March for equality and justice must stretch to 365 days!

March for equality and justice must stretch to 365 days!

Date: January 23, 2017
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Gender Links joins thousands of organisations and communities around the world in calling for the “largest day of peaceful demonstration across the world” to be stretched into a year- long campaign for equality and justice.

A Southern African organisation committed to equality and justice, Gender Links joined more than a million people around the world who took to the streets on Saturday in peaceful marches in support of women and minority group rights. Read more:

The march came just a day after the inauguration of business mogul, Donald Trump as the 45th United States of America (USA) President. Women made up an estimated 80 percent of the marchers demanding gender equality, climate justice, gender and diversity, and immigration activists and communities of all races, religions, genders and abilities in 673 locations.

“It is no coincidence that women, who across every one of these issues constitute the majority of those who are marginalised, violated, dispossessed and disenfranchised are leading this monumental movement for change,” said GL CEO Colleen Lowe Morna. “The ‘nasty women’ referred to by Donald Trump in his debate with Hillary Clinton are finding their voice, and claiming their space in global affairs.”

The 2016 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer shows that for us in Southern Africa, there is still a long way to go before achieving gender equality. Research in the region shows that the levels of gender based violence are still unacceptably very high, women still bear the heavy burden of HIV and AIDS. While in education there is still limited space for girls to participate in STEM subjects. Child marriages are a huge issue in the region and have been the focus of several campaigns, especially in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Women are still grossly underrepresented in public office with none of the 15 countries having achieved the gender parity targets set out by the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. At national level, leaders still fail to walk the talk of gender equality. In South Africa, Gender Links is calling on would be leaders of the ruling African National Congress to lay out their policies for equality and justice and put them to the test of public opinion before the December 2017 Congress.

In the lead opinion article in the Mail and Guardian this week, GL asks: “Could the ANC have the courage and the confidence to let its would-be leaders campaign openly for the job, and allow us the public to grill them, instead of making decisions about our future behind the cocoon of party unity for which we may as well read Zuma loyalty? A woman and or feminist president: yes! A proxy for Jacob Zuma: no!”  Read more here.

The march has breathed new life into the women’s movement. But for most women’s organisations in the Global South, this is a bittersweet moment. A large number of women’s rights organisations have been forced into closure or massive downsizing due to recent trends in global aid. The remaining small women’s organisations are now operating on shoestring budgets. The ability of advocacy organisations to pressure governmental leaders is much weakened at a time when it is most needed to push forward the post 2015 agenda.

Just a few months ago in September 2016 , African feminists attending the AWID 13th International Forum made a strong call for sustainable resourcing for Women’s Rights Organisations (WRO).They called on donors to “put their money where their mouth is” by funding indigenous African women’s rights organisations threatened with closure as funding priorities shift.

The world civil society body, CIVICUS in its 2016 annual State of the Civil Society report raised concerns on the shrinking capacity of non-governmental organisations to participate in developmental work as a result of limited funds.

In the USA the organisers of the Women’s March Global have announced a 100-day action plan to catalyse the movement around important issues, from civil rights, to healthcare to environmental justice.

For us in Southern Africa this is a time to redouble our efforts to achieve equality and justice, as well as call on leaders to “put their money where their mouth is” in attaining the goals of the SDGs.

(For more information contact Alliance Advocacy Coordinator Lucia Makamure on or call 27 71 035 8896)