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Where is the progress promised on gender? Women at “the frontlines of fight against gender inequality and global poverty” speak out 

As current pace of change means global gender equality won’t be reached for 108 years, powerful open letter warns this is “unacceptable”

45 activists from across Africa co-sign letter calling out leaders that promises are not enough, real change is needed – starting now in 2019

Genuine progress in addressing the toxic mix of poverty and sexism is failing to materialise, according to an open letter[1] released ahead of International Women’s Day (March 8).

The letter – co-signed by 45 activists from 15 countries across Africa – warns that promises of progress on gender equality are meaningless without concrete action, and women should not have to wait 108 years to achieve equality with men[2].

 “It is unacceptable for women to wait over a century to achieve gender equality. We need meaningful action now.” said Aya Chebbi, an activist who co-signed the letter. “Our patience is running out for leaders to deliver the change they promised to women living in poverty.”

The co-signers are all prominent gender-equality activists from Africa who work with women in their communities and countries. Among them, they support girls and women to receive health care, gain access to education, or use creative outlets to help them develop their skills and opportunities.

Despite what they have achieved in their own work, they are frustrated that those in the positions of power are not delivering for millions of women in poverty.

For this to change requires those on the frontlines against gender inequality and global poverty to have a seat at the table, so their demands are not only heard, but acted upon.

“For the girls who are married off as children or not allowed to go to school; for the women dying of AIDS – warm words are not enough. We need urgent action.” said Wadi Victoria Ben-Hirki, another co-signer. “Politicians are saying the right things, but their rhetoric needs to convert to reality. We need to close the gap between promises and progress.”

Advancements can be made, but only if the opportunities this year presents are seized, and that women who stand at the frontline of this fight are genuinely heard and put at the centre of the decisions that will affect them.

Specifically, the G7 Summit and the Global Fund replenishment[3] – both set to take place in France later this year – could deliver real improvements to the lives of millions of women in the world’s poorest countries.

But this will only happen if the promises that leaders make at moments like this are fully funded, accountable and informed by the women working on these issues day in day out.


The full text of the letter reads:

Dear World Leaders,

We are the women at the frontlines of the fight against gender inequality and global poverty.

Every day we see the determination and dignity of girls and women facing down the toughest challenges. We see real advances and the power of people to achieve change.  We won’t surrender this fight, but we need you to play your part.

You promised to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030, but at the current rate of progress, this will take 108 years. This is unacceptable.  We need genuine progress, not grand promises.

We want implementation and accountability at every level – from this year’s G7 Summit to the Global Fund Replenishment; from our African Union leaders to our community leaders. We will be looking for your actions not your words; for funding to follow promises; and policy to turn into practice. It’s both the right and the smart thing to do for everyone.

To accelerate progress men must demand change with us so that we rise united not divided.  And women must have a seat at the decision-making table – because you can’t change what you don’t see.  

We’re not looking for your sympathy, we’re demanding your action. Because none of us are equal until all of us are equal.


[Names in bold are available for interview by request]

Melene Rossouw, South Africa (Women Lead Movement)

Joannie Marlene Bewa, Benin (Young Beninese Leaders Association)

Wadi Victoria Ben-Hirki, Nigeria (ONE Champion/Wadi Ben-Hirki Foundation)

Samira Sanusi, Nigeria (Samira Sanusi Sickle Cell Foundation)

Fridah Githuku, Kenya (GROOTS)

Naomi Tulay Solanke, Liberia (Community Health Initiative)

Chmba Ellen Chilemba, Malawi (Tiwale Women’s Organization)

Togola Hawa Semega, Mali (KUNAFONI)

Dieynaba Sidibe, Senegal (Grafitti Artist known as “Zeinixx” Works at Africulturban)

Lola Omolola, Nigeria (FIN)

Aya Chebbi, Tunisia (African Union Youth Envoy)

Lydia Charles Moyo, Tanzania (Femina Hip)

Elizabeth Wanja Ngeth, Kenya (Kijiji Afrika)

Olaoluwa Abagun, Nigeria (Girl Pride Circle)

Mercy Abang, Nigeria (United Nations Journalism fellow)

Karimot Odebode, Nigeria (ONE Champion)

Dr. Stellah Wairimu Bosire, Kenya ((UHAI EASHRI)

Dolapo Olaniyan, Nigeria (The UnCut Initiative)

Scheaffer Okore, Kenya (Pan African Chamber of Commerce)

Diana Ninsiima, Tanzania (DOT Tanzania)

Salimatou Fatty, Gambia (GPE youth advocate)

Mildred Ngesa, Kenya (FEMNET)

Memory Kachambwa, Zimbabwe (FEMNET)

Julie Cissé, Senegal (GIPS WAR)

Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng, South Africa (Global Doctors for Choice)

Mylene Flicka, Benin (Blogger)

Mercy Juma, Kenya (Broadcast journalist)

Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi, Nigeria (Stand to End Rape Initiative)

Amina Abdulazeez, Nigeria (ONE Champion)

Hauwa Liman, Nigeria (Inspire for Impact)

Linet Kwamboka, Kenya (DataScience)

Saran Keïta Diakite, Mali (Malian Advocacy Group on SDGs)

Sagara Saran Bouare, Mali (Women in Law and Development – WILDAF)

Maimouna Dioncounda Dembele, Mali (Human Rights Activist)

Mariam Diallo, Mali (Association for Women’s Leadership and Development – AFLED)

Nana Toure, Mali (Sahel Youth Network)

Valérie Traoré, Senegal (Niyel)

Imameleng Masitha, South Africa (The Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition)

Mama Koité Doumbia, Mali (FEMNET Mali)

Refilwe Ledwaba, South Africa (Girl Fly Programme in Africa Foundation – GFPA)

Anta Fall Basse Konté, Senegal (FAWE Sénégal)

Danedjo Hadidja, Cameroon (APAD Maroua)

Martha Muhwezi, Kenya (FAWE)

Françoise Kpeglo Moudouthe (co-founder of Girls Not Brides)

Nana Semuah Bressey, Ghana (Nurse)