By Catherine Githae (MenKen)
Last week marked the beginning of the much desired strengthened relationship between the RECs, CSOs and the UN system. Our countries are affiliated to various regional economic blocks and have consequently signed various protocols that often do not get effected at the community level especially those on gender equality and related issues. This was made possible through a forum organised by Sonke Gender Justice Network in conjunction with the UNFPA Regional Office in Africa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) with support of the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency (SIDA) and the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women held on 27 and 28 November in Gaborone Botswana.
The meeting sought to strengthen partnership between UNFPA regional office, Sonke, the RECs and other organisations including the MenEngage country networks in order to support a scaling-up and widening in scope of gender equality programmes, strategies and models already known to be effective, particularly on engaging men, and to develop plans for integrating work with men into existing regional governmental mechanisms.The specific objectives of the meeting were to:
a)Discuss selected global and regional initiatives for the advancement of gender equality,
b) Strengthen the advocacy role of the RECs to better support Government in fulfilling their national, regional and international commitments for gender equality,
c)Disseminate and present on a policy brief on regional protocols and policies on GBV and HIV, with a focus on the engagement of men and boys,
d)Explore promising strategies on male involvement/develop strategies for strengthening work within the RECs on engaging men for gender equality and HIV and GBV prevention,
e)Mobilise political and financial resources for national ownership of the different initiatives and
f) Share information on the 2013 UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).
The meeting brought together staff from the Gender Unit in the RECs in Africa (EAC, ECOWAS & SADC), as well as key UNFPA staff, Sonke staff, government representatives and partners from the MenEngage Africa network (MenKen and MAGE-SL). The above objectives were met and action plans developed on what would be done by the organisations represented to better the relationships with the RECs and their activities some of which included supporting the on-going scan of the regional policies, capacity building to the RECs on engaging men and boys in gender equality and partners joining regional coordinating bodies such as East African Civil Society Organisation Forum (EACSO) to better relate with the RECS amongst others. In general a need to have annual meetings with the RECs was identified and a small task force was identified to carry forward this agenda. The task force would have representation of the RECS, UNFPA-RO, MenEngage Africa (MenKen) and Civil society (SONKE and FEMNET). The forum also created an opportunity of meeting the Africa Unite Campaign Ambassador of Botswana, Ms.NeoThema who attended the meeting and took a picture with the EAC representatives and MenKen as well as shared her contacts (firstname.lastname@example.org) for further networking.
It is indeed a call to all of us to examine the level of involvement of our organisations with the relevant RECs and interaction with the regional protocols including efforts to implement them at the community level.