Message from Hala Al-Karib, Regional Director SIHA Network
The We Cannot Wait Project is a consortium of Southern-led organisations that is explicitly focused on building an inclusive and cohesive women’s movement and women’s empowerment throughout the Greater Horn of Africa (GHoA). We will collaborate with women, women’s rights activists and women’s rights organisations (WRA/Os) in all their diversity across 23 cities in the Countries of Sudan, Uganda, South Sudan, Somalia, Somaliland and Ethiopia, and we will utilise a strengthened regional movement to lobby and advocate for gender equality and challenge the structural and interconnected barriers to women’s social, economic and political decision making, women’s agency and empowerment.
Our partners are rooted in the region, and have a deep understanding of activism for women’s rights and the dynamics of women’s movements within the GHoA. Our partners will use their long experience, expertise and knowledge of the region’s social and political dynamics to contribute to and enhance the building of an inclusive, intersectional and autonomous women’s rights movement from the grassroots up while strengthening regional and cross country learning. The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) Network is our lead partner; Musawah, the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA), the Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (FIDA-Uganda), and NAGAAD Network are our implementing partners.
SIHA Network is a platform for over 130 women’s rights organisations from across the region and has institutionalised itself as an indigenous women’s rights organisation that brings together a coalition of feminist and gender equality-focused civil society groups in the GHoA. SIHA offices in Sudan and South Sudan will be leading the WCW projects activities in both countries. SIHA has been working in Sudan since 2001 and in South Sudan since 2004. SIHA is well-anchored in both countries as a part of and an extension of the women’s movement with a solid practice of building bridges for grassroots women to connect with each other and to influence the policy agenda for the broader women’s movement at the national, regional and global levels.
A global movement for equality and justice since 2009, Musawah has focussed on producing feminist rights-based knowledge within an Islamic framework and challenging traditional and gender discriminatory Muslim laws on family and guardianship that significantly affect women and girls living in Muslim societies. Musawah has a significant record of supporting women’s rights activists and their organisations to advocate for equal rights in line with human/women’s rights mechanisms within international human rights platforms.
The Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA) was founded in 1995 by a group of Ethiopian women lawyers and has since established itself across the country. EWLA provides legal aid clinics and individual legal services, legal rights awareness, strategic litigation and research on women’s rights. EWLA contributed and still contributes directly to reforming Ethiopia’s legal framework and improving women’s access to justice.
The Association of Women Lawyers in Uganda (FIDA-Uganda) is a feminist organisation founded over 40 years ago, bringing together women lawyers to support women to access their human and legal rights and to integrate law and social justice with a gender lens in Uganda. FIDA has provided legal aid services for women, produced research on women’s access to land and resources and worked on influencing change to Ugandan laws and policies.
NAGAAD Network is a women’s rights network of 46 organisations based in Hargeisa in northern Somalia, now known as Somaliland. It was founded in 1997 and is closely affiliated to the women’s movement across Somalia. NAGAAD links together diverse women’s organisations in Somalia and Somaliland including women with disabilities, urban and rural poor and internally displaced persons. NAGAAD has played an important role in amplifying the voices of Somali women and advocating for their social and political rights. NAGAAD played a relentless role in the campaign for women’s political participation in the Somaliland government and aims to improve the protection of women’s rights within policies and legislation.
What we do
Our Africa Regional Gender Forum
Our first annual Regional Gender Forum which was held in November 2021, created a network of advocates more connected and mobilized to share knowledge and strategies, to foster collaborative advocacy and to build their collective strength in the face of resistance. The Forum fostered a platform to enhance the building of an inclusive, inter-sectional and autonomous women’s rights movement from the grassroots while strengthening regional and cross-country learning. 40 women activists and advocates from Somalia, Somaliland, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia came together for open dialogue with the hope of co-creating a regional advocacy agenda that is championed by women activists and WRO’s to influence policy reform, social norm change and engage meaningfully with interconnected structures that block women’s personal agency, women’s economic and political empowerment and decision making in the Greater Horn of Africa (GHoA) region. Read our solidarity statement for We Stand With You – A statement of solidarity with women, girls and other populations at risk due to the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia.
We are a solidarity platform
We are a feminist and inclusive solidarity platform that draws on the strength of diverse women’s rights activists, groups and leaders of organizations on various thematic priorities and issues across the HoA region. We are building a social movement with women at the forefront to put pressure on Policy makers and Governments as a force for Change. By creating a strong network of women we are more resilent to create the change and impact for women and girls.
Our solidarity for Sudan
Our Director, Hala Al-Karib presented a Statement to the UN Security Council on women’s rights and Situation in Sudan. Although about 70% of the organizers and protestors that ensured the success of the revolution were women, we have been shut out from equally and meaningfully participating in every step of the transition. Our calls to end sexual violence, to ensure just family laws, and enable equal access to resources, education, and employment continue to go unheeded. Instead, we are facing a backlash that is indicative of the Transitional Government’s unwillingness to recognize the interconnection between the struggle for women’s rights and the struggle for a civil democratic state. Sudanese Women will not resolve and SIHA Network, activists and women groups will remain hopeful for peace and a more accountable government. Read the full statement here.
In a joint statement, our consortium expressed concern at the continued attacks at peaceful protestors and women of Sudan. Following the coup carried out by the Sudanese military on October 25, 2021, Sudan has been going under an escalating political crisis and instability. A State of Emergency was declared by the military, with a return of a militant discourse that uses Islam as a source of authority. The violence in Sudan targets civilians protesting against authoritarian rule, and weaponizes sexual violence against women activists and protestors, setting the country back to a dictatorship rule. The Musawah movement, the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa, NAGAAD Network and Islamic Relief Development Agency expressed their concern at the arrests and violence mettered by military and security forces on women human rights defenders.
We create safe spaces for WHRDs and Activists
The WeCannotWait Movement is an inclusive safe space where women leaders and activists from Ethiopia, Somalia, Somaliland, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda can have honest conversations around the social-cultural, political and economic challenges facing women across the region. We hold feminist values, rely on one another and hold each other accountable. Our growing movement is a sisterhood that is built on trust,with the aim to create a regional advocacy agenda that is driven by women activists at grassroots level and national level and regional level.
Our struggle for women’s political rights in Somali region
As Somaliland and Somalia organise elections at the different levels, we realize roll backs in gains that had been made due to layers of obstruction that limit women’s effective participation in the political, social, and economic spheres. As Somaliland went for local council and parliamentary elections on May 31, 2021, out of 28 women that run for political positions only 3 were elected to local council. Currently, In Somaliland, there are ZERO women in the 164-member Houses of Parliament, with only 3 women out of 379 local Councillors, and only two female ministers serve in the cabinet. Women demand that the women’s quota be adopted and implemented. Somalia recently concluded the senate/upper house election with 14 women out of 54 elected members. Women in Somaliland and Somalia will not wait! We are tired of being side lined from political decision making tables.
Our Gender and Muslim Reformist Discourse Training
Two of our partners, Musawah and Nagaad Network, co-organised a Gender and Muslim Reformist Discourse training for 20 women activists and 4 male gender equality allies from Somalia and Somaliland. The training which targeted actors with no formal or traditional education on Islam and gender issues aimed to expand our network of advocates in the Somali region. Gender in Islamic Law and Jurisprudence, Equality and Justice- Reformist Discourse, New trends in islamic legal thought for Law Reform are some of the sessions that were delivered.
Our Regional Advocacy
SIHA Network, Musawah, Equality Now and FEMNET convened the Africa Regional Workshop on Family Law Reform between the 4th – 6th October, 2021. The regional workshop has created a continental network of family law reform activists; with clear regional and country-based strategies to advocate for the reform of discriminatory laws and practices relating to marriage and family. This platform allows for conversations on key challenges in national contexts, information sharing on good practices, and to agree on key political messaging that counters conservative narratives. We believe in co-creating an inclusive and sustainable movement for family law reform.
Our South-Sudan Advocacy with the CEDAW Committee
In October 2021, SIHA Network, Musawah and Islamic Development and Relief Agency (IDRA) participated in the first ever CEDAW Committee review of South Sudan. South Sudan acceded to CEDAW on 30 April 2015 and its Optional Protocol on 30 July 2015- which obligates her to submit periodic reports on the Women’s Rights Situation. Our Consortium participated in the 80th session in Consideration of South Sudan-1837th CEDAW meeting. In our joint thematic report, we examined South Sudan’s legal framework and practises that enforce de jure and de facto discrimination against women including muslim women and called for urgent attention towards the Delayed codification of family law; an end towards Child, early, and forced marriage; Violence against women and girls; and the prioritization of women’s economic rights. Read the full report here
SIHA Network submitted a second report to the CEDAW Committee with a special focus on conflict related sexual violence, and Women Peace and Security . Read more here
Women in Uganda demand an End to Violence
In Uganda, the WCW lead partner, FIDA- Uganda implemented the Complete the Sentence Campaign, an advocacy initiative to to call for an “end to violence against women, now” as part of the WeCannotWait Campaign during the 16 days of activism. The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day. The Complete the Sentence Campaign attracted Government leaders, Civil society Leaders, Women Activists, and leaders of Women’s Rights Organisations/groups pledging their commitments to ending VAW/G.
Our Activists speak out
Women leaders and Activists from Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somaliland are tired of being treated as second-class citizens and being told they should remain patient because this is not the right time to address their issues! We are speaking Up! and we have our demands! WomenCannotWait!
We are not shying away from Politics
Our movement does not not only fight to change the situation for ourselves, but we are also pushing for peace, justice, democracy and other causes that benefit society at large. We are not shying away from politics and understand that women must be at the center and part of the political decision making for gendered impact to be realised. We demand to be included; we demand to be listened to; we demand to be present. We will not allow to be taken advantage of.