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Meet UAF-Africa’s New Programmes Director- Jean Kemitare

We are thrilled to have Jean Kemitare join our team. A brilliant African feminist from Uganda. Jean will lead our Programmes Directorate by providing strategic leadership and technical support to our programmes team. She will support them in fulfilling our mission of providing rapid response resources to women’s rights organisations, women’s human rights defenders and activists who identify strategic and time sensitive opportunities to advance women’s rights in Africa.

In this Q & A session with our communications team Jean shares her passion for raising African women’s voices, agency, choice and her dream of a world where women in their diversity are valued and enabled to access opportunities and resources in equal measure to other genders.

Tell us briefly about yourself and your journey into feminist activism

I am Jean Kemitare, a Ugandan feminist activist and women’s human rights practitioner. I am passionate about women’s voice, agency and choice. My journey into feminist activism is marked by personal experiences that initiated a deeper analysis of gender discrimination and violence. These led me to the social work profession.  I strongly believe in facilitating African women’s agency to generating solutions to their realities.

Over the past ten years, and leading the GBV Prevention Network at Raising Voices, I have mainly focused on developing cutting edge prevention approaches and tools for tackling gender inequality and violence against women and girls (VAWG). Prior to that, I was engaged in chronic poverty research and policy advocacy where these efforts contributed to the development of a Social Protection Policy in Uganda. My dream is to see a world where women in their diversity are valued and access opportunity and  resources in equal measure, to other genders.

In Africa’s current socio-political and economic landscape where systematic violence and threats against the work of WHRDs is rife, how can Urgent Action Fund-Africa (UAF-Africa) contribute to the most pressing needs of African WHRDs?

The contextual factors threatening African WHRDs such as rising authoritarianism and aggressions, criminalisation of WHRDs activities and their existence as a result of gender identities or sexual orientation, economic strife on the continent coupled with shrinking funding for rights work cannot be addressed by any single activist, organisation or movement. It is a combination of efforts by a collective of inter alia feminist activists, organisations, collectives, movements and funders. UAF-Africa fills a unique role through her rapid response grant making mechanism in supporting African WHRDs to challenge the systemic violence they face in their work and life.

UAF-Africa’s work presents an opportunity for an alternative understanding of protection and wellbeing based on feminist ideology, rooted in African women’s agency, knowledge and experiences. UAF-Africa can increase her contribution to the most pressing needs of WHRDs through thought leadership on alternative protection and wellbeing practices. The Fund could further invest in developing conceptual frameworks, practices and spaces for the well-being and protection of WHRDs. In addition, the Fund could  expand her strategic resources towards supporting philanthropic advocacy backed by evidence from systematic documentation within her rapid response grantmaking work.

What role can feminist philanthropic organisations and Women’s Funds play in strengthening feminist organising across Africa?

Feminist philanthropic organisations and Women’s Funds bring a refreshing value to feminist organising across Africa. They promote social justice, non-discrimination, accountability, access to resources, and build the leadership capacities of women and gender non-conforming people.  

I believe Women’s Funds from the global south in general and African organisations specifically bring networks, credibility and sustainability to women’s rights and feminist activism on the continent. Furthermore, they offer global north funders nuanced insights into complex organising contexts of activists, while at the same time providing viable partnership opportunities garnered from years of experience and engagement with activists and women’s rights organisations.

In the African context, the largest pockets of financial assistance for women’s rights  work comes from multilateral, bilateral institutions and a few private foundations. Investment in long term funding for deeper structural, radical and transformative engagement by women’s rights organisations and movements is limited. It is no secret that most funding modalities favour larger international development organisations as development partners. This trend leaves women’s rights organisations gasping for resources they desperately need to do the hard work of shifting people and communities’ hearts and minds-work that we all know contributes towards long standing behavioural change and therefore whose net effect is that of positive changes in power relations between genders.

What three big political agendas will you be excited to advance as the Programmes Director at UAF-Africa?

Firstly, I am excited to be in a role where I contribute to resourcing women’s rights and feminist work. I look forward to supporting African women’s rights and feminist movements to leverage resources transnationally including financial, knowledge, skills, solidarity and information. I believe it is important for women and gender non-conforming groups to have access and control of resources that allow them to mobilise, amplify their voices and push back against all forms of oppressive forces.

Second, I passionately believe in African women and gender non-conforming people’s agency to develop solutions to the challenges they face. In this regard, I am interested in advancing the agenda to support deeper concerted efforts towards documentation of processes,  concepts and praxis within our movements as a political project that seeks to record feminist journeys and power.

Lastly, recognising the fractuos context in which women’s rights and feminist activists operate are marked by generational trauma of colonisation and related violence, fascism, authoritarian rule among other vices, I am particularly excited to be leading work on the Feminist Republik initiative within the Fund that is further advancing and protecting WHRDs through focusing on three important buckets of work; healing justice, self and collective care and documentation of violations against WHRDs, across Africa.