Lessons from #EDD17

Photo 07-06-2017, 09 53 23

The European Development Days is an annual conference set up by the European Commission to showcase the work of the international community, in championing global development and ending poverty. The European Commission is the largest donor of aid in Africa and is unique in that all it’s member states adopt coherent policies on international development. The impact of this was easy to see with the extensive efforts of different organisations targeting various areas of development. These ranged from export of Caribbean Goods for sustainable development of Caribbean-owned businesses to virtual reality methods of story telling.

On the 7th – 8th June, FORWARD‘s Tuwezeshe Dada project, in cooperation with The Girl Generation and AMREF had the privilege of hosting a session on the Importance of Investing in Youth to end GBV at #EDD17 in Brussels, Belgium. Aside from being inspired by some notable speakers including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Leymah Gbowee, the following themes were very noticeable throughout the days.

Understanding your vision 

Tuwezeshe Akina Dada is a consortium of pioneering, Africa/Diaspora organisations; we pride our self in that.  To quote Seleyian Ortoip, one of the panellists at our session: “I don’t want anyone else telling my story for me”. If African women and girls are to change the narrative surrounding their rights and dignity, they must be at the forefront of their own stories. Whilst there is great value in collaboration, African women and girls must be given the spaces to execute their visions.  Throughout the 2 days at the EDD, many European organisations would stop and engage in conversation about the work we were doing. This was occasionally followed by suggestions on how African grass-root NGOs could alter methods and better spread their message.

deep sigh

Perhaps our methods are different to the Western perception of how problems should be fixed; that’s okay, diversity of voices can be productive, but each community must be free to lead their own change for that change to be sustainable. Our message to the global community is: we must work together but let us hold the reigns on issues that concern us. Our message to our diaspora young women: have faith in your methods, you know best what your community needs. The advantage you have in truly understanding your culture should not be underestimated or undermined.

Youth are the future

A number of sessions at the conference this year were youth-focused. From using mentoring to tackle radicalisation in the Horn of Africa to youth in agribuisness there was no hiding from the strong sentiment of African youth fueling Africa’s growth. Not least because young people have brilliant, world-changing ideas. They, more pressingly, are the ones most affected by poverty and conflict. Economic crises and political instability, even in more developed parts of the world, have a most profound effect on those who may not yet have access to full personal agency. For instance President John Magufuli of Tanzania saying that girls will not be allowed to re-enter school should they fall pregnant has tragic consequences not only for young mothers and children but for the state too. Instead of giving girls their education, girls are cut off from the means to improve their lives and contribute to the GDP of their countries. What a sorry picture that is for the continent.

Engaging in inter-generational conversations on taboo and cultural issues can be a challenge. However, investing in youth needn’t be a multi-billion scheme. Simply allowing them to live and have access to basic rights is in itself a huge investment.

“Those who’ve had experience abroad, should look for ways they can help back home”. Richard Dzikunu, EDD Young Leader 2017

The importance of your voice

The underlying theme of the development days this year was “I Am the Change”, calling all participants to recognise their ability to implement sustainable change through their mediums. At our stand, we had an interactive mural where members of the EDD wrote words of encouragement to the millennial young woman making a change in her community. This stance of solidarity encourages us that our work is noticed and that there are people supporting us in the fight against sexual and gender-based violence. It is a fight against centuries of patriarchy and misogyny but one we know millions of young women are committed to; together we will overcome.

Apply for the Tuwezeshe Fellowship 2017 (Open to UK Applicants only)

IMG_3232

Words by @AngOBB

Opportunities: Tuwezeshe Fellowship 2017

Tuwezeshe Akina Dada Afica-UK Young Women’s Empowerment Movement is an international project funded by Comic Relief’s Common Ground Initiative with the aim of mobilising young women to be agents of change within their communities in the campaign against gender-based violence.

Please see Applications to apply for the UK fellowship programme. For more information on how you can be involved see below.

LEADERSHIP TRAINING

The one year fellowship offers participants the opportunity to gain core leadership skills, to be mentored by an established woman-leader and to implement their own, funded, project. As part of our commitment to improving the visibility and profile of young African-women leaders, participants will have the chance to shape sexual and gender-based violence policy, network with other inspiring young women leaders across East Africa and the UK and share their ideas, voices and stories on a range of national and international platforms.

Deadline: 25th July 2017

MENTORSHIP

We know that behind every strong woman is a lineage of strong women, which is why mentoring is essential to our program and our participants. By pairing young women with those who are already established in their fields, we hope to equip participants with the skills, confidence, knowledge and power necessary to transform their lives and communities. As mentors you will have the unique opportunity to partner with us by investing in and forging meaningful relationships and networks that will develop you as leaders and innovators in your own right as well as ensuring the fight for women’s rights and freedoms transitions from idea to reality.

Deadline: 25th July 2017

YOUNG WOMEN’s ADVISORY PANEL

We believe it is essential that young women’s voices are at the centre of our work and at the forefront of our project. This is why we are establishing a Young Women’s Advisory Panel (YWAP) who will hold the project to account, advising us on how best to implement our activities and, more importantly, how best to support our participants. As members of the YWAP you will have the unique opportunity to shape an international project from the inside, gaining skills that will support your development as leaders and innovators in your own right as well as supporting the fight  for women’s rights and freedoms.

Deadline: 25th July 2017

To apply click here

 

 

I am me ~ A Poem

Black Girl Anxious

The sweat between my palms

Sweat under my arms

And the constant urge to go to the toilet.

Speak louder they say

You’re African and Africans are not shy

Speak with confidence they say

You were great!

I wish I could speak like you they say

You have no reason to be nervous

But I just can’t help it.

Constantly conscious of my self-image

Always in a cycle of self-doubt

Filled with psychological wounds that are self-inflicted

Timer ready to self-destruct

But I know that my heart is pumped with self-love

So why do I spend time on self-hate?

Is it because of pressures of never being good enough?

The unachievable standards society has set for girls like me?

Scared of letting people down

Or it is all in my head?

I am amazing

I am me

anxiety is a part of me

But I will not let it define me.

 

Words By Kuki.

Artwork by @KirzArt

Black Labour, White Markets and Brown Wallets: The Shea Moisture Scandal

2017-04-26-PHOTO-00000169

In Burkina Faso, Shea Butter is known as ‘Women’s Gold’. In the diaspora it’s better known as hair crack. Made from fat extracted from the fruit of the African Shea tree, shea butter has been used for centuries to treat and protect the many varieties of black women’s hair (and skin). So it’s not surprising that when Richelliu Dennis branded his Sierra Leoneon grandmother’s concoction and sold it on the streets of Harlem in the early 90s, ‘Shea Mositure’ soon became a house and hair necessity. Black women, understandably, were the brands’ greatest consumers and its most loyal supporters. From sharing the product in homes and salons, to endorsing, advocating and freely publicising it in the Youtube era of beauty vloggers, Shea Moisture became a model for successful black business, thriving in an industry dominated by products for white and Caucasian styled hair.

Enter April 25th 2017. Shea Moisture unveil a new campaign entitled ‘Hair Hate’, positioning themselves as the brand to help women fall back in love with their hair. Considering Natural Hair is trending, it was an apt advertising move. Yet the women they were appealing to were not their loyal 4c textured or otherwise supporters but white women, whose hair and beauty have always, and uncritically too, been the standard of beauty. White women whose hair type is catered for in every outlet and advert imaginable. At least that’s how Black Twitter saw it. The uproar across social media prompted social commentators, home vloggers and writers to clap down on the business, leading to Shea Moisture issuing a formal apology and pulling the advert within hours.

As a leading brand for black business, Shea Moisture relies on its core funders, black women, our money and by extension our labour, to exist. Too often, when something becomes a successful commodity, the labour and love of minority people is capitalised on, consumed, and abused leaving minorities, in this case black women, left to eat dust while their own things are appropriated with no mention of their existence. While I agree the advert wasn’t just tasteless but insensitive, this trend of appropriation and the de-centering of black women isn’t new. In fact it is a well practiced activity that will continue unless the following things are addressed:

  1. Black business exists within white markets. 

rs

We cannot deny that, through various tactics, the current global capitalist system continues, if not thrives, on the oppression and exploitation of black and brown bodies. However for black businesses or organisations to have credibility (read: get funding), they have to play the system, and that means appealing to (and incorporating) white people, both at a consumer level and leadership level. Why? Because that’s where the money is, and therefore in many ways the skills, visibility, employability and, you guessed it, money. It’s no wonder then that Shea Moisture’s VP of Marketing and much of their staff are white. Whether we like it or not, the racial dynamics of the capitalist system means that white people, on the whole,  have the greatest purchasing power because they have the greatest amount of capital . For any business to expand it has to appeal to the demographic that has money, so it makes strategic sense for Shea Moisture to appeal to an untapped clientele.

2.  Black people drive culture – so why don’t we dictate who has visibility?

culture

Whether it’s the latest dance craze, meme, super star or shutting down the adverts of international corporations (looking at you Pepsi), black people – from the continent through to the diaspora and beyond – drive, innovate and dictate global culture. It’s what makes the appropriation of our work so painful, frustrating and lucrative. But here’s the thing –  Shea Moisture released two adverts. That’s right. 2.

The first advert displayed a glorious array of black women, both in skin tones, hair textures backgrounds and beauties. The second advert targeted their new audience – white women. Now, I think a smarter move would have been for Shea Moisture to integrate the two adverts –e.g. with a ratio of 3:1  or 2:2 of women of colour to white women. In this way they could have shown the universality of their product without erasing black women. Not only would this have been less tone deaf, but it might have opened the door for other labels like Garnier and L’Oreal etc. to start appealing to black audiences and diversifying their products while amplifying our presence. We won’t know, but what we do know is that Black twitter made an advert about white women using Shea Butter go viral. We did that. We could have made the other advert go viral #blackgirlmagic, because let’s be honest, how many white women even saw or cared about the advert till it started trending? I see the power in calling it out (and getting it canceled), it shows that consumers can still hold markets accountable, but this leads me to my final point

3. Brown Wallets always want a bargain

wendyHours after the scandal had whipped up a frenzy, Shea Moisture not only pulled the advert, they did a 50% sale on all products. HALF-PRICE on EVERYTHING (while supplies last). Earlier in the day, friends and strangers up and down my time line where planning to boycott and shutdown Shea Moisture, but once that sale was released…no comment. Actually no, that is a huge comment. Since the civil rights era and earlier, black people have shown their ability to shut things down and make those in charge sit up and sometimes even stand down. From boycotting buses to voting in a black president, our voices are loud and strong. Except when it comes to our wallets. Considering the capitalist system is racist, it can often feel like as black people with less purchasing power, we can’t afford to jeopardise our finances for our ethics. But that’s how African Americans won the vote isn’t it? If we’re serious about the private sector not cashcropping our cain-rows, then we need to not buckle at the loose change that falls our way. I wouldn’t be surprised if the money Shea Mositure lost in pulling the advert will be made back in the next 48hrs while consolidating their supporter base all over again by offering weak platitudes for forgiveness. Moral of the story – Bargain Hunting doesn’t lead to social change.

It is frustrating that FUBU (for us by us) -style brands, role-models and movements which historically and presently gave/give us visibility by creating spaces where we feel safe, valued and seen, seem to sell out (or buy-in) for financial gain. I doubt Shea Moisutre had a malign intention in the advert and in a way, is it wrong of them to diversify their consumer base? From a strategic sense, perhaps the only way we can reverse the dynamics of capitalism is to either dismantle the system, or run it, and the latter requires us having that cheddar. Yet if the private sector, black businesses included, is playing a game we don’t like, then we – the conscious, conscientious and financially capable black community- need to reflect, consolidate and execute our power effectively to change the game. We may be marginalised and disempowered via the traditional institutions and corridors of power, but as a social community we shake things up in a drastic way. So let’s be vigilant. We don’t need twitter warriors creating a storm about us being invisible, while in the process increasing the visibility of those that are already in the spotlight. If we can shut things down, then lets also send things up, and make, in this case, our presence go viral. There’s also the question of grace. Sometimes we get things wrong, sometimes in a minor way, sometimes in a HUGE way. Sometimes we  need to correct, even discipline and forgive (that hair crack is essential after all). BUT, if we the consumers truly want to hold the private sector to account in a way that affects them, then we need to be bold enough to do that with our words and our wallets (there are plenty of brilliant black hair products out there who need the investment!). If black business exists in white markets, then lets make sure our brown wallets are lined with our ethics, and our money does the talking, not just the spending.

 

Words by: @Justina_Kehinde and @AngOBB (@FORWARDUK)

Dark and Lovely or Light and Right?

 

 

“Is this your ugly dark skinned friend?”

 

Black women come in all shapes, sizes and shades. Yet for centuries the lie that ‘light is right’ has shaped how, as black people, we relate to our complexion and how non-black people judge and treat us based on our complexion. While society is far from being post-racial, as ‘woke’ millennials we know that our melanin content in no-way reflects our value, worth, potential or beauty. We’ve done the #BlackGirlMagic revolution, our melanin is very much on fleek, yes #darkgirls do rock and skin bleaching? That’s been banished to our mother’s generation – today we’re proud to be #UnfairandLovely. Right? ….right?

Shadism

Walking through up-town Nairobi last week I came across this poster. At first glance everything is on point. The model, her head thrown back in careless joy, teeth bared is absolutely #slaying. Her #glowedup skin is definitely giving Lupita, Viola and Alec Wec all a run for their money. Even the little baby boy in her arms is bringing me all the feels. Yaas #AfricaRising with the hand clap emoticon says it all. At least that’s what I thought, until I took a closer look at the caption below. ‘Two good to be true’. The marketing strategy seems innocent, but then I look back at the image and something insidious appears. A dark skinned woman, holding a light skinned baby, with the implicit double entendre – too good to be true. It’s too good to be true, she, a dark skinned woman, was able to have a light-skinned baby. She stepped up her game. She’s done better.

The devil’s advocate will say ‘you’re reading too much into this’, but the devil is always in the detail. Despite our advances in dismantling white supremacy and the racial hierarchies which have oppressed black people across the world, from the transatlantic slave trade to the Indian caste system, the treatment of Australian aborigines to the indigenous people of South America and East Asia, we cannot deny that the lie ‘light is right’ has been fed and nurtured for centuries and still penetrates our societies and cultures today.

The idea that we accrue more value – that we get better the closer we get to white is a pernicious and dangerous lie. Without the caption the picture shows the glorious variety of black people. With the caption it turns that variety into a hierarchy.

Throughout history, language has been used to both demonise and value people. In regards to racism, where the colour white is associated with purity, fairness, goodness etc. those positive attributes have been accorded, indiscriminately, to white-skinned people. Because racism and racial hierarchies require difference, the antithesis to these values were given to darker skinned people, associating them with evil, ugliness, corruption etc.

Part of challenging racism, is acknowledging that these racist ideas are not true and therefore need to be challenged. Being dark-skinned doesn’t make you ugly or less worthy. Being light-skinned doesn’t make us better or worse. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder then we need to fundamentally change the eyes with which society looks at its people. That starts with dismantling the lie that our value is only skin deep.

So keep your melanin on fleek, stay unfair and lovely, be cool and caramel or charming and chocolate, embrace your shade no matter its hue. As black women – both magical and real – our pigment, whatever it’s shade, is great, just as it is.

Words by @Justina_Kehinde (@FORWARDUK)

Let us know your thoughts on shadism and beauty #TuWezesheTalks

Tanzania Stands Up to Child Marriage

On 9th February Tanzania’s parliamentarians took a vow to put an end to child marriage. The current Law on Marriage in Tanzania lets girls marry from as young as 14, but in the summer of 2016 the High Court of Tanzania found it to be unconstitutional. Although the law has yet to be changed, as one MP tweeted: “If we work together we can change the Law of Marriage Act in a short time”.

tanzania-mps-2

As the African proverb states – it takes a village to raise a child, and in this case it might just take a government of committed MPs to change a society.

During the conference MPs suggested incorporating the dangers of child marriage into the national education curriculum as part of an attempt to provide effective Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights and Relationships Education (SRHR and SRE).

We know that when young women and girls know their rights they are more able to claim them. MPs also highlighted the relationship between poverty and patriarchy in tackling the practice, two major drivers of Child Marriage.

We’re encouraged to see Tanzania’s MPs taking a stand for women and girls rights. The African Union have also begun training parliamentarians on how to stand up and speak out against child marriage, so we know change is coming. We look forward to seeing how these conversations move into action and the transformation of Tanzanian women and girls lives. #EndChildMarriage.

For more information on this story click here

 

 

 

Sheroes – Vivian Kityo: Protecting Child Mothers

“At 10 years old her stomach swells with the growth of new life. Children hiding within the fragile frames of children, mothers being made out of infants.”

viv-1

In July 2013 The Ugandan National Bureau of Statistics alleged that, out of the 1.2million pregnancies recorded in Uganda each year, 25% are from girls under the age of 18. These pregnancies, around 300,000 in total, are almost all unwanted resulting in abortions or unintended births. Early marriage, sexual violence, early initiation into sexual activity and a lack of information are some of the greatest drivers behind this epidemic.

Vivian Kityo is putting a stop to all that.

Born and raised in Kampala, Vivian trained as a nurse before going on to receive a degree in Health Administration. Throughout her many years on Uganda’s maternity wards, Vivian was overwhelmed by the steady stream of young  girls who came to her with unwanted pregnancies. Many had been raped or violated, others where child brides , none of them were old enough to be mothers. Frustrated by the lack of support and the seeming increase in the rates of unwanted pregnancies, in 2005 Vivian founded Wakisa Ministries, a crisis pregnancy centre aimed at  providing the essential support services girls needed but rarely had access to.

Based in Bakuli, a suburb about 5km west of Kampala’s city-entre, Wakisa Ministries is Uganda’s only teenage and child pregnancy crisis centre. Currently supporting 22 girls the youngest of which is 10, the centre offers essential ante-natal care as well as sex, relationships and health rights education. Most importantly, the centre teaches these girls how to care for their children including breast-feeding and infant care. wakisa-ministries

Akina Mama Wa Afrika (AMwA) our partners in Uganda, have partnered with the centre to research the prevalence of sexual and gender based violence in relation to unwanted pregnancies. Through their work AMwA discovered that 43% of young mothers had been ‘unwilling’ to have sexual intercourse, confirming the fact that sexual and gender based violence are root causes for unwanted pregnancies in Uganda. As young mothers, many girls are unable to complete their schooling, leaving them with fewer economic opportunities and therefore vulnerable to economic and sexual exploitation. This not only robs the country of a stronger economic workforce, but it also slows down much needed social, political and economic development. The stigma of pre-marital sex can, especially where pregnancy is concerned, leave girls isolated from their families and communities. Such a stigma, combined with the responsibilities of caring for another life at a young age, and the experiences of sexual violence many of the girls have endured can leave young mothers with serious psychological and emotional trauma making Wakisa Minstries such a necessary service.

As part of her vision to see these girls not only survive but thrive, Vivian and Wakisa Ministries provide recipients with a range of business skills from candle making, to tailoring, jewellery making to knitting and  urban agriculture. By 2020 Vivian hopes to enrol her girls in vocational training schools and to create a comprehensive policy that will end child marriage in Uganda permanently. As the recipient of the New Vision Women Achiever Award and featured as one of Africa’s most influential women in business and government, Vivian Kityo is a woman to be reckoned with and a true Sheroe. We wish her the best as she keeps pursuing the good fight!

Words by Irene Kagoya and @Justina_Kehinde

(@amwa_ug and @FORWARDUK)

———————————————————————————————————-

For more information on Wakisa Ministries click here

For more information on Akina Mama wa Afrika click here

 

Urgent Appeal: Save Acton Clinic!

stop-the-cuts-300x228

By March 2017, Acton Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) community clinic could have their funding stopped! For over 10 years the clinic has provided support, counselling and de-infibulation (a form of reconstructive surgery) to women and girls from across the country, including as far as Northern Ireland and Bristol who have been affected by FGM.

Acton Clinic is the only clinic in the UK for which

  • You don’t need a GP’s referral
  • You don’t need to be pregnant to receive the service

For the past decade it has

  • Provided counselling and referred women on for specialist treatment if they can’t provide it at the clinic
  • Offers de-infibulation – this means it can ‘open up’ women who have undergone the most severe form of FGM – type 3. This process restores natural urination and menstruation as well as reducing complications in birth.
  • The clinic staff have trained over 100 other professionals to carry out de-infibulations.
  • The clinic is staffed by trained Midwives and health advocates who are dedicated, experienced and understand the sensitivities around FGM. They provide a safe and culturally appropriate service for vulnerable women – women for whom this clinic is often the first and sometimes only time they ever speak about FGM.
  • In 2011 the clinic won the Guardian Public Service Award for Diversity and Equality
  • In 2016 the clinic was visited by MP Jane Ellison, former Public Health Minister, as it was an ‘example of a gold standard, holistic, FGM service that had been the blueprint for other such services across the UK’.

The clinic was founded by Julia Albert in 2007 after she attended training by TuWezeshe Dada’s lead partner organisation, FORWARD who went on to provide technical support and advice for the new clinic.

If Acton Clinic were to close it would be a travesty not only for women and girls affected by FGM, but for all of us who are fighting for gender inequality and the rights and freedoms of women in girls. We cannot let this happen. Ealing Council have not explained why funding is being re-directed from this highly valuable and award winning clinic or the logic of withdrawing services available to women in order to raise greater awareness of services available to women. With the UK government proclaiming their commitment to ending FGM in the UK and to tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG) the closure of this clinic must be seen – and must be called out – as a grievous step backwards that will leave hundreds of vulnerable women and girls without the experienced and culturally appropriate services that they need and deserve.

What we need you to do:

  • Flood their Inboxes! Email to explain why the Acton FGM Community Clinic is so important. You can copy and send this draft email, or write one of your own and send it to these people to make your call to #SaveActonClinic heard
  • Councillor Julian Bell, Ealing Council Leader: bell@ealing.gov.uk
  • Councillor Ranjit Dheer, Ealing Council Deputy Leader and responsible for Community Services, Equality and Diversity: dheer@ealing.gov.uk
  • Mohini Parmar, Chair of Ealing Clinical Commissioning Group: mohini.parmar@nhs.net

Sign the petition  and make sure they know about it!

Tweet the link to @EalingCouncil and @juliangbell with the hashtag #SaveActonClinic to let them know what it means to you!

Turn up!

FORWARD and Acton clinic are holding an assembly on the International Day of Zero Tolerance to End FGM – Monday the 6th February – to call for Ealing to keep the Acton FGM Community Clinic open. Sisters, brothers and young people are invited to join us in solidarity with the clinic! Bring your banners and your voices. Ealing Town Hall, New Broadway, London W5 2BY – 12pm – Monday 6 February 2017