The Social and Solidarity Economy at the heart of the REFELA agenda: a lever for the empowerment of women in Africa

On 23 October 2020, the Network of Local Elected Women of Africa (REFELA) facilitated a session on, “The Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) at the heart of the REFELA’s Agenda: a lever for the empowerment of women in Africa,” as part of the framework for the virtual Global Social Economy Forum (GSEF) held from October 19 to October 23, 2020.

Fifty participants took part in the session including, Mrs. Annie Chrystel Limbourg Iwenga, Deputy Mayor of Libreville, Gabon, member of the REFELA Caucus for Central Africa; Ms. Macoura Dao representing the President of REFELA; Ms. Rahmatouca Sow, Advisor for Political Affairs and International Relations at UCLG Africa; Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General for UCLG Africa; and Ms. Laurence Kawark, Secretary General of the Global Social Economy Forum (GSEF).

The deputy mayor of Libreville, Mrs. Annie Chrystel Limbourg Iwenga, underlined the fact that in Africa, social entrepreneurship is a rapidly emerging phenomenon that responds to unmet social needs and the limitations of traditional public policies in the social and employment field. “Let us recall that REFELA has placed at the heart of its agenda, not only the launch but also the implementation and the follow-up of, ‘The Campaign of African cities favorable to the economic empowerment of women. Indeed, for REFELA, the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE), constitutes a lever for the empowerment of women in Africa. Women mayors and local elected officials on the continent are convinced that this sector is a significant part of getting women out of the informal sector and out of precariousness by giving them a local economic positioning that matches their potential,”

This point of view is shared by Ms. Rahmatouca Sow. REFELA supports more than ever, the achievement of SDGs 4 & 5 and urges all national, sub-national and local governments, as well as all stakeholders, to support the achievement of these goals. This forum is taking place in the context of a global pandemic which has shown how fragile, non-egalitarian and non-inclusive our economies are. This economic and social crisis particularly affects women. We will not overcome the crisis by relaunching growth, but by changing the economic paradigm, by daring to resort to a plurality of alternative and endogenous models. It seems relevant to see how the social and solidarity economy can position itself in relation to these issues and provide solutions and alternatives to the dominant and traditional models. Investing in women’s entrepreneurship in Africa makes a lot of sense. 26% of women of working age in Africa embark on business creation, but only 4% of women entrepreneurs access a bank loan. It is imperative that we support these women on the path to success because they are key players in sustainable economic development in Africa. Let us commit to forming new alliances between generations, urban, rural and metropolitan territories areas.

Ms. Laurence Kawark, Secretary General of the Global Social Economy Forum (GSEF), thanked UCLG Africa for taking part in this virtual global forum through REFELA, under the theme of great challenges, more solidarity, the power of the community and the social and solidarity economy as a transformational tool. “This REFELA session is an initiative that I would like to congratulate as an implementation of the REFELA commitment since the Africities summit in November 2018. I am convinced that SSE will be an effective lever to guarantee the economic empowerment of women in Africa. Africa is now at a crossroads. African countries generate more resources than they can invest in infrastructure and human development. With significant population growth, how can we ensure a fair distribution of prosperity for all, especially in the current context of crisis linked to COVID which worsens poverty and inequalities? Elected officials and political decision-makers are looking for alternative strategies. For us, the key to these alternative strategies lies in the social and solidarity economy anchored at the local and territorial level, which has proved to be a resilient and very effective strategy to respond to all economic and social crises such as the 2008 crisis and the current covid-19 pandemic. Africa’s development strategy must come through the empowerment of African women to meet these major challenges. Women mayors must take a leading role.”

Participants were shown a short video from the Mayor Macoura Dao Coulibaly, President of REFELA, which presented experiences and actions in the social and solidarity economy for support of women’s associations in her commune Foumbolo, Côte d’Ivoire. Following this living testimony, Dr. Malika Ghefrane Giorgi, Special Advisor to REFELA, clarified that it is a question of trusting women and their economic potential and their capacities, in terms of activities recognized in Africa, not to confine them to small projects and small income-generating activities (IGA), which remain rather limited in terms of substance and scope, to ensure their effective empowerment and the development of their leadership in the economy of their cities and municipalities. This is one of the goals of the Campaign of African Cities for the Economic Empowerment of Women, documented and referenced through the Africa-wide Situation Analysis Report, published here. A call is therefore made to African cities to join this campaign in order to create a mobilizing movement in favor of the economic empowerment of African women. (See membership form here).

The sub-theme, “ Removing the obstacles to the development of female entrepreneurship in the field of SSE in Africa ,” was developed by Mr. Cheick Gueye , Mayor of the commune of Dieuppeul-Derklé and First Deputy to the Mayor of Dakar, Senegal. The obstacles that hamper female entrepreneurship include socio-economic constraints, the low level of education, the difficult access to production factors (land, equipment) and the obstacles posed by banks with high interest rates which reduce access to loans. As a solution, the local elected official proposed the establishment of a national fund to finance female entrepreneurship at the state level. For local authorities, the First Deputy Mayor of Dakar, proposed the establishment of a financing entity for women, such as the municipal development and solidarity fund (FODEM) for the city of Dakar, whose mission includes the financing of projects for women and young people through the support fund for decentralized financial structures.

Mr. Sergio Castañar, Coordinator of the Federation of Andalusian Municipalities-FAMSI-Spain, gave a presentation on North-South cooperation and the promotion of female entrepreneurship: the case of the REFELA / UCLG Africa and FAMSI- partnership (Spain), for the empowerment of women at the local level. In collaboration between Andalusian municipalities and those of Morocco, an approach of “field schools for women” has been initiated. The project consisted of training women for professions generally reserved for men such as masonry and gardening. The project has been implemented in the cities of Chefchaouen and Tétouan (North of Morocco).

Mr. Gautier Brygo, Director of the Territorial Coaching Program of UCLG Africa, delivered a presentation that looked at parallels between coaching and SSE. “Territorial coaching helps support national programs with SSE. Territorial coaching improves the strengthening of social cohesion and reinvents synergies with local governments. Coaching is a tool that can facilitate the implementation of SS.

The main recommendation from contributions were:

  • A request for the creation of a social and solidarity economy bank. Such a creation would make it possible to meet the needs of SSE stakeholders.

Ms. Laurence Kawark, Secretary General of the Global Social Economy Forum (GSEF) underlined that this was a good avenue for reflection, indicating that, “In Uganda, a bank of this type exists and in Quebec, there are several banks that primarily support ESS. UCLG Africa can reflect on the way in which the Local Governments could support the implementation of this project in each country.

In response, Ms. Rahmatouca Sow was of the opinion that, “REFELA should boost the local level definitions of the co-creation of public policies in connection with this theme of the economic empowerment of women and the social economy. The legal framework must be defined to allow for a favorable framework with the last point being supervision, in particular through solidarity-based finance.




2nd Meeting of the Africa-Europe Committee and of the UCLG Africa working group, in support of the drafting of the “Charter of Local Authorities for Gender Equality in Africa”

Tuesday, 28 July 2020 was the second meeting of the Africa-Europe committee and the UCLG Africa working group, which was held to support the drafting of the “Charter of Local and Regional Authorities of Africa for Gender Equality. “The online meeting was organized by UCLG Africa’s Network of Locally Elected Women of Africa (REFELA) in collaboration with CEMR/Platforma and UCLG, the other stakeholders of the project and signatories of the Marrakech Pact for the promotion of local equality.

The drafting of the Charter forms part of the implementation of the “Marrakech Europe-Africa Pact for Local Equality,” which aims to make progress on issues of gender equality in Africa. The Pact was adopted at the 8th edition of the Africities Summit in Marrakech in November 2018.

The work chaired by Mrs Macoura Dao Coulibaly, President of REFELA, was attended by some 60 members and participants from Africa, Europe, including other continents and countries such as Peru. Opening speeches were made by Mr Léandre Nzue, Mayor of Libreville in Gabon, President of UCLG Africa, Mrs Thembisile Nkadimeng, Co-President of UCLG, Mrs Emilia Saïz, Secretary General of UCLG, Mr Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of UCLG Africa, Mr Frédéric Vallier, Secretary General of CEMR-PLatforma and Mr Emil Broberg, President of CEMR’s Standing Committee for Equality.

M. Léandre Nzué, the president of UCLG Africa, emphasized the need to make the charter a reference guide for local and regional authorities on the continent withthe “objective being to arrive at a final text to be submitted to African local elected representatives at the next Africities summit in November 2021“; this to be achieved by encouraging the continuation of the partnership between the 3 organizations of UCLG Africa and its network, REFELA, CEMR-Platforma and UCLG, and to bring the draft charter to completion.

Mrs. Thembisile Nkadimeng stressed the importance of the continent’s local and regional authorities in adopting the charter. “I am convinced that the Charter of Local and Regional Authorities for Gender Equality in Africa is now more necessary than ever, if we want to adopt a path towards generational equality, where women’s leadership is no longer an exception but the new norm. The time has come to ensure the full inclusion and participation of women and girls in the political and social fabric of cities and regions. Equality, especially gender equality, must be placed at the heart of all development processes to ensure that decisions are made conscientiously, without forgetting half of the world’s population when it comes to making decisions that affect us all,” she explained.  (Read More).

REFELA: analytical report on the economic empowerment of women in Africa. A reference document for the Campaign of African Cities for the economic empowerment of women.

REFELA-UCLG Africa has published an analytical report on the economic empowerment of women in Africa, see the link here
This report has been produced for the launch, implementation and monitoring of the campaign for, “African Cities for the economic empowerment of women,” initiated by the Network of Local Elected Women of Africa (REFELA ), which makes up the permanent commission for gender equality of the Pan-African organization United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa).
The 1st edition of the report documents and provides a reference for the campaign with the aim of enabling African regional and local governments and other actors interested in the economic empowerment of African women, to have an overview of this issue. It covers the legal framework, progress made on the African continent and the constraints for women in this sector of the economy, including those that are limited in their economic potential within their cities, and the challenges, which must be addressed urgently in line with commitments made both at the African level (Vision 2063) and internationally (including the SDD goals, especially SDG5: Achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls by 2030).

Following the two other campaigns launched by the REFELA-UCLG Africa Network aimed at African cities, “African Cities without street children,” and “African Cities with zero tolerance for violence against women,” this campaign aims at territorializing one of the central problems of the gender issue, namely gender equality in the economic field. REFELA-UCLG Africa is convinced that local and regional authorities can and must play a leading role in helping to empower women and strengthen their leadership and power in this sector of the local economy.

To have a broad perspective on the issue of economic empowerment for African women, a working methodology was adopted. The results and materials collected, analysed and recorded in this report focus on (i) the in-depth documentary study, which made it possible to compile and analyze data from various specialist and reference sources from Africa (AU, ADB) including governmental sources and international sources, (United Nations ECA, UN-Women, ILO, UNDP, World Bank) et al (ii) the profiling of 10 countries in the 5 sub-regions of Africa to assess their performance in terms of women’s access to economic opportunities (iii) the analysis of data and results of a preliminary participatory survey conducted by the REFELA Secretariat team, entitled, ”Women entrepreneurs under constraints in African cities,” as well as (iv) the presentation of the framing elements of the campaign, designed to inform and guide the choice of African cities with the voluntary membership of REFELA-UCLG Africa.

        I.     The problem of economic inequality in Africa

Far from being an exhaustive document, the report examines several issues relating to women’s economic equality and the promotion of women’s economic rights in Africa. The issue of women’s economic empowerment in Africa is addressed in 2 main regards:

  • African and international studies and reports show that despite the fact that women represent about 66% of the labour force in Africa, they occupy only 20% of salaried jobs. From these figures, it can be deduced that a majority of active women still work in the informal sector and are therefore deprived of stable wages and some advantages such as social protection, paid maternity leave, retirement, etc. This high concentration of women in the informal economy and the persistence of gender-based inequalities in the formal economy generate many constraints on women. These constraints are expressed at the level of their cities, living and working areas and are obstacles to the development of their leadership and economic potential.
  • In addition, there is the limited impact of local and regional authorities in African countries on public policies for the promotion of gender in the economic field. The result is that policies are deprived of a local approach that is more subtle, addresses needs adequately and above all, is closer to the reality of the local population concerned, because of the limits of the territorialization of gender-sensitive economic policies and the insufficient involvement of regional and local governments.
  • As illustrated in the report, the various constraints and challenges to be taken up to promote the economic empowerment of women on the continent justifies the relevance and interest of the campaign initiated by REFELA-UCLG Africa and addressed to African cities, that they mobilize and act in favour of a local economy that is more inclusive of women and is gender-sensitive.

          II.    African Context: advances and challenges in women’s economic empowerment

    The report lays out the progress achieved on the continent in promoting women’s equality and economic empowerment through the analysis of legal instruments, policy agendas and projects (at the continental, sub-regional or national level) and existing legislative and institutional mechanisms. The relevance of the legal framework, instruments, protocols and texts put in place by the AU and adopted by the States (Constitutive Act of the AU of 2000, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights of 1981 and its additional protocol on women’s rights of 2003, and others) and which are acted upon by those of Africa’s sub-regional organizations (SADC, ECOWAS, and others) and also at the national level (where non-discrimination and gender equality are translated into principles and provisions on which the majority of African constitutions are based).

    Such a context and arsenal demonstrates the political resolve of African States to promote the economic empowerment of women. If African States are as much in line with the AU Vision 2063 and its aspirations for, “The Africa we want,” and in the international dynamic of, “Leave no one behind,” and if progress has been recorded, as analyzed in this report, it is fair to say that this continent remains to this day dependent on an effective improvement of women’s access to their civil, political, social, cultural and economic rights.

    III. REFELA Campaign: A call to action by African cities

    The materials compiled and analyzed in the report including the country profiling, the constraints highlighted and the results of the preliminary survey, where REFELA consulted and listened to women entrepreneurs, provide a global overview of the lack of women’s empowerment in this sector of the economy in Africa and supports the initiative taken by REFELA-UCLG Africa to launch, implement and monitor the campaign for, “African Cities for Women’s Economic Empowerment.” The main objectives are to:

  • Engage as many African cities and local authorities as possible to strengthen their commitment to promote women’s economic empowerment by 2030;
  • Collaborate and support African cities and local authorities to take ownership of the issue of women’s economic empowerment and to, “Rethink their economic environment in order to make it conducive to equal access for women, as well as men, for economic opportunities, for the elimination of gender-based discriminatory practices, and also for the implementation of affirmative action measures enabling women to be fully involved in the economic life of their cities and to benefit from its positive spin-offs.”
  • Dr Malika Ghefrane Giorgi
    Special Advisor REFELA

    Webinar REFELA: review and prospects in the context of the Covid 19 pandemic

    On 3 June 2020, the members of the Pan-African Council of the Network of Local Elected Women of Africa (REFELA) hosted a webinar for their 3rd statutory meeting and their 1st meeting of the year with the theme: “REFELA: Assessment and perspectives in the context of the Covid 19 pandemic.” The webinar was chaired by Mrs. Dao Macoura Coulibaly, Mayor of the commune of Foumbolo (Ivory Coast) and President of REFELA, in the presence of the Secretary General of UCLG Africa, Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi.  More than 68 people attended, made up of women, mayors and local elected women, members of REFELA and also members from the national chapters of REFELA.

    In her opening speech, the President of REFELA said that the main objectives of the webinar were to : (i) take stock of achievements; (ii) examine the prospects in the light of the current situation marked by the Covid 19 health crisis; (iii) and define the most appropriate trajectories to pursue for the achievement of the objectives that the Network had set in the framework of its three-year action plan 2019-2021, around the five points on the webinar’s agenda.

    The debate opened on three points relating to the impact of Covid-19 on the implementation of the 3 campaigns by African cities; on the process of drafting the Charter of Local and Regional Authorities for Gender Equality in Africa and on the implementation of the national chapters (REFELA-Countries), as strategic and priority actions, inscribed in the agenda of REFELA 2019-2021. These 3 points were introduced successively by Mrs. Mariam Iddrisu, Mayor of Sagnarigu and President of REFELA Ghana, Mrs. Ratsimbazafi Sahondramalala Esther, Mayor of the Commune of Fianarantsoa in Madagascar, REFELA Vice-President for East Africa, and Dr. Malika Ghefrane Giorgi, the Network’s Special Advisor. Elements of the discussion were synthesized by Dr. Najat Zarrouk, Director of ALGA.

    Read More.

    Women’s leadership will be critical for rethinking the future in the post-COVID-19 era

    Barcelona, Spain and Nairobi Kenya, 08 May 2020
    The COVID-19 crisis is affecting women and men differently. The twelfth thematic live learning experience provided an opportunity for local and regional women leaders from across the world to outline their key strategies, concerns and experiences, recalling their critical role on the frontlines of the crisis.

    The session highlighted some key topics identified by women leaders the world over. The increase in gender violence in situations of confinement, the role of women in global leadership, the need for a new governance system that considers women as critical actors in the rebuilding phase, and the state of the world in the COVID-19 aftermath were among the critical issues explored by participants.

    UCLG Women leaders had agreed on a call to action called Women’s Leadership for the PostCOVID19 Era and the main components. Calling for a sustainable and gender-equal future were presented during the session.

    The session was introduced by Åsa Regnér, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, who highlighted the current situation for women in the world. Regnér mentioned, in particular, that even though “women are sought after, they are still paid less than men”. She explained the situation was particularly bad in health-care work, especially in relation to the care of older persons, for which many women are often not paid at all.

    Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat Executive Director urged all spheres of government and stakeholders to put women and girls at the centre of efforts in the recovery. She argued that women and girls are more at risk in the pandemic, in particular as they will be most affected by loss of jobs, and called for local and regional leaders to take measures to curb this.

    “Women need to be at the centre of global decision-making and have a seat at the table. We need to pay special focus to older persons and women and girls living with disability, who can easily be forgotten in the recovery.”

    Thembisile Nkadimeng, Mayor of Polokwane and UCLG Co-President, argued for the importance of women’s self-organization in order to better rebuild in the aftermath.  She called for national governments to act on gendered inequalities and enhance well-being with universal healthcare and social protection. She also called for the development of an equality framework in urban planning and legislation to ensure full inclusion of women and girls in the social fabric of cities and regions.
    “As identified in our UCLG Decalogue for the Post COVID-19 era, we know well that the sacrifices that we are asking from this and future generations need to lead to more just and equality driven societies where we take care of each other.”

    The high-level discussion was opened by Ada ColauMayor of Barcelona, and UCLG Special Envoy to the United Nations, who highlighted how the crisis has made it all the more important to have decent public healthcare systems. She, explained that, in the aftermath, it will be necessary to develop a new economy that puts people in the centre, that does not speculate with basic needs, adopts premises of the feminist, pacifist, and ecologist movements, and empowers local and regional governments to provide solutions to communities.

    Emilia SaizUCLG Secretary General, moderated the discussions arguing that, looking into the future, empowering women and girls is critical and argued that a different type of partnership between spheres of government and the civil society, in particular women’s groups, is needed for the aftermath of the crisis. Emilia Saiz also commended the clear call of the local women leaders to ensure that gender equality is at the heart of the recovery plans. Furthermore it is “critical to commit to the global agendas in the recovery, we cannot allow priorities to shift and consider the SDGs and the New Urban Agenda as accessories,” she stated.

    Claudia López, Mayor of Bogotá, argued that the recovery phase needs to respond to the deep questions that were being asked before the outbreak. The values of solidarity and empathy are needed, she argued, to respond to this pandemic and those that will come. Pilar Díaz, Mayor of Esplugues de Llobregat, also highlighted the value of care work, and of those people – the great majority of them women- who carry out this work. Putting care in the centre of policies is integral, she argued, for a people-centred recovery.

    Gender violence was a common theme in the conversation, with Souad AbderrahimMayor of Tunis highlighting how her city works in real time to protect and support women survivors of violence, even during the pandemic. The Vice Mayor of Quito, Gissela Chalá also called for developing political strategies to eradicate gender violence including psychological and patrimonial violence against women. The recovery, she stated, will only come if we reinvent ourselves from with a Right to the City approach.

    Carola Gunnarsson, Mayor of Sala and Vice-President of UCLG for Europe, also argued that violence towards women and girls could become a real crisis in the coming months, and called for gender equality to be framed as a question of human rights. She also highlighted how the crisis will affect migrant and refugee families.

    Rohey Malick Lowe, Mayor of Banjul, highlighted that incorporating a gendered planning of cities means designing for all women as in the statement of the Executive Director of UN-Habitat. She argued that, in the aftermath, women will need to be in the centre of decision-making since they have been most affected by the crisis and therefore have a critical perspective. Fatimetou Abdel MalickPresident of Nouakchott Region echoed this sentiment by calling for balanced representation of women in decision making processes at all spheres, to protect them and respond to their needs.

    Madeleine Almelo-GazmanMayor of Iriga, UCLG Treasury, said that the crisis presents an opportunity to promote gender equality in cities, in the home, and in the workplace. She also argued the only way to overcome the pandemic is by working together, and becoming better citizens to develop a sustainable world.

    Elvira Dolotkazina, Vice-Mayor of Nizhnekamsk addressed how local and regional governments can support women’s needs during the pandemic, describing specific plans from Nizhnekamsk during the outbreak to carry out non-discriminatory employment policies and service provision.

    Maria Fernanda Espinosa, President of the 73th United Nations General Assembly called for coordinated global action based on solidarity and cooperation. Co-responsibility among spheres of Government, an inclusive multilateralism that considers local governments, and a perspective that considers the 2030 Agenda, she argued, will allow us to develop a new social contract that addresses all inequalities.

    Gabriela Cuevas, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), argued that it is key to ensure global agreements become local solutions. She said that the impact of women leadership had been key in the pandemic, in terms of transparency, direct communication on the need to develop inter-governmental dialogues, and being sensitive to different communities.

    Paola Pabón, Prefect of the Pichincha region focused on  the need to think about food sovereignty and security in the aftermath of the pandemic, calling for the activation of  the whole range of  popular and solidarity-based economic activities in the aftermath, including micro-finances for women, small-scale producers and agriculture. Fatma Şahin, Mayor of Gaziantep, argued that food security will be a crucial issue for the future, as will be the need to guarantee healthcare for all populations.

    Hajjia MariamPresident of REFELA Ghana, called for all spheres of government to pay attention to vulnerable communities, addressing in particular children living in the streets in order to truly leave no-one behind.

    Prior to ending the session, the group reflected in a Mentimeter exercise on what a Generation Equality Coalition for leadership should strive for. The word cloud resulting from the survey highlighted three key concepts: justicefreedom, and human rights.

    The wrap-up of the session was handled by Octavi de la Varga Secretary General of Metropolis, and Ana Falú, UCLG UBUNTU advisor. The Secretary General of Metropolis argued that it is necessary for male leaders to listen to women perspectives and approaches, and to support this transformation. Ana Falú called for political leadership to generate new links among people and institutions. She argued that women’s leadership in national states and provinces, as well as local governments, is essential to this end, and called for a roadmap to think about the post-COVID era in terms of what it means for women, and how to articulate a way forward.

    At the  closing, Shipra Narang Suri, Chief of the Urban Practices Branch of UN-Habitat, reiterated the commitment of UN-Habitat to support gender equality in local governments.

    Cities were called to upload their experiences in the platform where over 400 cases can be found. The live learning exercises will continue throughout May, with experiences on accessibility and public service delivery.

    About Live Learning Experience Series:
    The Live Learning Series hosted by UCLG, Metropolis, and UN-Habitat, has brought together more than 1,000 participants over the course of six sessions in which participants from local and regional governments, the UN system, and partners from civil society shared their experiences, initiatives, and actions to support their communities facing the pandemic through the provision of key basic services.

    The series started late March and cities across the globe have shared their experiences, initiatives and actions in response to the pandemic. They also shared their frontline views on how cities may transform beyond the outbreak.

    About United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG):

    UCLG is the global organization of local and regional governments and their associations that represents and defends their interests on the world stage. Representing 70 per cent of the world’s population, UCLG members are present in all world regions: Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, Eurasia, Middle East-West Asia, Latin America and North America – organised in seven continental sections, a metropolitan section and a regional forum. This network covers more than 240,000 cities, regions and metropolises and more than 175 local and regional government associations present in 140 countries. UCLG includes among its main areas of political interest local democracy, climate change and environmental protection, the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals, local finance, urban development and city diplomacy for peacebuilding. Visit and follow @uclg_org for more.

    About UN-Habitat:

    UN-Habitat is the UN agency focused on our cities, towns and communities. UN-Habitat works in over 90 countries supporting people in cities and human settlements for a better urban future. Working with governments and local partners, its high impact projects combine world-class expertise and local knowledge to deliver timely and targeted solutions. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes a dedicated Goal on cities, SDG 11 – to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.   Visit and follow @unhabitat for further information.

    For more details contact:
    Alejandra Salas
    UCLG World Secretariat, Barcelona

    Susannah Price
    Chief of Communication, UN-Habitat
    Tel 254 722 719867

    Press release: African cities without street children, the time of action









    “Women and youth suffer the most. The risk of infection from the Covid-19 virus is 50% higher,” said Rohey Malick Lowe, Mayor of Banjul (Gambia) and President of REFELA for Gambia, when speaking about the consequences of the Covid-19 virus in informal settlements.

    This is proving to be true! The Covid crisis has exacerbated the situation of those who do not have a home. Such is the case for street children who cannot be confined to their homes because they have no home. In Africa there are more than 30 million street children! They live on the streets in conditions of extreme poverty unable to meet their basic needs or receive any education, begging for food and often suffering from serious health conditions. How can these children wash their hands when they have no water? How can they be expected to respect social distancing when they live together in overcrowded, unhealthy conditions?

    In Nairobi, Johannesburg, Lagos, Bamako, Dakar, Cairo, and Kinshasa, one can see thousands of street children.  Statistics, when they exist, indicate a far lower number than what the reality is! This phenomenon has many causes: poverty, population displacement linked to urbanization, armed conflicts, socio-political crises, natural disasters and famine. In an increasingly urbanized and connected world with huge inequalities and terrible wars, the issue of street children is affecting an increasing number of cities in Africa, as well as in the rest of the world.

    UCLG Africa and its network of locally elected women, REFELA, launched the Campaign for African Cities without Street Children in November 2018, during the Africities Summit in Marrakesh, in the presence of and with the support of Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Meryem of Morocco. More than 60 African Cities have subscribed to the campaign, whose aim is to build a common response to the issue, one which undermines social cohesion within our communities and is a real ticking time bomb that calls into question the resolution of the international community to leave no one behind, as expressed in Agenda 2030.

    The Campaign of African Cities without Street Children has been met with great support. UNICEF has shown its interest together with many other international organizations and institutions. However, the campaign now needs to become a reality and to deliver a concrete response to these children who are suffering more than ever.

    For this reason, UCLG Africa and REFELA call on the international community to intervene and to provide real assistance. “We need to honour the social pact of our society. The International community can no longer stand by without doing anything to help these children,” said the Secretary General of UCLG Africa, Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi. “We need to support cities to finance projects and build shelters, schools, health and psychological centers for these children. We need to transform words into actions.”

    Consult the Second Call for expression of Interest for the African Cities Without Street Children Campaign (+)

    Botswana-Lobatse Town Council Women Councillors donate Cooking Stoves towards Covid-19 Interventions

    Access to Clean and convenient energy for cooking and heating remains a challenge in Lobatse Town, and harvesting of firewood for cooking and heating, is still visible during Lock-Down, an activity that defeats the efforts of extreme social distancing and staying in-doors by the public to curb the spread of corona Virus, as requested by the Government of Botswana.

    Today, 17th April 2020, Lobatse Town Councillors Women Councillors, led by the Deputy Mayor for Lobatse Town Council, who is also the Local Government National Woman Commissioner, Honourable Tiny Dinoko, donated 55 cooking stove, and 50 litres of paraffin, to be distributed to households in needs during ‘Lock Down’ Period.

    When handing the stoves to the Office of the Area MP, Deputy Mayor, Hon Tiny Dinoko, said as Women Councillors, for Lobatse Town Council, their concern was seeing women pushing wheelbarrows to gather firewood, for cooking, when they should be staying home, to observe Lock Down Regulations as set by the Government. She said, as Women they saw the need the meet Government half way, and provide some stoves for cooking food hampers donated by Government. Her Worship, Dinoko said they contributed funds from their own pockets, and with assistance from Local Investors, to get stoves to relieve women- headed households the burden of going out to collect firewood. She said  they hope the stoves will offer a temporary relieve this difficult time of Covid -19 Outbreak.

    She promised that, this donation might not be their last contribution, as they will still work hard to find ways of assisting Lobatse Community and the Government of Botswana, in all its efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19.


    Lobatse Town Council Women Councillors, Hon Malebogo Kruger, The Deputy Mayor, Hon Tiny Dinoko, Hon KenanaoMononi, and Hon Agnes Moabi, with Mr Terror Mokwena from the Office of the Member of Parliament.


    Source: Lobatse Town Council  (Botswana)

    International Women’s Day 2020: Message from the President of the Network of Local Elected Women of Africa (REFELA)

    Read the message transcribed here. 


    International Women’s Day 2020, (8 March 2020)

    The theme for International Women’s Day (8 March) 2020 is, I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights. The theme is aligned with UN Women’s new multigenerational campaign, Generation Equality, which marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Adopted in 1995 at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, the Beijing Platform for Action is recognized as the most progressive roadmap for the empowerment of women and girls, everywhere.

    more information here

    REFELA: Advocating for the involvement of more women


    During the World Urban Forum, the Network of Locally Elected Women in Africa (REFELA) advocated for the involvement of women in more decision-making bodies.  Mrs Fatna El Khiel, President of REFELA Morocco insisted on this aspect in her introductory remarks to the session organised by the network under the theme “Role of REFELA of UCLG Africa in the successful implementation of sustainable development objectives (SDGs)”.  During the session, Ms. Khiel presented the 3 REFELA campaigns: “African cities without children on the streets”, sponsored by Princess Lalla Meryem of Morocco; “African cities with zero tolerance for violence against women and girls” and the campaign of “African cities for women’s economic empowerment and women’s leadership”.

    The local elected women present in Abu Dhabi have shown an interest in REFELA’s actions. Mrs. Bongile Mbingo, Ezulwini City Councillor, (Eswatini , Ex Swaziland) is in charge of setting up the REFELA country chapter in Eswatini. The official launch is hoped for March 2020. The number of women involved in local governance is very low. “There are not enough women elected to municipal councils. Most of them are appointed. In our municipal council we are 02 women out of a total of 10 members,” says Ms. Bongile. This situation can be explained firstly by the fact that women are afraid to go out and campaign. Therefore, she welcomes the existence of REFELA, which presents itself as an excellent platform to learn from other locally elected women on the continent and also as an opening to allow local women elected women of Eswatini to address issues encountered on the ground. For her, the priority REFELA campaign for her country is the “African Cities for Women’s Economic Empowerment and Women’s Leadership”.

    Watch her video interview  

    “It’s time for women to take power”, Mrs. Soham El Wardini, Mayor of Dakar

    The mayor of Dakar, Mrs. Soham El Wardini has appealed to women for their involvement in local governance. “I call on women to get involved in local governance and even in politics. You know that in Africa, it is women who elect men. Why elect people who then leave you stranded? Women are powerful, they run the world. Because everything that men do, it is women who push them to do it. It’s time now for women to take power“.

    Watch her video interview below: