UCLG Africa’s journey towards a fully decentralized and unified Africa needed to address the issue of gender participation. If 50% of Africa’s population is not included in the process then building unity can never be achieved. UCLG Africa’s membership encouraged the secretariat to engage and support women as representatives at local government level and the Network of Locally Elected Women of Africa, REFELA (Réseau des Femmes Elues Locales d’Afrique), was created.
Following the first forum for locally elected women, which was held in Tangier, Morocco, March 8-11, 2011, the Network for Locally Elected Women of Africa (REFELA), was created. REFELA has become an integral part of UCLG Africa and represents locally elected women officials within the global Women’s Commission of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG Women).
Through the network, REFELA members address issues in UCLG Africa by exchanging ideas and information and actively participating in debates. These dialogues involve discussions on issues pertaining specifically to locally elected women in Africa, as well as broader issues around local governance as a whole. Members of REFELA form part of the permanent committee of UCLG Africa and use their unique position to raise the profile of the network and campaign for development issues effecting municipalities and cities.
All women who exercise an elective role, or have been nominated for similar functions within a local African community, can join REFELA. The network is comprised of locally elected women from the five major African regions: North Africa, West Africa, East Africa, Central Africa and Southern Africa.