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ABANTU: Gender for development (I)

The one day meeting held at the Wanjiru Kihoro Hall of the ABANTU Regional Office for West Africa (ROWA) in Accra on December 23 2013.…

The one day meeting held at the Wanjiru Kihoro Hall of the ABANTU Regional Office for West Africa (ROWA) in Accra on December 23 2013. The meeting is usually attended by Board members from Ghana and those representing ABANTU Regional Office for East and Southern Africa ROESA based in Kenya, Liberia and Nigeria Country Offices. The Chair of the Board, a lawyer and activist, Professor Takyiwaa Manuh welcomed members and commended them for taking time off their busy schedule to attend the meeting. She stressed the need for the Board to meet in order to update members on progress made and also review forthcoming activities.
The Executive Director of ABANTU for Development ROWA, Dr. Rose Mensah Kutin, presented the report of the activities undertaken in the year. Among them were partnership strengthening and movement building, Partnership with the Ghana Institute of Local Government Studies to promote women’s participation of in decision making, collaboration with Youth Empowerment Synergy YES Ghana for development of Youth Manifesto and partnership Pan African Climate Justice Alliance to promote a pan African response to climate change.
 Other issues discussed were the Strategic plan for ABANTU ROWA, the changing aid architecture and how to respond to challenges of resource mobilisation. The Board members were delighted with the presentation of a coordinator’s manual titled Young Women’s Mentorship Programme produced by ABANTU ROWA with support from Crossroads International. The manual is the outcome of years of engagement with young women in tertiary institutions in the ten regions of Ghana.
ABANTU for Development was first established by Africans living in the diaspora. They met in the London under the leadership of Late Wanjiru Kihoro and discussed the problems facing the African continent. They felt committed to contributing their quota to the development of the region. They all made a pledge to return to their various countries to promote the development of their countries. They called themselves ABANTU for Development meaning ‘people for development’. Dr Amina Mama an academic and advocate for women’s rights returned to Nigeria to establish the Nigeria country chapter in 1998 in Kaduna.
The rationale behind ABANTU’s work is to ensure effective participation of women in policy. ABANTU notes that, whereas both women and men face constraints in their participation in policy-making for social and economic development, the specific ways in which women are constrained in their efforts at contributing to policy-making processes deserves special attention. Women face many structural inequalities including discriminatory practices and lack of sufficient access to and control of resources. At the same time, lack of adequate access to the needed knowledge and skills also affect the ability of many NGOs working with women to provide an environment that would empower women to articulate their concerns about policies and its implications for their lives. Thus, not only are policy-making processes top-down, they are also undertaken without incorporating women’s views and concerns. This limits the extent to which measures can be put in place to ensure that women and men are enabled to contribute to and benefit equally from development.
ABANTU envisions a world in which empowered women and men work together to address gender inequalities and promote transformational leadership and development for a just society. ABANTU’s mission is to build the capacity of women to participate in decision-making at all levels, to influence policies from a gender perspective and to address inequalities and injustices in social relations. It is a network of people who believe that gender disparity is an injustice, contributes to poverty and is a major hindrance to development. Although ABANTU is an independent network, it forges alliances with others working in development in order to advance its cause.
Our work at ABANTU focuses on some of the key areas of development as contained in the 12 Critical Areas of Concern in the Beijing Platform for Action. They are governance, conflict resolution and peace building, poverty, Information and Communication Technology ICTs.
Our target audiences include NGOs, women, and particularly poor women in local communities, men, young people, gender activists, Members of Parliament, development agencies, students and the general public.  The beneficiaries of ABANTU’s work include NGOs working with and for women focusing on poverty reduction, conflict, governance and ICTs,
Over the years, beneficiaries of our work include, women, men, children, poor and vulnerable people living in local communities who are affected by lack of development, policy makers, women in politics, women and men in decision making positions. ABANTU has a broad spectrum of stakeholders. Among them are gender activists, those who have been funding the organisation’s activities such as local donors, multilateral agencies, workers, national NGOs, community based organizations, media, opinion leaders and traditional leaders.  During the meeting, I presented the activities of the Nigeria Country office. Among them are those carried out under the project Teacher Professional Deve-lopment Fund, which is supported by the Kaduna State Universal Basic Education Board KADSUBEB.  The focus of the project is to strengthen the capacity of communities and civil society to support schools and effectively articulate demand for basic education services. The objectives are to: -raise the level of expectation and demand for improved school services- Increase resources mobilized for the education of children, including children from marginalized groups. Others are to: -Encourage and empower parents and communities in participating through supporting the work of School Based Management Com-mittees (SBMCs) and monitoring standards and school performance, promote participation from edu-cation officers to support bottom-up school development in partnership with CSOs by promoting school governance and accountability and to -Promote participation from women, children and marginalized groups for more inclusive civic voice in school governance and accountability.
Some of the results achieved are – Forums and channels of commu-nication have been established in pilot schools communities that allow voices of different groups to be heard -Functioning SBMCs, representatives of communities have started operating according to SBMC policy guidelines and increased school accountability to communities. These results were achieved through activities organised by ABANTU such as – monitoring and mentoring training of SBMCs in selected schools which includes 35 Schools in 3 Local Government Areas LGAs of Kaduna State. ABANTU also developed action plans, reports for each school and summary report with data for Kaduna State Universal Basic Education Board (KADSUBEB) the Agency that funded the project. Other projects include Empowerment of Women with Disabilities through Community-Based Rehabilitation in Kaduna State, Building Stepping Stones for Promoting Good Governance and Democracy in Kaduna State Nigeria .More about these next week.

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