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Sara Longwe, a feminist activist based in Lusaka, Zambia has developed a method of analyzing gender issues popularly known as Longwe Women’s Empowerment Framework in the global feminist and gender literature. Sara has used this framework in her numerous consultancies undertaken with African government gender departments, development agencies and civil society organisations on how to identify and address gender issues for sustainable women’s empowerment.
She has been involved in the struggle for gender justice for many years. She vigorously began her activism in the 1970s, when as a young secondary school teacher, the government refused to give her maternity leave, despite Zambia’s ratification of an ILO labour convention that required the school to provide 90 days of paid maternity leave. This led to Sara becoming a prime mover in a lobbying group that successfully pressed the government to introduce, in mid-70s, a provision for paid maternity leave at work places at national level. In 1984, as a founding member of the Zambia Association for Research and Development (ZARD), she played a vital role in pushing the government (1985) into ratifying the 1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW ) and the enactment of the 1989 statutory laws on inheritance of the deceased estate (i.e. wills and intestate). Also in 1986, she was one of the founder members of the Zambian Non-Governmental Organisational Coordination Council (NGOCC) – this was an offshoot of the UN’s Decade for Women -1976-1985). NGOCC is the focal point for Zambian women’s movement for advocacy of the implementation of gender policies and human rights instruments (national, regional and international).
Sara co-founded many other civil society organizations and networks (in her quest for improving women’s empowerment at regional and international levels) these include: the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) founded in 1988, which plays a role of coordination of Africa women caucuses (with other networks) at regional, global conferences and meetings (e.g. African Union’s Summits of heads of states, UN’s sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), Africa & World Social Forum, Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) and the Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF), which were both founded in 1989 to focus on women’s human rights), SADC Gender Protocol Alliance. Some of the successes from this collective work with African women’s movements include: the coordination of African women during the Dakar/Beijing Platforms of Action (1994-1995) and the follow-up processes; the African Union’s 2003 Women’s Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right, the 2004 Solemn Declaration for Gender Equality in Africa and the 2008 Gender Protocol for the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), and more.
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