Women Deliver: Feast of ideas flows from #WD2023

Women Deliver: Feast of ideas flows from #WD2023

Date: July 26, 2023
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26 July 2023: Grantees from the Voice and Choice Southern Africa Fund (VCSAF) wept as survivors of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) shared their stories at the Women Deliver 2023 conference. So harrowing were these tales that even the interpreter could not continue with her work.  In their everyday work, VCSAFund grantees work on gender based violence. But FGM is not as common in southern Africa as it is in east and west Africa. Being at the Women Deliver Conference with 6300 delegates from all over the world opened many new insights for this group, and equipped them with new skills and resolve as they return to their bases in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Lesotho.

“I am not emotional but I cried,” said Carren Liando from Phola, a Johannesburg NGO that has developed a unique methodology to help survivors of GBV reclaim their agency. During the conference, she participated in several sessions on the impact of GBV on mental health.

The VCSAF is managed by Gender Links, a Southern African Women’s Rights Organisation, on behalf of Amplify Change, a UK-based fund to “end the silence” on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). One of the panels at Women Deliver concerned “shifting the power” in grant making from the global north to the global south. GL Special Advisor Colleen Lowe Morna shared how GL opened a Grant Making Unit after a funding crisis in 2017 that led to global advocacy for funding WRO that are “too small for the big funds, and too big for the small funds.” Global Affairs Canada heeded the call in 2019, inviting GL to manage its Women Voice and Leadership South Africa fund in 2019. Amplify Change put out a call for partners to manage its funds in 2020. GL, a former AC grantee, became a funding partner in Southern Africa. The VCSAF comprises 38 grantees in eight SADC countries.

In April 2023, as part of a comprehensive capacity building plan for grantees, GL offered week-long communications training for the VCSAF. The training included a challenge for teams across countries to plan and run SRHR campaigns in the different thematic areas that they work on including adolescent sexual and reproductive health; menstrual health; GBV and LGBTQIA. The winning team (GBV) got to go to the Women Deliver conference held in Kigali, Rwanda, from 17-21 July 2023.  Thenjiwe Ngcobo from Incema in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, applied for a passport for the first time. Mathapelo Rammole from YWCA Lesotho shook with emotion as she recalled getting on an aeroplane and holding a US dollar note for the first time.

The trip was a first of its kind to Rwanda for all the participants. They left with heart-warming memories of the beautiful landscape, spotlessly clean streets,  and warm people if not of Air Rwanda that cancelled the Zimbabwe flights twice and arrived in Johannesburg with no luggage for any of the passengers!

GL prepared the participants for the highs and lows of travel through a needs assessment and a series of webinars. Each individual downloaded the Women Deliver ap and planned their schedule for the four days. They will all be contributing blogs and vlogs based on the menu they selected. During the team debrief at the end of the conference, Ngcobo said the conference felt like “a buffet with a lot on the table.  Everything was appetising. I wanted to try it all, but ofcourse I could not.”  So, like others in the team, “I had to be strategic” choosing a few tracks that had maximum synergy with the work of her NGO that focuses on childhood experiences of violence and its later impact.

Khensani Mabasa from Life Savers Foundation in Limpopo, South Africa, embodied the spirit of “Women Deliver”, refusing to allow being six months pregnant to slow her down. Her highlights included meeting Women Deliver Chair and former South African Vice President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. also former executive director of UNWomen. Mlambo-Ngcuka  now heads the Umlambo Foundation promoting girls education. Mabasa and Mlambo-Ngcuka agreed to work together in the remote Bembe district of Limpopo. She also savoured meeting a new friend from New Zealand on the flight to Rwanda: “we talked for the whole four hours,” she said. Indeed, a stranger is a friend you have never met!

Tinotenda Matenda from Roots Africa in Zimbabwe felt the “weight of responsibility” from his team back home who expected him to “deliver results”. Each time he made a new contact, he set up a virtual meeting with his director, making sure that every conversation created meaningful new linkages. He also made his voice heard in the youth space, declaring that “young people are partners, not beneficiaries.. we are not a consultation factory; we are the future.” He left inspired by an almost paperless conference, with registration done in minutes using QR codes.

Luckson Bashoma from Matabeleland Aids Council in Zimbabwe has a degree in environmental science and followed the climate justice track during the conference. He is interested in the nexus between gender; climate and SRHR justice. As one of the two young men on the team, he also took an interest in the men at the conference. He will contribute a blog on what men need to deliver – watch this space!

For all the grantees, Women Deliver offered the opportunity to meet current and prospective funders. The VCSAFund grantees spent time at the AmplifyChange booth in the Kivu tent, networking with the Chair of the AmplifyChange Board Narmeen Hamid.  Latanya Mapp Frett President and CEO of Global Fund for Women met individually with grantees and offered valuable advice: always talk about your work first, then about money! Leonora Tima, Director of Kwanele in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, worked the donor circuit, collecting business cards and becoming “known.” This start-up NGO recently won an award in San Francisco for an ap to use AI in reporting cases of GBV.  “What you want in the end is that if there is a list of 20,000 your name stands out!”  Indeed, no coincidence that some of the grantees who had applied for funds from the GFW and heard nothing started to get responses during the four days!

Mary Chigumira, director of Unlimited Hope Alliance Trust, a Zimbabwean NGO, followed the child marriages track. The elder of the group, she summed up the experience of the team with this reflection: “Women Deliver taught me to claim my space and be visible.. you put us on the map, we are not young, we are not small, we are empowered.”  Amen!



(Colleen Lowe Morna is Special Advisor to the GL Sustainability Hub, that includes a Grant Making unit managing three funds: Voice and Choice Southern Africa; Women Voice and Leadership as well as the Women on the South Speak Out).  

7 thoughts on “Women Deliver: Feast of ideas flows from #WD2023”

Emily says:

Thanks for the message, Tari…. so proud to be a part of this organisation and its programmes.

God bless

Loide David N N SH says:

Thanks very much for sharing information on GBV, l just want to add that we must give the health Education SRHR on GBV in our community.

Mpumelelo says:

This is inspiring and influencial to all the women. Forward women forward. God is trusting in you in many ways.Thank you for the message.

Remember: you are blessed to be a blessing.

Nomsa says:


Jacqueline says:

Dear colleagues,

Warm Salutatins of IFESIDDI in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
On behalf of all the girls and women of Ifesiddi, I sincerely thank you, for the news of the great world event of Women Deliver.
It is a shame that IFESIDDI could not participate in this great WD conference.
It would have been an opportunity to make the voices of the victims of rape and violence of all kinds heard in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, this part of the country which continues to be the theater of armed conflicts, leading to several victims like those of genital mutilation that testified at the Women Deiver conference, the violence of sad memories suffered
It is better that they made their voices heard in the eyes of the world!
As for the cases of rapes and massive violence that women and girls continue to undergo the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, this situation is so critical and leads to economic and social crises, even terrible health! Having consequences, the existence of more thousands of widows and orphans, who are refugees who have left their villages, these crises also have as a consequence, the existence of thousands of vitimes rape and violence blocked in areas of conflicts Without any care …
The situation of women and girls victims of rape and violence is very critical in the Democratic Republic of Congo and this requires special attention
IFESIDDI works without reache to promote the rights of women and girls victims, through residence initiatives.
In my previous correspondence, I mentioned these sad recess of women and girls victims in Democratic Repubic of the Congo
I would still like Gender Link to join IFESIDDI in this struggle to so much to help victims whose age varies between 3 years to 60 years and over. Tgether we would be able to unite to fight against rape and violence against women and girls and protect the rights of victims of rape and Volence and those of female genital mitulations in the SADC region.
In all solidarity,

Cleeve .k.nyikayaramba says:

I wish if i was also there at this conference iwas going to use internet networks to raise my voice all over the world to all those people who are stil fighting due to gender rules which were setted by village heads men and church leaders.and iwas also going to teach the world as a whole that its high time a girl child must be considered ,i was going to educate the people about the importants of family love ,i was going to take numbers of all organisatiins who deals with gender violence and sexual abuses and make a team amd start to travel in diferent countries helping to educate man in the world that its high time they have to consider women and girls as people of more value in the comunity not child bearing machines ,

Cleeve .k.nyikayaramba says:

I would like to thank gender links for the work done trying to change the life women and girls in tje comunity ,iwish if all man man in the world completely change and leave this idea of raping and beating women in the society we were going to enjoy a blessed and wonderful life in the world,gender links you are doing a great job i wil join you soon guys ,keep up the wonderful job

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