Include women in solving our regional problems

The 8th of March is globally marked as International Women’s Day. To honour the women’s movement and struggle for equality, the theme for 2022 is #Breakthebias – a reference to all structural and systematic biases limiting women’s full participation in society.

Democracy Works Foundations (DWF) is involved in several projects that aim to contribute towards the building of resilient democracies, such as:

  • The Capacity Enhancement for Political Advancement of Women (CEPAW) Project- recently concluded implementing in Botswana, under which saw the set up of the Botswana Democracy Works Academy for Women Political Leadership that aims to build the technical capacities of women
  • The Putting Youth and Women at the centre of Inclusive Economic Growth (PYWIEG) project that seeks to increase Youth and Women-led CSOs participation in the Small Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMME) ecosystem in Lesotho:
  • The Southern Africa Political Parties and Dialogue (SAPP&D) programme that is being implemented in six countries, including Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi and Zambia, and that seeks to, among other objectives, enhance social inclusion within political parties. It is under this programme that DWF has been championing the Youth and Women Manifestoes initiatives in Malawi and Zambia:

Our Deputy Regional Director, Fannie Nthakomwa, provides insights into what International Women’s Day means and how it aligns with the work done by DWF.

“As DWF, we purposefully initiated programs that have a key focus on women and youth, out of a realisation that you cannot have resilient democracies without the inclusion of these groups. Furthermore, we believe that if we provide the spaces for women to participate in public life and empower them in terms of their capacities, then we would have solved the larger part of developmental challenges faced in the region”.

As Deputy Regional Director, Fannie occupies a senior multifaceted role, being one of two women who have been recently promoted to leadership positions in the organization, where three of the five senior positions are led by women.

DWF implements various projects and initiatives in eight countries, including South Africa (Its headquarters), Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia, and Tanzania.

“I serve as part of the Senior Management Team dealing with institutional and organisational matters that spur across programme management, human resource, administration, and finance as well as organisational growth. I also form part of the business development team where I contribute towards the conceptualisation of various projects that we implement.”

Fannie is also responsible for overseeing the management and operation of all programmes implemented at the country level within the southern African region for quality assurance and improved programme performance and coherence with organisational and donor objectives. The nitty-gritty of her role also entails working with politicians from different cultural backgrounds and countries. She shares some of the challenges this comes with.

“It is not an easy role, but at the same time, it is exciting and fulfilling as I get to understand the different political systems and ways of doing things politically. This exposure has helped me better understand why the women’s agenda is not gaining traction in politics in the region.”

She also mentions how the status quo is not just a regional issue but ingrained within our global community, validating why the global call of International Women’s Day to #BreaktheBias, is crucial.

“In my line of work, I get to deal with some political actors who still think that the place of a woman is not in decision making but rather a supportive role. This is in recognition that political actors themselves are coming from a society with these prejudices already entrenched.”

“In such situations, it takes one to be sensitive to the different cultural and political backgrounds as well as to be patient and yet assertive as you try to change certain perceptions through the demonstration of your technical expertise and professionalism. However, the male counterparts are not subjected to such scrutiny or prejudices.”

Fannie agrees that urgent intervention is required to change the status quo where women are viewed as secondary citizens.

“The societies we come from have certain expectations as to what and how a woman should behave or conduct herself. This creates extra pressure on women – be it professional, business or politics, expected to deliver just like their male counterparts but have additional responsibilities to take care of once they step out of public life.

She further reflects on how the unequal share of responsibilities between women and men worsens the disadvantages of women in balancing public and private life. She calls for global action in creating a different environment where women can thrive.

“As we are empowering women to claim spaces in different spheres of public life, there is a need for the world to create conducive environments that are supportive of women. Environments, be it our communities, homes, workplaces and political institutions that are genuinely sensitive and aware of the hurdles women face, as they bear the burdens of housework, childcare, and other family responsibilities”.

Fannie believes that women’s political issues are multifaceted and complex, requiring multi-pronged approaches and long-term interventions targeting multiple stakeholders.

“We need to target internal reforms to take place within political institutions as well as to change the negative perceptions of women and politics. In all this, acknowledging that there have been quite some initiatives implemented within the region, there is a need to invest more in learning, build on what works, and avoid the pitfalls”, she ends.

Fannie hopes that the 2022 International Women’s Day theme to #BreakTheBias will influence society to unlearn its world views.

“The root causes for biases against women are entrenched in the way our societies are constructed. Societal and cultural norms shape how we view the world as we grow up. While currently, the target is to correct these biases through affirmative actions. We need to invest in today’s younger generation to not grow up with the same negative perceptions and biases.”

To Read more about Fannie click: here


Lerato Maloka is a certified digital marketer, with over 10 years of experience in multi-disciplinary communications.
She has agency experience, overseeing strategic & creative development, and public relations for B2B, Corporate Social Investment (CSI), and FMCG organisations. She describes herself as a digital media early adopter, having worked on digital media campaigns since 2014.

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