International Women’s Day – 8 March 2023.

“Wales has never been a country only for our people”, Welsh Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt MS stated, in a room crowded with Welsh and African global solidarity organisations.

This year’s International Women’s Day in Cardiff was about more than championing equality. It was about confronting gendered issues through a multi-faceted, multi-cultural, human approach. Four organisations (Teams4U, Bees for Development, Size of Wales and Nairasha Legal Support), brought together by Hub Cymru Africa and funded by Welsh Government, delivered projects in Uganda and Lesotho to shift the decision-making power in the region more towards women.

The projects were diverse, from supporting young women back in education (while tackling reproductive health taboos) in Uganda to addressing the barriers faced by women in entering climate-based decisions: “It’s about demonstrating that very often at a household level there’s a lot that men and women agree on as to aspirations for their children. Through dialogue […] it’s possible to shine a new light on whether a cultural norm constraining the women is actually holding back the [whole] family.” Janet Lowore, project manager of Bees for Development said.

Janet Lowore, project manager of Bees for Development

At the event, there was no over-simplification of the role of women in society and no exclusion of men from the day, only a genuine understanding of the how the roles of men and women must complement each other in order to achieve shared goals. “We had to understand what the constraints were blocking women from taking part in the [beekeeping] activity. It was very much about elevating women into leadership roles and negotiating roles between men and women,” Janet Lowore said when discussing common themes across the projects.

The organisations shared a view that gender imbalance is a question of power distribution. Advocate Joanna Jonas, when discussing the root causes of gender-based violence in the region, said: “The main issue is the patriarchal approach the region takes, which involves everything having to do with women accessing roles of power.”

Benson Omoding, project coordinator of Teams4U, believed children should get power through knowledge: “At the start of the sexual health education project there was a misconception [by the local people] regarding children having sex early. It wasn’t about that. It was about empowering them to make the right choice.”

No project is without its challenges. Enabling women to have equal access to markets, managing projects in COVID times – and the consequent fluctuating exchange rates making it harder to provide resources from Wales – and especially the need for long-term support to address structural problems were all issues raised by Barbara Davies-Quy, Deputy Director of Size of Wales, and shared by her peers, and will provide learning for future projects.

Following the event, Chief Executive of the WCIA said: “It was fantastic to hear from inspirational feminists in Wales, Uganda and Lesotho who are shifting power to women and tackling injustice.” – Nairasha Legal Support – Bees for Development – Teams4U – Size of Wales – Hub Cymru Africa

You can also check out some interviews with the project members below.

Barbara Davies-Quy, Deputy Director of Size of Wales
Benson Omoding, Project Coordinator for Teams4U

Made by Robin Donadio, Volunteer in Communications, WCIA.

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