towards gender transformation for achieving gender equality.

The Solidarity space titled; Faith and traditional leaders’ commitment to promoting gender justice. The session brought together people of different faiths and religions for a discussion on common challenges, share resources, and identify ways to strengthen ties among members of the faith community committed to promoting gender justice. The session heard that, despite some progress, many faith and traditional communities still struggle with gender inequality and the marginalization of women, which negatively affects their ability to fully participate in society. The workshop provided a platform for faith leaders from various backgrounds to explore shared concerns, share resources, and discover ways to develop links among members of the faith community devoted to supporting gender justice.

Sonke Gender Justice and MenEngage Africa partners also attended the launch of State of the World’s Fathers Report 2023 produced by Equimundo. The report reveals that thousands of women and men across the world are calling for care to be central to their lives, which can only be addressed by a fundamental overhaul of power structures, policies, and social norms around both paid and unpaid care work.

Throughout the conference,  MenEngage partners engaged in a range of activities and discussions, exploring topics such as reproductive rights, gender-based violence, and economic empowerment. These conversations were not just theoretical but grounded in the real-world experiences of women and girls. As a result, the conference was a powerful reminder of the importance of listening to those whose voices are often marginalized and silenced.

In addition to the formal program, the conference also provided ample opportunities for networking and connection-building. Participants met and exchange ideas with people from diverse backgrounds and regions, forging new partnerships and collaborations that will have a lasting impact.

Overall, Women Deliver 2023 was a truly transformative event. It demonstrated the power of collective action and the importance of coming together to create a better world for all. As we move forward, we must continue to build on the momentum generated by this conference, working tirelessly to advance the cause of gender equality and create a more just and equitable world.