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Gender Links (GL) is a leading Southern African Women’s Rights Organisation whose work has been widely acclaimed across the continent. Two times winner of the Mail and Guardian “Investing in the Future Award”, GL has also received Top Women, Drivers of Change and African Union awards for its outstanding contribution to advancing women’s rights in this sub-region.
Formed in March 2001, GL is headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, with offices in ten Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, including a Lusophone base in Mozambique and Francophone base in Madagascar.
Described in an evaluation as a “small organisation with a large footprint,” GL has a web of close to 600 partners, with whom it works to promote gender equality.
At the policy level, GL coordinates the Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance that campaigned for the adoption of this unique instrument in 2008. Originally aligned to the Millennium Development Goals, the Protocol brings together global and international commitments to gender equality. In 2016, the Protocol was aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals. GL and 25 partners produce an annual Barometer tracking progress towards attaining gender equality in SADC.
In its Gender and Governance programme GL spearheads the 50/50 campaign in the region. GL has played a key role in putting gender on the local government agenda in ten SADC countries through 432 councils that have joined the Centres of Excellence for Gender in Local Government. This includes gender responsive budgeting and service delivery, with new areas like Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights as well as Climate Change enriching this model. The councils cover a population of 40 million people or 34% of the population in the ten countries where they are found.
Pioneering work on the Sixteen Days of Activism campaign in the gender justice programme has expanded to include 365 day action plans to end gender violence. GL has pioneered a way of measuring gender violence tested in seven SADC countries, and used to strengthen 365 day National and Local Action Plans for Ending Gender Violence.
GL has worked with 1300 survivors of gender violence to reclaim their lives through entrepreneurship training linked to local economic development. The programme is anchored by councils that provide support, mentorship, access to finance and infrastructure. An assessment of the pilot phase of this project in 2015 showed that 91% completed a business plan and 79% followed through on the plan. The overall increase in income in 2015 as a result of the project is over $1 million; a 66% increase. 59% added new products and 54% found new markets; 48% indicated starting a new business and 29% increased the size of their business; 41% opened a bank account and 35% increased email usage. 85% of participants said they now experience less or much less GBV. Rebranded the Sunrise Campaign because of the fresh start and new hope that this has given participants, GL has mounted a global campaign to raise funds for sustainable solutions to GBV that change lives and deliver agency.
Susan Swart, from Cape Arugulas municipality in South Africa took the microphone with confidence at the 2015 SADC Gender Protocl@Work Summit and declared: “I overcame, so can you!” Her emotional anguish of living with an abusive husband finally surfaced after he decided that she was “not good enough anymore” and left her and her two kids to fend for themselves. She thought long and hard about the business ventures she could pursue. She registered a catering business and started with a donated chip making machine. In 2013, Swart attended the GL entrepreneurship training programme for survivors of gender violence. “GL taught me how to fly,” she says. “I was encouraged to encourage others and was empowered to empower myself. I want to tell everyone that they can overcome, just like I have. My business is still growing and I know it will keep growing. Gender links has provided me with the platform and the freedom to be the best that I can.”
In the first fifteen years GL reached over 120,000 direct beneficiaries. In an analysis of the Drivers of Change, 65% of women said they had become more aware of their rights; an even higher percentage (73%) said they now had greater confidence; 52% said they could claim their rights and 49% had improved their self- image.
As founding chair of the Global Alliance on Gender and the Media (GAMAG) GL is a global and regional thought leader on gender and the media. GL works with 108 Centres of Excellence for Gender in the Media, including twelve public broadcasters and 11 media training institutions that have opted to become Centres of Excellence for Gender in Media Education. GL’s Gender and Media Progress Study (GMPS) conducted every three years is the most extensive such study undertaken in any region of the world providing a wealth of data for advocacy and action planning as well as sharing through the Gender and Media Diversity Centre (GMDC). GL has a growing social media footprint on facebook, twitter, you tube and Instagram, as well as a comprehensive website with 627,718 page views in 2015.
“I write to express my support for the work by Gender Links to enhance the status of women in the SADC region generally, and in particular their pioneering work on the economic empowerment of survivors of gender violence.”
– Geraldine Fraser Moleketi, Former Special Envoy on Gender to the African Development Bank.