Good news

January 25, 2007 at 4:48 pm 1 comment

This is the text of my audio-diary for the openDemocracy podcast today.

There are about 50,000 people here and over four days something like a thousand separate activities. Times and venues – and even activities themselves – are subject to change. The forum’s been held at the international sports stadium, which has 24 gates and then there are kiosks and tents around the outside. So you do sometimes have the feeling of going round in circles. Really too much too absorb.

But it’s a party atmosphere everywhere, with street theatre, African drumming, spontaneous rallies, songs and rousing chants to introduce the debates. A very African experience.

I’m here to see whether the organisers have succeeded in their aim to involve women equally in the process – and, to a large extent, they have. The presence and participation of women is one of the striking aspects of the forum. They’re here on the organising committee, experts on panels in conferences of 500 people, facilitating discussions.

There are a lot of women from grassroots communities here to exchange experiences – and they’re in all the debates: especially on peace and conflict but also debt and trade. For example, one group in red T-shirts campaigning against the Economic Partnership Agreements – EPAs – which are being imposed on Africa by the European Union and affecting women’s livelihoods.

Another characteristic of the forum is the human energy. Most of the women I meet tell me how energised they are, how the forum provides encouragement for continuing their struggle back home, how it helps to strengthen their voice. And several local women have told me this is the only place in Kenya where they have felt free to stand up and speak out.

Nevertheless, I was beginning to wonder – as far as the forum itself was concerned – how all this energy was going to be channelled, whether there would in fact be any concrete outcomes. The answer there is also – yes. This is the first time that the organisers have structured the forum so that groups and themes converge in order to develop collective proposals and begin to strategise.

I’ve just got a few examples:

Firstly, at the Women’s Assembly, four or five key issues for all the women’s groups to campaign on when they get back home – these include Violence Against Women, – which has been highlighted here in discussions – Globalisation, Fundamentalism.

Another assembly announced a plan for global mobilisation to coincide with the G8 summit in June – for action in different countries on the same day. To be honest, I hadn’t expected this, but the anti-G8 activists from Germany and the UK – many of them women – had worked hard to raise awareness about the G8 and to build alliances. The World March of Women – which mobilises women every year – will be a key partner.

Finally, at the assembly for human dignity and human rights, a young Ugandan woman got up to announce the launch of the African Water Network. She said: ‘This aims to bring the voices of Africans together to send a strong message to their governments to stop the privatisation of water, which is a basic human right.’

So it’s good news so far from Nairobi. I won’t pretend there haven’t been some logistical problems. But, certainly, sisters – and Africans – are doing it for themselves.

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Entry filed under: General.

Inclusion Reflections

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. esther Obachi  |  February 1, 2007 at 7:48 am

    I appreciate the efforts you made in coming up with the content of this Blog. The Kenya Library Association also tried to document the Nairobi WSF. The Association had noted with dissappointment that the previous WSFs were not systematically documented.Hence mobilized a few librarians from East Africa to do so using a media Wiki. See http://www.wsflibrary.org You are Welcome to the site.
    Esther K Obachi
    secretary, KLA

    Reply

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