Africa Liberal Network takes a strong stand against gender-based violence

At the 13th Annual Africa Liberal Network (ALN) General Assembly, Africa’s largest political network adopted the flagship Nairobi Delegation condemning the common practice of violence against women on the continent and committing the Network’s members to working stringently to eliminate gender-based violence in their home countries.

Acknowledging that violence against women remains one of the most widespread forms of human rights violations, the ALN has committed to working with their partners in Liberal International (LI) and liberal parties across the world, in opposition and in government, to condemn and eliminate gender-based violence.

The Network’s members agreed to promote and, where in government, implement policies to secure women’s access to education – the single most effective method of empowerment – as well as working with judicial branches and police forces to ensure the effective protection of women from acts of violence.

The declaration also commits ALN members to working to bring more women into public life and politics, believing strongly that we can only eliminate violence against women when women are comfortable taking over leadership roles.

The Nairobi Declaration comes at a particularly poignant moment as this year’s host party, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) faces parliamentary and presidential elections later this year. In Kenya, women often face intimidation during elections and there have been widespread incidents of physical and verbal intimidation against female candidates at party primaries and during campaigning in the past. Working with the UK Liberal Democrats, the ALN has been running a campaign of support for women running on the ODM ticket in the upcoming elections. This began with a workshop in February 2017 for twenty outstanding women running in the party’s internal primaries to represent ODM in key seats in the August election.

Rosemary Machua, ALN Vice President for East Africa and a Director of the ODM, said:

African politics remains overwhelmingly the work of men. Women continue to face hurdles when engaging the democratic process, from their families, their communities and from the men at the top of the political tree.

I am delighted that the ALN has acknowledged the unique challenges women face and the horrifying prevalence of gender-based violence. I look forward to working with the member parties on exposing violence in their home countries and supporting more women to enter into public life.

Stevens Mokgalapa MP, newly-elected ALN President and DA Shadow Minister of International Relations and Cooperation in South Africa, said:

I am proud that my first action as President is to endorse this declaration which commits the Network to taking the serious problem of violence against women – in all its forms – head on. It is unacceptable for liberals to stand by while over half of the population still suffers from discrimination and, in many cases, violence.

The ALN pledges today to work on ourselves, by striving to bring in more women into our own processes, whilst strongly, passionately, and loudly protesting poor treatment of women across the African continent.

Markus Loening, Chairman of the Liberal International (LI) Human Rights Committee and LI Vice-President, said:

This fundamental document represents an important step towards the empowerment of women and it testifies to the ongoing commitment by the African liberal family to gender equality.

As we look forward to strengthen the cooperation between Liberal International (LI), its Human Rights Committee and the Africa Liberal Network, I sincerely hope that this Declaration will serve to solidify the efforts of liberals to speak with one voice when it comes to promotion and advancement of human rights.

The ALN General Assembly met in Nairobi, Kenya from 23-24 March 2017. Delegates from over 40 liberal parties from across the continent met to discuss the major issues facing their countries and the wider continent and to share their experiences of campaigning, governing and scrutinising governments in Africa.

 

* Harriet Shone is Head of the Liberal Democrats’ International Office.

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5 Comments

  • Lester Holloway 27th Mar '17 - 6:00pm

    Is gender-based violence a particular problem in Africa as opposed to, say, Britain? What else did the conference discuss and agree in terms of the issues Africa faces?

  • There seem to be a lot more men than women in the picture – admittedly not as many as were in the Trump Healthcare meeting (not one female to be seen there).

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 28th Mar '17 - 12:07am

    Lester,

    Gender-based violence was the theme resolution for the ALN Assembly. There was also a range of training workshops, with particular focus on coalition negotiations and governing in coalitions, as liberal parties across the continent often govern as part of a coalition.

    David,

    There are concerns about gender balance. However, it is for the member parties to decide who they nominate to attend. Work is being done with member parties to develop and support women with potential to take on leadership and candidacy roles.

  • Harriet Shone 28th Mar '17 - 9:39am

    @ Lester, there were a number of resolutions put forward by the member parties on a range of issues affecting their own countries, region or indeed the whole continent. These will be published on the ALN website in 2 weeks (the Coordinator who manages the page is on a much-deserved holiday).

    @ David, this is absolutely true and one of the major challenges facing the Network. There was an extensive discussion about the lack of gender balance represented at the GA and partners (including the LibDems!) are working with parties to try and develop and promote women and encourage them to put women forward as delegates.

    As Mark has said, member parties nominate their delegates and, sadly, they overwhelmingly nominate men. I’ve raised this issue myself with the Executive Committee and there is a consensus that we need to work with the parties to improve this. However, the partners can’t be too heavy handed and impose quotas from the top which means progress can feel a little slow!

    One thing we are doing in Kenya, for example, is running a programme of direct support for women running for election in the August 2017 general elections. We started with a workshop on campaigning and communication for 20 aspiring candidates and, after the party primaries for candidate selection are over, we hope to work with 1-2 of these women in their constituencies to help them to get elected through mentorship and campaign strategy support. Maybe, with a little luck, one of these women will represent their party at the next ALN General Assembly next year!!

  • Lester Holloway 28th Mar '17 - 9:39am

    Mark,

    Surely getting to the point of being in a coalition involves having a plan for upliftment of people in the nations of Africa?

    As important as gender-based violence is around the world, this needs to be supplemented with plans for trade and economics including pan-African, infrastructure, tackling poverty, security and more. The DA made gains in South Africa but perhaps they could have made more if they stood for more than simply being anti-ANC. And the less said about Helen Zille the better.

    As far as gender-based violence is concerned, its important to put this in the context of it being a global problem and not run the risk of unconsciously tapping into centuries of imagery and stereotypes of African male sexuality or any unconscious implications that Britain is less patriachal and more advanced / superior on gender equality. Many African states have far better gender representation in politics than Britain. And the less said about our own party on this the better.

    The problem with FGM is that the narrative in Britain was infused with language about civilising barbarianism, in stark contrast to the unacknowledged preceding 30 years of FGM campaigning in Africa which didn’t. Which serves to underline the benefits of Africa continuing to chart its own path and not adopting imported Western ideology no matter the missionary zeal with which we push it.

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