African women-led women's rights alliance

 

We must continue to unite in sisterhood to turn our tears into triumph, our despair into determination, and our fear into fortitude. There is no time to rest until our world achieves wholeness and balance, where all men and women are considered equal and free.
- Leymah Gbowee, Liberian women’s rights and peace activist

 

In October 2013 WoMin, a regional alliance of African women united against destructive natural resource extraction, was born. The midwives were more than 50 women activists from across Africa who gathered in Johannesburg to share experiences, stories of resistance, and alternatives to extractivist-driven neo-liberal capitalist development that is deeply damaging to the majority of African citizens, eco-systems and the planet as a whole.

This launch followed a nine-month process of scoping out organisations and efforts to build on nationally and regionally and the research and development of six WoMin papers addressing different questions related to the broad theme of women, gender and extractivism. The scoping and research process, combined with a regional meeting of activists, aimed to inform future directions in WoMin’s longer-term strategy. A leadership structure of 12 women from different organisations across the region was nominated at the regional meeting to give oversight to WoMin’s work. At this time, WoMin was ‘housed’ in the International Alliance on Natural Resources in Africa (IANRA), a regional alliance of organisations working on extractives.

By June 2014, WoMin’s work regionally and its intersection, through national and regional allies, with the ‘women’s movement’ led to a thoughtful conversation about WoMin’s role and contributions towards strengthening and deepening the women’s movement regionally. This emerged from our conclusion that the majority of women’s organisations and movements nationally and regionally were organising around important political questions related to women’s political representation and violence against women, but that significant questions of economic justice for women related to land, housing, extractives, infrastructure, and public services were substantively neglected.

By October 2014, WoMin’s allies in 14 countries resolved that WoMin be repositioned in order to strengthen a progressive African women’s movement by making important connections between women’s economic, social, cultural and political experiences of exclusion, and advancing a radical structural agenda for change.

If WoMin is to make contributions to women’s movement-building in the region, this can only be done as a women’s rights and women-led organisation. That we were housed at the time of this decision by an extractives, and not a women’s rights alliance, with a mixed male/ female leadership presented challenges to our women’s rights and women’s movement-building agenda. For this reason, WoMin’s allies and its leadership structure resolved in October 2014 to pursue a path to independence from IANRA that would liberate us to advance a women’s rights agenda.

 

Since October 2014, WoMin has been working intensively towards its independence. In 2015 we have:

  • built and registered a not-for-profit Trust as its legal entity

  • developed a human resources policy and procedures manual that builds on a wide consultation of allies and which substantively reflects a feminist perspective on organisational matters

  • opened a bank account and developed a finance policy and basic operating procedures which will be refined in advance of full independence in January 2016

  • recruited a new staff member to lead our research efforts

  • joined with three other organisations to build a shared office space.