On March 11, 2021, the Network of Locally Elected Women of Africa (REFELA), which constitutes the standing committee for gender equality of UCLG Africa, organized a webinar to celebrate its 10 years of existence. The meeting was held under the theme: “REFELA, a Network, a Vision and an Agenda at the service of the promotion of female leadership and gender equality in local Africa”.
About a hundred participants took part in the event. The official opening was punctuated by speeches of: Mrs. Macoura DAO COULIBALY, Mayor of Foumbolo (Côte d’Ivoire), President of REFELA, Mr. Eugène MBA, President of UCLG Africa (speech read by Mrs. Annie Chrystel LIMBOURG IWENGA, Second Deputy Mayor of Libreville), Mr. Khalid SAFIR, Wali of the DGCT of the Ministry of the Interior of Morocco, and Mr. Jean Pierre ELONG MBASSI, Secretary General of UCLG Africa. The session was moderated by Mrs. Rahmatouca SOW, Advisor for International Relations and Political Affairs of UCLG Africa.
Ms. Dao praised the actions carried out by her predecessors at the head of REFELA since the creation of the network in 2011 within the framework of the first Forum of locally elected women of Africa held in Tangier (Morocco). “Today, the network has 30 country chapters on the continent, representing 55% coverage of African countries. The promotion of female leadership in the territories and in the regions is not yet very entrenched: we must work more to get girls and women to take an interest in the concerns of their sisters in the territories “.
For his part, Mr. Eugene Mba was delighted that his first official public activity as president of UCLG Africa was to celebrate gender equality within local authorities. “The dynamism of REFELA has surprised many and is a source of pride for African mayors. UCLG Africa is committed to promot women in its governance bodies. The Executive Committee of UCLG Africa, which is the political body of the organization, now has 30% of women. I intend to launch a momentum aimed at achieving parity and equality within the Executive Committee of UCLG Africa during the next terms in office of the members of our organization. This is an opportunity to thank REFELA for having made it possible, through its campaigns, and to alert and educate our leaders and our populations on the evils of our societies which hamper our dignity. Our thanks go to Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Meryem of Morocco for having accepted to be the godmother of the campaign “African cities without children in street situation”, and this is also an opportunity to thank the Kingdom of Morocco for supporting REFELA right from the start ”.
Mr. Khalid Safir welcomed the fact that Morocco was the birthplace of the REFELA network which was born in Tangiers in March 2011. “On this day commemorating the creation of REFELA, the network has proven to be a catalyst for locally elected women in Africa and a space for an exchange of views and experience between elected women at all levels. Since the creation of REFELA, Morocco has not ceased to support your network and will continue to do so, convinced that locally elected African women are a force for our continent. With the adoption of the 2011 Constitution, Morocco has established gender parity as a goal to be achieved in all public policies. My country will always remain by your side because its achievements will be yours”.
Mr. Elong Mbassi expressed his emotion to participate in the celebration of the 10th anniversary of REFELA. “I remember those 4 days spent in Tangier from March 8 to March 11, 2011, with elected women from Africa determined to make their voices heard. I extend my thanks to the Kingdom of Morocco for its invaluable support “.
The celebration took place around 4 focus areas:
-A historical reminder of the birth of REFELA marked with a presentation by Dr. Najat Zarrouk, Director of the African Local Government Academy (ALGA) of UCLG Africa, and the testimonies of the first 4 presidents of the Network: Ms. Milouda Hazib, Vice- President of the Marrakech-Safi Regional Council (Morocco), Former President of REFELA (2011), Ms Maria Helena Langa, Mayor of Mandlakazi (Mozambique), former President of REFELA (2012), Ms Fatimetou Mint Abdel Malik, President of the region of Nouakchott (Mauritania), former president of REFELA (2012-2015), and Ms. Célestine Ketcha Courtès, Minister of Housing and Urban Development (Cameroon), former President of REFELA (2015-2019). The discussions were moderated by Ms. Jacqueline Moustache Belle, upcoming Director of the Gender and Youth Department of UCLG Africa.
-The second part of the webinar focused on the equality generation and saw the interventions of : Ms. Leila Rhiwi, UN-Women Representative for the Maghreb (represented by Ms. Sacha Belle -Clot ), Ms. Emilia Saiz, Secretary General of UCLG World, and Mr. Frédéric Vallier, Secretary General of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions ( CEMR ).
-The third part of the webinar consisted of presenting the endorsement of the city of Rabat and its mayor, Mr. Mohammed SADIKI, to the REFELA campaigns.
-The fourth part of the webinar gave rise to a round table with the vice-presidents of REFELA: Ms. Fatna EL-K’HIEL (Vice – president of REFELA for the North Africa region), Ms. Yvonne EYIDI née EBODIAM TCHOUMBI (Vice-president of REFELA for the Central Africa region), and Ms. Esther RATSIMBAZAFY Sahondramalala (Vice-President of REFELA for the East Africa region). This segment of the meeting was moderated by Dr. François Paul YATTA, Director of Programs at UCLG Africa.
The exchanges made it possible to take assessment of the network’s achievements, to discuss the challenges that remain, and to evoke the future perspectives in terms of actions and cooperation.
At the time of the assessment, after 10 years, REFELA has come a long way and counts to its achievements:
– The recognition of the Network at the international level;
– The renewal of the network on the continent with a 55% coverage through the 30 country-chapters of REFELA;
– The implementation of the three REFELA campaigns (in 2018, Campaign of African Cities without Children in Street Situations (54 members), in 2019, Campaign of African Cities with Zero Tolerance to Violence Against Women (22 members) and in 2020, Campaign of African cities favorable to the economic empowerment of women (+80 members) ;
– The signing of a partnership with the National Observatory for the Rights of the Child of the Kingdom of Morocco as part of the implementation of the “Campaign of African Cities without Children in Street Situation” (2018);”
– The signing of the Europe-Africa-Pact for Local Equality, between REFELA-UCLG Africa, UCLG, and CEMR (2018);
– The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between REFELA-UCLG Africa and FAMSI (Andalucía) for the implementation of the “Campaign of African cities favorable to the economic empowerment of women” (2020);
– The establishment of governance mechanisms for the implementation of the Africa-Europe Pact (2019: establishment of the Africa-Europe Committee to support the drafting of the “Local Authorities Charter for Gender Equality in Africa” (political body, made up of African and European elected officials) ;
– The realization of an online consultation (2019) and preparation of an analytical report on the results of the online consultation (2020);
– The organization of capacity-building activities for locally elected women;
– REFELA contributed to the creation of a Committee on Gender Equality within UCLG World;
– REFELA’s contribution to the journey of locally elected women aiming to occupy ministerial positions, like Ms. Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda (former Mayor of Libreville, former President of UCLG Africa, current Prime Minister of Gabon), Ms. Célestine Ketcha Courtès (Former President of REFELA, current Minister of Housing and Urban Development (Cameroon), and Ms. Jacqueline Moustache Belle (Former Mayor of Victoria, Chief of Protocol to the President of the Republic of Seychelles).
Message from the past presidents
In their speeches, the past presidents of REFELA welcomed the progress made by the network while insisting that the battle for equality has not yet been won. “REFELA was a network to boost local economic development. After 10 years, we must be proud of all the achievements. However, there is still a long way to go, and advocacy must continue. This is particularly the case for the presence of more women on the electoral rolls in Africa. The management of these lists remains to be improved in order to better pave the way for women to run on an equal footing with men “, said Ms. Milouda Hazib.
“We have made sure that the national associations of local and regional authorities admit REFELA as a standing commission on gender. We must continue to promote the self-esteem of women “, said Ms Maria Helena Langa, from Mozambique”.
« “We were able to set up the first network of locally elected women in the world. This is a source of pride for us as an African woman. We went around the world and handed the REFELA Key to personalities like Ban Ki Moon (United Nations SG from 2007 to 2016). We must constantly and consistently support women, especially in this period of Covid-19. We must do a lot of advocacy with countries to review electoral laws, and provide training sessions because mayors change after elections. We need continuous training for elected women”, said Ms. Fatimetou Mint Abdel Malik, from Mauritania.
“Mayors are the doctors of the populations. We had more than 700 women mayors when REFELA was created. REFELA has produced women ministers, advisers to heads of State, one Prime minister, but have we succeeded in making a planet 50/50 at the local level? The answer is no. For example, Cameroon has 40 women mayors out of 374. 40 WOMEN out of 374 mayors! In this period of the pandemic, we must mobilize women more in the fight against Covid-19 ”, declared Ms. Célestine Ketcha Courtès, from Cameroon.
In pursuing this fight to achieve parity, REFELA can count on the support of its partners, including UCLG and CEMR.
“Congratulations to REFELA on its 10th anniversary. We will be celebrating them globally on March 17, 2021. Our movement is driven by equality. UCLG is now co-chair of the Equality Coalition with UN-Women. UCLG will ensure that your demands in Africa are heard. We are grateful that REFELA has taken the issue of street children to the global level. We recognize the successes and remember that the fight continues. Equality must remain at the heart of our movement”, said Ms Emilia Saiz, Secretary General of UCLG World.
“Equality is a fight that must be fought by strong personalities and this is what has motivated this movement. It is difficult to lead a political fight as a woman. I believe you can be proud of what has been done over the past 10 years. We have been partners of REFELA from the start at CEMR. The work of developing the Local Authorities Charter for Gender Equality in Africa continues. CEMR with the help of Platforma will finance the finalization of the Charter. It is an African charter that must be written and developed by African women and for African women. Equality is not just about women. We must mobilize all the people who believe in equality and convince them”,said Mr. Frédéric Vallier, Secretary General of CEMR.
In his closing remarks, the Secretary General of UCLG Africa, Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, declared: “Three words seem to sum up perfectly my feelings at the end of the exchange of views and experience marking the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the creation of REFELA on March 11, 2011 in Tangiers, Morocco: enthusiasm, commitment and empathy. First of all, enthusiasm and pride of REFELA members in claiming their belonging to a real family, driven by a common drive, that of promoting equal dignity between men and women and equal access to rights and responsibilities. Then the members of REFELA are committed to continuing to consolidate their network through the establishment of national chapters and resolute advocacy in favor of gender equality, which will be marked by the adoption of the Charter of Local and Regional Authorities of Africa for Gender Equality at the Africities Summit scheduled for April 26-30, 2022 in Kisumu, Kenya; but also commitment of the Government of Morocco to continue to support REFELA in its just fight for equality, which corresponds perfectly to the orientations of His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco in favor of equality between men and women. Lastly, empathy towards children living in the street so that these situations that are unworthy of the societies of our cities and territories do come to an end; towards women and girls victims of violence so that these practices are no longer tolerated in our cities and territories; and towards women who are economically and socially discriminated against so that they can finally enjoy equal rights and emancipation through the action of our cities and territories. The three campaigns launched by REFELA, namely African cities without children in street situations; African cities with zero tolerance for violence against women and girls; and African Cities favorable to the economic emancipation of women, do express REFELA’s wish to find answers to the ills of our societies and to join the actions of all those who participate in the coalition for Generation Equality promoted by the Nations United Nations, and specifically UN-Women”
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