The Network Of Local Elected Women In Africa (RAFELA) Holds 8th Africities Summit

The 8th edition of the much anticipated, annual Pan-African event will be held from November 20th -24th in Marrakesh, Morocco. As in previous years, Africities anticipates a large attendance, with over 5000 prospective participants expected in Marrakesh from across the regions in Africa to help shape, ‘The Africa We Want.’

The 2018 Summit, organized under the theme, ‘The transition to sustainable cities and territories: The role of local and subnational governments of Africa,’ is a special event that mobilizes communities and local authorities in African countries, bringing together their financial institutions, civil society groups and development partners with the sole purpose to empower African communities to achieve greater self-determination, address issues of poverty and inequality and achieve a new vision of urban development; a vision as outlined in the African Union’s 2063 Vision of Africa, that will respond to the needs and challenges facing its citizens now and in the near future.

And what of the future? One of the greatest challenges facing the continent is that of a growing population, anticipated to reach 2 billon people by 2050, accompanied by a growing youth population that is expected to outnumber that of any other continent on the planet.  These are new challenges, and solutions take time, cooperation and collaboration.  The Africities Summit is in the vanguard of addressing these difficult questions and finding solutions.

This year, Africities takes to its heart the issue of youth.  How will Africa manage the growth of this population who are marginalized and have expressed their discontent, but who are the ultimate solutions to Africa’s problems and challenges – and this, in the context of rapid urbanization, with the complexity of problems brought about by any mode or period of change.  Africities recognizes the urgency with which young people must be engaged to participate in the process of change, rather than be defined as a problem and will be creating a special vehicle, The Youth Forum, as a platform from which young people can envision and share their vision of an Africa in which youth are firmly at the centre and not at the margins.

The presence of women at the 8th Africities 2018 Summit will add a special impetus to gender issues in local government. The Network of Local Elected Women in Africa (REFELA), is launching two campaigns; “African Cities without street children,” and “Cities without violence against women and girls.” Local elected women are keen to establish their role as elected representatives, one of which is to build a democracy of proximity and gender equality.

Founded in March 2011, the REFELA network has established itself as a specialist in issues relating to municipality and the municipal movement. The Africities 8 Summit will see the launch of the two campaigns, both of which will address issues on the empowerment of women.

“African cities without street children.”

This Campaign will be launched at Africities under The High Patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Meyrem. Support partners of the campaign are African and international organizations: UCLG World, The African Union (AU), European Union (EU), and the UN agencies, including UNICEF.  “50 million African children live on the streets. Cities and local governments must unite and act to protect endangered childhood.”

The campaign of African Cities without Street Children is an initiative from the network of local elected women of Africa (REFELA), the Permanent Committee on Gender Equality of the United Cities and Local governments of Africa (UCLG Africa). Despite some progress in the protection of children’s basic rights, street children are still excluded and cruelly deprived of the most basic conditions.  Street children are deprived from all rights and from their humanity. They are exposed to violence of all kinds and their vulnerability makes them easy prey for predators.

“Cities without violence against women and girls.”Women mayors and local elected representatives within the REFELA network have been active around issues of violence against women since the creation of the network and have planned interventions starting with their very first roadmap in June 2011.  The goal today is to challenge and to mobilize cities and local communities through the implementation of a broader campaign under the slogan, “Cities and territories of Africa act against violence against women and girls.”

This second campaign is one of UN-Women’s flagship missions and will also be launched at the Africities Summit. This is the time to build cities free from violence against women and girls. Violence against women is often accepted in everyday life as a normal occurrence that is not paid enough attention. It often takes place behind closed doors in families who do not talk about it. Fear creates a comfortable silence for those who are the perpetrators. Denouncing domestic violence in the public space places it at the same level as all other forms of violence. The presence of women in municipal councils and local governments is a fundamental requirement in combating violence against women and girls. It is these women who will manage issues of gender, including those of violence against women, in all its dimensions.

“Cities and territories of Africa act against violence against women and girls.”

Under the chairmanship of Mrs. Bassima El Hakkaoui, Minister of Solidarity, Family, Equality and Social Development, the third campaign, “Cities and territories of Africa act against violence against women and girls,” will be featured during the Africities 8 Summit.

 “African Cities that promote the leadership and economic empowerment of women.” 

“Together Let’s Work for Economic Empowerment and Promoting Women’s Leadership in Africa by 2030.”   Under the chairmanship of His Excellency the Wali (“Head Governor), Coordinator of INDH, this campaign was intiated by the Network of Local Elected Women of Africa, REFELA and the Permanent Commission for Gender Equality of United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa). This campaign is essential in promoting gender equality in African societies where, with few exceptions, the economic position of women remains far below their demographic weight, with figures attesting to this imbalance in many, so-called, modern democracies.

While women make up around 66% of the workforce in the African economy, they account for only 20% of paid jobs. 46% of women work in informal, vulnerable and precarious jobs. In politics too, women represent such a low rate of elected officials that their voices remain inaudible. For example, in the 2002 municipal elections in Benin, only 49 of 1199 elected officials were women. In Algeria in 2007, the number of women elected locally was estimated to be only 0.74% of the elected officials versus 1.07% in 2002.

Women are victims of gender segregation. They have advanced little in the political sphere as in the economic sphere and progress is slow. Local elected women are still a small minority almost everywhere. Equality is an exception and continues to widen despite political speeches. It is high time we moved into action. Only 2/3 of women are part of the active population in Africa, of which 75% will be in vulnerable jobs by 2020. There is an urgent need for women to act for economic empowerment and the promotion of women’s leadership in Africa by 2030.

REFELA demands that cities and territories of Africa commit themselves to impose a radical change to this situation by proposing possible and credible plans of action. The starting point will be the Africities Summit. REFELA invites all participants who express an interest in these upcoming campaigns to add their voices in Marrakech from November 20 to November 24, 2018.

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