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Day 8: Men Mobilising for Gender Justice in Africa

2 December 2012

The African Union declared this decade, 2010-2020 as the African Women’s Decade. In Africa, political leaders have signed on to a range of human rights treaties and declarations of commitment, including CEDAW, Resolution 1325 and Resolution 1820. The Maputo Protocol specifies that there should be clear protections for women from sexual violence in situations of armed conflict.

However, now nearly three years into the African Women’s Decade, there’s not nearly enough to show for all the rhetoric. Women in Africa still face grave threats of sexual violence in and out of conflict settings.

While this disconnect between rhetoric and action is hardly unique to Africa, the contradiction between political commitments and lack of political action by the AU and its member states was brought into stark relief again over the last few days.

Just last week, on November 20th, residents of Goma in North Kivu, DRC, found themselves under the control of M23, a rebel group headed up by Bosco Ntaganda, a man wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, including the use of rape as a weapon of war and sexual slavery.

The UN Group of Experts report on the DRC leaked in October and officially released just a few days ago is unambiguously clear that the M23 forces are funded and coordinated by the Rwandan military and also receive significant support from the Ugandan government. Both governments have significant interests in eastern DRC’s rich mineral deposits and poorly regulated mining industries.

To date, no action has been taken by the African Union to sanction Rwanda or Uganda. The AU website offers no comment at all. The South African Development Community calls for the “immediate withdrawal of the M23 from Goma” but fails to mention its backers. My government, South Africa, similarly calls for peace but says little to indicate it will use its substantial influence to put pressure on Rwanda or Uganda.

While male political leaders fail to respond adequately to pervasive rape in conflict, a growing number of men across the continent are taking up the challenge and working with women’s organisations to end men’s violence.

Whether the Congo Men’s Network in Goma, Abantangamuco or Umoja Now in Burundi, the Rwandan Men’s Network in Kigali, HopeM in Mozambique or Men’s Association for Gender Equality in Sierra Leone, men are increasingly joining with women’s rights activists to educate themselves, and other men about women’s rights and gender equality, and taking action to demand that their governments implement gender related laws.

Photo of David Tamba
David Tamba

David Tamba and Pascal Akimana are two such men. Both narrowly survived war in their home countries of Sierra Leone and Burundi respectively. Both were forced to flee their homes and spent years moving from refugee camp to refugee camp, David in Liberia and Guinea, Pascal in the DRC, Kenya and Tanzania.

At the age of twelve, Pascal was forced to witness the rape of his sister. David was unable to prevent rebel forces from abducting and raping his pregnant wife. Each gave serious thought to joining rebel forces to exact revenge but chose not to, in part because of the depression and trauma they both struggled with as a result of the violence they had witnessed and suffered.

Whilst living in a refugee camp, David was approached by a UNHCR protection officer, Lynn Ngugi, who convinced him to participate in camp activities aimed at preventing endemic sexual violence.

Now, a decade later, David is the director of the Men’s Association for Gender Equality in Sierra Leone where he coordinates activities intended to increase men’s support for Sierra Leone’s three new gender equality laws. He also coordinates Sierra Leone’s fledgling MenEngage country network.

After years of moving steadily southwards from Burundi, Pascal was invited to join a Men As Partners workshop at a clinic in Johannesburg’s inner city. He was initially resistant to the ideas of gender equality discussed there but returned for subsequent workshops because they gave him a forum to discuss his trauma. He now works for Men’s Resources International in Amherst, Massachusetts and is an emerging leader in the field of gender equality work with men and boys. He recently established Umoja Nowin Bujumbura to “to build sustainable peace in Africa by uniting men and women to promote gender justice and equality, and to end sexual and gender-based violence”.

Photo of Pascal Akimana
Pascal Akimana

David and Pascal are both active in the MenEngage Alliance. Their stories have been featured in “A Way to Justice”, a documentary film produced by Sonke Gender Justice to chronicle efforts to involve men in promoting gender equality across Africa.

David and Pascal remind us that men can play a critical role in addressing men’s violence against women and are often motivated to do so out of a sense of solidarity and commitment to social justice or by their personal connection to women affected by violence—their neighbours and fellow community members, their colleagues, mothers, sisters, partners, wives.

Their lives and the lives of many other men like them bear testimony to the importance of developing initiatives and tools to support men to act on their convictions that violence against women is wrong and that they have a role to play in stopping it and in supporting gender equality and women’s leadership.

By Dean Peacock, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Sonke Gender Justice Network

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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