On the Beaches of Bahia – AWID’s 13th International Forum

Posted on: October 17, 2016 Posted by: Urgent Action Fund - Africa Comments: 0

On the Beaches of Bahia – AWID’s 13th International Forum

This is a blog written by a participant of the 13th International AWID Forum, supported by UAF-Africa, through a grant from the Foundation for a Just Society.

A little bit about me:

I always find it difficult to talk about myself – I prefer to listen to others. What justifies my presence on the beaches of Bahia is a consequence of a fortunate combination of events. I am an anti-racist and anti-colonialist activist. My fight for equal rights between men and women began far from my home country, Cameroon, while I was a political science student in France.

What have we been convicted for? I asked myself. The country where we were born and whose passport does not allow us to go anywhere without humiliation, a genetic heritage that gives us a certain skin color, a biological difference that makes us women and as such unequal to men? What have we been convicted for? As African, as Black, as a Woman and as Queer, it is the refusal of the accusation, that any of us are “guilty by birth”, that justifies my Feminist commitment. My desire to grow, to join others in this noble cause and to learn more about our lived realities, means and strategies to put things in their place is constantly increasing.

Today, I am committed researcher. I went back to my country after ten years abroad and I am trying to build new landmarks.  In the beginning of the year, I expressed my desire to participate in the AWID Forum 2016, to several people around me, though I had no paper to present. A good friend of mine, Mariam Armisen, also founder of Queer African Youth Network (QAYN) forwarded my request to Urgent Action Fund-Africa (UAF-Africa). Fortunately, the UAF-Africa wanted to offer a scholarship to a Francophone Feminist based in Central or West Africa. I feel privileged to have been selected for such an event. It was my first experience of the Forum and I met many exceptional women, a first experience that gave me so much strength and joy to “Get up and Stand up for Women’s rights”.

On the Bahia’s beaches, a distant Uncle or Aunt walked with a heavy heart and chained body. It was less than 300 years ago. In 2016, I walk tall on the same beaches, feet free, with a sated belly and a mind full of projects and my eyes set on the waves movements. I am free, proud and I feel stronger than ever.

Behind me, I hear voices and laughter. Behind me, hundreds of women are deliberating around a buffet that is ever full; they are clinking their glasses with a smile and sensual energy. I am attending AWID’s 13th International Forum and this is one of the most intense moments of my life. I feel in communion with these women who came from all over the world: young and dynamic women regardless of their age, lesbians, indigenous women, veiled women, trans, rural women, migrants, sex workers, political leaders, etc.

I feel understood, supported, encouraged and pushed up.  There is no need to explain anymore why I am a Feminist, no need to justify my stance for equality, no need to convince anyone of the multiple forms of oppression against women in general and women of colour in particular, women living with disabilities, Black women and gender nonconforming people, to be precise, and the importance of fighting against the oppression, of resisting it. In a framework that was entirely developed for the sharing of experiences, reflection, action, relaxation, meditation, communion and projection, I learned several things, which I would group into 10 key points.

  1. Going beyond internal conflicts within Feminism is important

Like any political movement, there are several waves within Feminism. Many identities intersect, because we are not just women, we are African women or women of African ancestry; we are also Muslim women, trans, queer, women from certain social or environmental backgrounds. All these diversities are useful to the movement, as long as we understand ‘woman’ as a specific political category and not just from individual configurations.

This is why our work requires collective action, which should aim at one objective: women’s empowerment and the autonomy to determine the future for ourselves. There is no hierarchy of oppression. In this context, we must be permanently open, even about matters on which we are not comfortable. We share responsibilities as Feminists to advance women’s rights and justice for all women regardless of their social and religious affiliation or sexual orientation. As one participant said at the opening session:

“None of us is free unless all of us are free – Myrna Cunningham”.


  1. Every silence is culpable

The major challenge for us, as Feminists, is ensuring we do not remain silent on issues of injustice, oppression and inequality; we have to denounce all forms in which they arise. This denunciation may be through diverse acts: organised protest, open letters, artwork, entertainment blogs, etc. When the floor is given to us and even when it is not, it is our duty to take advantage of available platforms to call for the respect and protection of human dignity. The capitalist world we live in takes a lot of forms of discrimination as normal. Yet it takes away our freedoms, manipulates diversity, incites nationalist isolationism and perpetuates state violence and violence taking place in private spheres. At the height of resurgence of religious fundamentalisms that fit perfectly in the capitalist system, we are asked to simplify Feminism, arguing that the situation is much better for women today. Above all, we must not be silent! We must remain vigilant and never submit to the domination. Simplifying structural oppression is a way of dragging us backwards in the struggle.

  1. Trusting our visions of change

Being young is a state of mind; it is also a set of factors related to life experiences, family or professional situations, etc. Theoretically, when we are young, we have more time for ourselves and we do not have the same work or family constraints as those who are much older and who have to deal with schedules that are often inflexible or take care of children. When we are young, we have a lot of doubts, but the challenge is just to believe in our own visions of change and work towards them. Christina, from the association No Tengo Miedo in Peru gave an inspiring example about this. During its municipal campaigns in Lima, the association drafted a set of proposals for young people, including young LGBTQ, which it sent to each candidate by inviting them to respond to them. Three quarters of candidates participated and this created high visibility for the association and their demands. Being a young Feminist is above all to dare. This also applies particularly to young African Feminists. We should not be afraid of challenging harmful traditional practices and customs such as genital mutilation, polygamy and forced marriage. Here is a sentence from one participant that restored confidence:

“I believe in myself. I trust myself. I love myself.”

  1. Mobilising and Rallying

Mobilisation is a key strategy of change. The more of us there are and the more we are interconnected, the stronger we are. Mobilising is using one’s knowledge network, it is stepping out of our comfort zones to seek allies and team up with them. Rallying is to accept other people’s requests without getting lost in being too general or ‘lacking focus’. It is getting involved in sister causes and exercising deliberate inclusion.

Mobilising and rallying can be done at local and international levels due to new technologies. Rallying is also getting involved in politics at the local level. It is proposing feminist lenses through which to read the social, economic, religious or cultural contexts in which we live.

“Je te tends le fil, transmets-le à ta fille qui le transmettra à sa fille,” Aissatou Cissé, Senegal (I am passing on this rope to you, transmit it to your daughter who will forward it to her daughter.)

  1. Taking care of oneself and caring for others

Loneliness and discouraging moments are common in activist circles. However, if we get together, if we take care of one another, we will strengthen one another to keep fighting and standing firm in the face of adversity. Taking care of oneself is not separating oneself from others. Caring for others is ensuring that our companions in the struggle feel supported, encouraged and loved. Sometimes just a phone call can be enough to let someone know they matter.

“Taking care of myself… I never really thought about it (…). It is true that it is difficult (…) Yes; I guess there should really be solidarity among black women. We must be there for one another». Yasmin Thayna, Coletivo Nuvem Negra/PUC Rio


  1. Being a leader is not being a « boss » or « master»

Feminists have reflected on the concept of leadership extensively with a long history of activism. The hierarchy of roles in our movements is often modelled on our society’s hierarchical systems; this puts the majority of people in a position of inferiority. This situation prevents them from expressing themselves, from being fully engaged and staying in the movement. It is often the same people who speak, who travel and who decide while others are confined to a role of attendees.

Leadership involves everyone in the movement. Leadership is about respecting others, regardless of their age or journey in the movement. We, young African Feminist leaders, are often paralyzed by the respect due to our elders. This respect does not in any way mean that we should give up our arguments; we must believe in ourselves and in our visions of change. As Feminists, leadership is primarily collective and not only individual, even though both may be different depending on the context. As one participant said: “Leadership is a process rather than an objective”. Being a leader is to be always present, encourage others, carry on the fight, calm conflicts, listen and listen again.

  1. Occupying the Internet

The Internet is not only a tool, but also holds content. Occupying the Internet is marking one’s presence in public space. The Internet is a powerful information and training channel. In this space, we cannot only highlight the multiple realities of many women, but also engage other Feminists on important issues. Thus, beyond our Facebook or Twitter pages, blogs or online journals, there are Feminist or pro Feminist applications that can be used both for activism or one’s safety.


Occupying the Internet is dominating exchange and online discussion spaces, participating collectively, involving other Feminists to support one another and avoid being emotionally exhausted. The idea is to use the Internet, always as a tool to share our visions. That means participating in online discussions, posting comments on each other’s blogs and defend views that contribute to a Feminist vision. When exhausted or when afraid, you can call upon other Feminists who are following you to support your statement or answer to particular hateful tweets. Being more than one against bigotry is a way to avoid emotional breakdown online.

  1. Resisting

Resistance to oppression begins with one’s body: “Our body is our territory and we must defend it”(An indigenous panellist.) Resistance is life. Joy is the core of resistance. We must resist the manipulation of our struggles. Resisting is refusing to comply, it is refusing to be silent, and it is refusing compromises when our freedoms are at stake. It is questioning the norms and conventions that govern us. It is reinvesting in our cultures and proposing a new way of interpreting them. Finally, it is about resisting financial structures modelled on the neo-liberal system and serving donors’ interests rather than following one’s own consciousness. If it’s against my rights, I object.

  1. Stop being politically correct

Being a Feminist is an attitude of resistance against an established order, a diversified system that enshrines inequality between men and women. Women are a socio-political category and gender based violence is real. Many organizations do not dare to assert gender equality, which implies fair treatment, and equality under the law for fear of reprisals. The widely prevalent discourse is that of the promotion of women’s rights; which in itself is good, but insufficient. The promotion of women’s rights necessarily goes hand in hand with the defence of these rights when they are attacked or denied. Gender issues are not only about quota or parity in politics. Gender issues take into account power relations between men and women, the relations that place women in precarious situations that expose them to violence, abuse, and exclusion and permanent stigmatization. Being politically correct is, for example, refusing to identify oneself as feminist while our struggle has to be visible and it is a political struggle.

  1. Think locally, act locally and globally

In Tunisia, Yasmina organised a Feminist art festival and is currently running its second edition. The goal of this festival is to create women’s positive visibility in a country where men monopolize public space and women bodies are extremely controlled. Its message is: “Yes we are there, yes we are not just miserable victims, we are fighters”. Thinking locally is thinking about how to transform one’s immediate environment. It is what many associations on the African continent are doing in conflict or post conflict regions. In northern Mali or in eastern Congo, violence against women is intolerable. Thinking locally in such contexts is supporting women victims of oppressions and denouncing them at the government level. It is proposing specific legislations to politicians so they take them up to decision-making spaces.


On Bahia’s beaches, we put together our different struggle strategies. We talked about many issues that affect the physical and psychological integrity of women: social and environmental justice, economics, religious fundamentalism, inclusion of women living with disabilities, trans-Feminism, queer Feminism, black Feminism, art, culture, cinema, sex … We honoured the memory of human rights defenders. We communed around a common ideal, a world free of all forms of injustice and inequality. All these strong energies put together provide courage and hope; they reinforce our joy and conviction that we must not give up. Giving up is complying with a highly discriminating system and perpetuating it.

On Bahia’s beaches, as I honour the memory of those who died for their freedom, I am convinced of my responsibility to continue the fight beginning with what Fatou Sow, this mother whom I admire a lot, said: “If we do not give content to our speeches, we are behind and we are slaves of other people’s speeches.”

By Larissa Kojoue.

Atieno Odhiambo
Atieno Odhiambo

Board Chair (Kenya)

Atieno is a professional with international legal experience advocating for rights of marginalized populations through policy and legal reform. She is currently the Director – Legal Empowerment Fund at The Fund for Global Human Rights. She is the past Chief of Party (Kenya) for Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG) a global pro bono law firm that provides legal assistance to states, governments and civil society organizations. Before taking up her position at PILPG, Atieno worked for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Kenya.

Prior to joining the Supreme Court of Kenya, Atieno worked on immigrant and human rights issues in Washington State at Microsoft Corporation, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and Columbia Legal Services. Atieno received her undergraduate degree in History from Rice University in Houston, Texas and her law degree from Tulane University School of Law in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Nancy Photo jpeg
Nancy Chitiza

Director - People & Culture

Nancy has worked in conflict and post-conflict African countries with the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, (UNDPKO). Her career with the UN spans for 9 years, where she worked with the UN Agency UNWomen (then UNIFEM) in Liberia in her early career, she joined UNDPKO with the UN Mission in Liberia- (UNMIL), and later joined The UN Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). 

Nancy holds a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Zimbabwe and BA in Sociology and Economics from Africa University. She is a Certified HR Generalist Professional, with membership to the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), which is the main professional body to accredit and award professional human resources (HR) qualifications. She has attained several professional courses in line with her area of expertise and is very excited about the endless possibilities at UAF-Africa. Nancy is passionate Pan-African Feminist who within her field of Human Resources Administration and Management pushes boundaries in support of feminist values, principles and work cultures in all aspects of her work. She has worked in the HR field for over 17 years and has gained extensive experience and professional expertise to successfully lead the UAF-Africa Team. Nancy works from Harare, Zimbabwe.

Njoki Njoroge Njehu

Board Secretary (Kenya)

Njoki is a committed grassroots organizer/mobilizer and activist. A Pan-Africanist, feminist, and popular educator, her expertise includes women’s land rights, gender justice, community rights, and environmental justice. 

She is co-founder & Executive Director of Daughters of Mumbi Global Resource Center (DOM), an independent non-ethnic, non-partisan Nairobi-based network.  Prior to her 2005 return to Kenya, Ms. Njehû served as Director of the 50 Years Is Enough: U.S. Network for Global Economic Justice & Campaign Manager (Toxic Trade Campaign) for Greenpeace International .  She has testified three (3) times before the U.S. Congress, on debt, HIV/AIDS and other crises facing Africa.

Njoki is the coordinator of the Pan-African Fight Inequality Alliance, Chair of the Board Urgent Action Fund- Africa (UAF-Africa) and Board member of Natural Justice. She has been profiled and widely quoted in print and broadcast media, including: Time Magazine, The Daily Nation (Kenya), The Financial Times (U.K), The New York Times, The Sankei Shimbun (Japan), The Washington Post, BBC, CNN International, and various radio & TV stations in Kenya.

Ndanatsei Bofu-Tawamba

Chief Executive Officer

Ndana Bofu-Tawamba is the CEO for Urgent Action Fund Africa (UAF-Africa). She brings to the global human and womn’s rights movements a wealth of international experience across a broad spectrum of equity-focused issues. For over two decades, Ndana has built bridges between civil society and social justice funders to address gender, racial, socio-political, economic, environmental and climate injustices.

Ndana is a staunch feminist voice for enhanced womn’s rights investments. She has leveraged over USD200 million towards strengthening African feminist and womn’s rights movements. She is a published writer and public speaker on Pan-African and Feminist Philanthropies, African Womn’s Leadership, and the Power of Social Movements in Africa.

Ndana is an alumnus of Harvard Kennedy School of Government in the USA, University of Stellenbosch Business School, South Africa, and INSEAD Business Schools,  France and Singapore. She is a Senior International Fellow at the Centre on Philanthropy and Civil Society at CUNY, USA. She earned her Master’s Degree in Women’s Studies from Lancaster University, UK, and obtained her Bachelor of Science Honours Degree in Social Psychology from the University of Zimbabwe.

Ndana serves on the Board of the African Philanthropy Network. Her leadership at UAF-Africa, the UN, academia, international civil society boards, and regional consultancies on philanthropy, human rights, social movements & governance has meant extensive engagements across the world, thereby presenting her the opportunity to weave her commitment to social justice with an opportunity to further explore womn and girls’ realities throughout the world.

Amel Gorani

Member (Sudan)

Amel Gorani is an international development specialist with a focus on countries in and emerging from conflict. Amel is the Director for the Center for Community and Civic Engagement at Carleton College in . Minnesota. Before joining Carleton, she served as Inclusion Coordinator for the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue – a peace mediation organization based in Switzerland. She has also worked for international development agencies, non-profit organizations and philanthropic foundations in Africa, Europe and the United States.She has served as Senior Advisor for Vulnerable and Marginalized Groups at the USAID- Sudan Mission and as Program Officer at the Open Society Foundations’ International Women’s Program and the Swedish International Development Agency Somalia and Sudan programs. She also served as Executive Director for Sudan Future Care – Amal Trust, an NGO working in war-affected areas in Eastern Sudan. Amel has worked on several countries across Africa, the Middle East and Asia, most extensively on her native Sudan and the countries of the Horn of Africa. Her work has focused on peace and security, political engagement, social justice and women’s rights. She has also worked on migration, integration and anti-discrimination issues, mostly in Sweden where she lived for many years.

Chiedza Muchena

Executive Officer

Chiedza is a Zimbabwean national with a wealth of experience in administration, having worked as an executive administrator in different capacities over a period spanning 6 years. During this time, she managed offices and operations of senior executives in various companies in the hospitality industry.

She is very strategic and intentional in her execution of tasks and her experience working in sensitive offices has honed her ability to plan, multi-task, and be extremely organized. She has amassed a wealth of experience working with high-profile personalities from various spheres of life including industry and commerce, politics, religion, and entertainment. Her interactions with people of different nationalities, and cultural and religious backgrounds have helped her appreciate the power of diversity.

Chiedza holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Women’s University in Africa, a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing Management from the Institute of Marketing Management (South Africa), a Diploma in Marketing (LCCI), and a Diploma in Executive Secretarial (LCCI), a Certificate in Operations Management from the University of Cape Town and a Certificate in Management Development Skills for Executive and Personal Assistants (Zimbabwe Institute of Management).

She is passionate about her personal development and that of those around her and has a soft spot for environmental issues and human rights – particularly the rights of the girl child and minority groups.

Her other interests include reading and traveling.

Edmond Mugisha

Solidarity & Support Programme Officer-Sustaining AWHRDs

Edmond is a Burundian national. Prior to officially joining Urgent Action Fund-Africa in January 2016, Edmond had been working intermittently at the Fund in various capacities since May 2010 under the Grantmaking Programme. Edmond is instrumental in facilitating

the Fund’s outreach to and learning from Francophone women’s rights organisations and activists and in translation of English materials to French and vice versa thereby enabling Francophone grantees, advisors and partners to benefit from the Fund’s technical and financial support for the advancement of women’s human rights across the continent. He plays a major role in organizing UAF-Africa’s conferences/webinars in/for Francophone countries. His work experience at UAF-Africa has grounded his global perspective and developed his interest and awareness on different cultural, political, social and economic contexts.

His self-motivated spirit has made him set a target of speaking ten languages. Edmond is now fluent in French, English, Korean, Swahili, Kirundi, and Kinyarwanda and is currently learning Deutsch. He has enriched his language and translation skills by providing interpretation and translation services to various organisations including Fahamu, New Mark Group, and Elloca. Edmond holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Integrated Community Development from Daystar University-Kenya and a certificate of Korean Language efficiency from Kosin University-South Korea. He is currently finalizing his Master’s Degree Programme in Leadership and Organisational Management.

In his spare time, Edmond enjoys reading novels, jogging, cycling, watching detective and spy movies, making new friends, and of course learning new languages!

Joanne Mahinda

ICT & Database Officer

Joanne Mahinda is a Kenyan national. Before joining UAF-Africa, she worked for International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) providing technical support, diagnosing and resolving hardware and software incidents.She has a vast experience providing support for users of different software applications.Joanne also worked for the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) where she offered administrative support to system users where she served as the first point of contact for service providers, suppliers, partners, and visitors.

Joanne holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from The Catholic University of Eastern Africa. She has more than five years’ experience in ICT customer support,the configuration of applications, infrastructure management, and information technology service management. She also has a professional certificate in Cisco Certified
Networks Associate (CCNA), Business intelligence and Data analytics Foundation. She is currently pursuing a Postgraduate Diploma in Information Security and Ethical Hacking.

In her spare time, Joanne enjoys reading, jogging and providing life and career mentorship to young women.

Nyasha Chibanda

Office Assistant

Nyasha is a Zimbabwean national. She works as the hygienist, hospitality, staff and office orderly assistant in the Zimbabwe office where she runs the day to day office errands.She is highly motivated and is excited to learn and grow with the Fund.

She is a women’s human rights activist, and strong advocate for social and economic justice.
During her spare time, she loves going to church and enjoys morning jogs

Rosettee Nanyanjo

MEAL Officer

Rosette is a Ugandan national, passionate about women’s human rights with a focus on the adolescent girls and young women. She has experience in Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning and holds a Masters Degree in Monitoring and Evaluation from Uganda Management institute.

Her thesis focused on data utilisation for decision making in non-governmental organisations. Prior to joining UAF-Africa, Rosette worked as an M&E Specialist
for various donor funded programs including USAID and DFID. She has experience in setting up M&E systems, Performance based financing for grantees, capacity building,
and reporting writing among others.

Jean k
Jean Kemitare

Programmes Director

Jean is a Ugandan national, a passionate African feminist with over 15 years’ experience in the development sector in women’s rights programming. She has expertise and experience on gender equality & women’s empowerment with a focus on prevention and response to violence against women across the Sub-Saharan Africa context including program strategy development, capacity building for NGOs, advocacy and research.

Jean has been a practitioner at senior management level over the past 8 years leading strategy development for the regional GBV Prevention Network at Raising Voices from information
sharing to a comprehensive feminist movement building programme. Over the years this work has contributed to a rapid increase, interest and investment in addressing violence against women within the region and building a critical mass of GBV prevention network membership. She initiated a range of partnerships with regional feminist networks like FEMNET, INGOs like the IRC, Sexual Violence Research Center, UN Agencies, including UN Women in Uganda and at regional level and coordinated collaborations with feminist movement building organisations like Just Associates (South East Asia) and Intercambios Allianz (Latin America). She has served in advisory capacity on committees like the African Integrated
Response initiated by the Stephen Lewis Foundation and hosted by African Women’s Development Fund.

She believes in agency of African women to not only innovate solutions of pertinent issues affecting their lives but also generate knowledge for a global audience.
Jean is co-author of among other publications, Get Moving! curriculum a feminist organization transformation tool for addressing GBV and led a its adaptation to address sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse in humanitarian settings in partnership with the IRC. Previously her work revolved around chronic poverty research, policy advocacy, and community-based HIV awareness and response.

She was instrumental in civil society advocacy for a social protection policy in Uganda. Jean completed a Masters Degree in Social Sector Planning and Management and Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and Social Administration from Makerere University Kampala Uganda.

Faith Macheke
Faye Macheke

Member (South Africa)

Faye has over 20 years of finance, operations and development experience. She is currently responsible for the strategic operations function at AWID where she upholds feminist principles and values.

Faye previously held a Head of Finance and Operations role at Paediatric Adolescent Treatment for Africa and Just Associates Incorporated Southern Africa. She also held Directorship roles for international Computer Driving License (ICDL) in Central and Southern Africa.

She also held Directorship roles for international Computer Driving License (ICDL) in Central and Southern Africa. Faye is a board member for ICDL in South Africa and P World Link Trust. She also holds a B.Compt in Accounting Science from University of South Africa and is a member of the Southern African Institute for Business Accountants.

Sharon Ngeno

Finance Associate

Sharon Ng’eno, is the first born in her family, a feminist, lover of people and believer in girls and young women potential to change their society. Her life has been greatly influenced by women who have positively mentored her throughout her life.

She appreciates and applauds girls and women’s leadership, strength, wisdom, courage and resilience. Education opened doors for her, and she wants all girls to get an education. She believes in Maya Angelou’s words in knowing better is doing better.

Before joining UAF-Africa, she worked at Akili Dada, an award-winning leadership incubator for girls and young women as the Finance Associate and Grants and Executive Associate. She enjoys working in the development space because she has the opportunity to serve humanity in meaningful ways. She loves Finance and its role in realizing the vision of an organisation.

Sharon has a degree in Bachelor of Commerce, Finance option from Kenyatta University. She is also a certified Public Accountant Kenya (CPA (K)) and an alumnus of Moi Girls High School, Eldoret. She is passionate about her work as it directly touches and transforms the lives of girls and young women. Sharon is motivated by women who are breaking the glass ceiling and paving way for future generation of girls and young women leaders. She aspires to be the best version of herself every day and to thrive with others in the different spaces she occupies.

She loves reading, swimming and engaging in rich conversations with friends, especially her grandmother.

Pamela Mudhune

Director of Finance & Operations

Pamela is a qualified accountant with several years of experience in financial management, implementation of internal controls and financial reporting. She has been with the Fund since 2004 and heads the Finance and Administrative roles of UAF-Africa.

Her prior work experience includes working as a Financial Accountant at General Motors Ltd where she was exposed to various financial management roles within the Finance Department.She was awarded a Masters in Accounting from the Bowling Green State University, USA and earned her Bachelor of Commerce degree from Kenyatta University, Kenya. She is also a member of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya –ICPAK, and has undertaken short courses in audit, taxation and resource mobilization. Pamela serves on the Kenya Advisory Board of Global Education Fund.

Hiwot Tedla

Learning, Monitoring & Evaluation Officer

Hiwot is an Ethiopian; learning, monitoring, evaluation and accountability professional. Hiwot’s passion for Women’s human rights and feminism is deeply influenced by the strong women in her life.

She has a combined experience of working both for humanitarian and development organisation. She has designed LM&E systems and tools and managed data intensive programs. Hiwot has spent over 13 years working in learning, monitoring and evaluation with community level organizations, volunteers and donors.

Prior to joining Urgent Action Fund-Africa (UAF-A), Hiwot served as Monitoring and Evaluation coordinator for Population Services International, where she coordinated LM &E activities for a multiyear USAID funded Transform WASH Project, implemented in 40 districts all over Ethiopia.
She has also designed the M &E plan, the M &E Scope of work and lead in the operationalization of the M &E system for more than 40 projects in Ethiopia and Djibouti. Hiwot has expertise in training and capacity building, program monitoring and evaluation. Hiwot while working
for the Danish refugee Council, she spearheaded the development and roll-out of a successful M&E system from scratch.

She holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from Indihar Gandhi National Open university and a bachelor’s degree in Business Management
from university of Gondar.

She is grateful to be a part of the UAF-Africa team and support the work of empowering Women’s human right’s defenders. In her spare time,she likes reading, cooking and traveling.

Zanele Mbugua

Feminist Republik Champion

Zanele Mbugua is an intersectional feminist who is passionate about womn’s rights advocacy, with a focus on lbtiqa+ rights and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology from Rhodes University (South Africa) and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Gender Studies and Development at the University of Nairobi.

She attributes her sense of feminism to her Pan-African roots having lived and schooled in South Africa. Through her lived experiences, Zanele has always found herself drawn towards womn’s, queer and gender non-conforming advocacy spaces; and continues to discover herself and her passion through these spaces. 

In her spare time, Zanele enjoys reading, hiking, and cooking.

Miriam Wanjira
Miriam Wanjira

Office Assistant

Miriam is a Kenyan national. She works as a hospitality focal person in the Kenyan office where she runs the day to day office care services. She has a keen eye for details and is a very cheerful person. Miriam is passionate about promoting the rights

of vulnerable grassroots women. She volunteers some of her time to local women empowerment initiatives in her community. She appreciates the need to provide support towards women’s human rights. In her free time, Miriam a mother of two children, loves to cook and take care of people around her.

Daphne Jena

Solidarity & Support Officer - SRHR

Daphne is a feminist who is passionate about women’s rights advocacy, with a special focus on Gender Based Violence, child marriages and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR). She has over four years’ experience in feminist organising and women’s rights advocacy. Her advocacy and activism work prior to joining UAF-Africa centred on content creation using online alternative media for activism and human rights advocacy, with Childline Zimbabwe. She has been awarded various fellowships particularly focusing on Sexual Reproductive and Health Rights.

Her experience in strategic communications is evident in the work she has done with various online advocacy platforms including those focusing on women’s rights, children’s rights and human rights law. Daphne holds a B.Sc. (Hons) in Media and Society Studies from the Midlands State University (MSU) and a Master of Science in Development studies from Women’s University in Africa. She also has qualifications in Project Management, Project Monitoring and Evaluation and Public Relations. In her spare time, Daphne enjoys reading, writing and travelling.

Melissa Photo
Melissa Wainaina

Feminist Republik Creative Facilitator

Melissa Wainaina is an African queer feminist based in Kenya heavily involved in African feminist spaces that advance women and girls’ holistic security and safety, collective care and healing justice. She has over 12 years’ experience in the non-profit sector

Having worked since 2006 mainly focusing on sexuality, gender and sexual rights.

Melissa also has experience in strengthening capacities for more rights-based approaches in transformative social change work. Before joining UAF-Africa, she worked at CREA, a feminist organization based in New Delhi, India where she led their programmatic work in East Africa. In this role, she had the honour to work with women’s and LGBTI rights collectives to strengthen feministleadership and movement building in global South.With an education background on gender and development, Melissa has a keen interest on the inter-relation between art and activism.She explores the use of art for body positivity, self-expression, resistance and self-care.As an artist herself, she enjoys writing, poetry, designing jewelry, crafts and photography.  She has authored work using pen names Sikiliza and Kamanzi Wainaina and runs a personal blog called Sikiliza Speaks for over 14 years. Her photography has been featured in the Global Fund for Women online exhibition called MAMA: Motherhood Around the Globe.

She sits on the Board of Women Spaces Africa, a community based organization that promotes the sexual and reproductive health and rights of girls and young women with disabilities in Kenya. During her free time, Melissa enjoys trying out a variety of recreational hobbies and activities, she is an experienced landscaper and gardener, practices yoga, cycling and swimming and is now aspiring on how to learn river fishing.

Carol Werunga

Solidarity & Support Manager

Carol is a human rights activist who is not afraid of challenging the status quo when it comes to the representation and the participation of women and other minorities in the governance sphere. Carol is strong believer of human rights, and feminist principles and she is constantly working towards ensuring that these principles are respected and promoted.

For 10 years, Carol has worked in the human rights and governance space to ensure that marginalized groups such as women have equally opportunities both economically and politically to engage in decision making processes and live a dignified life. Carol has created spaces where women issues are openly discussed. She has a wealth of experience in capacity building, community organizing, coalition building and strengthening, creation of citizen agency through movement building, development and maintenance of strategic partnership, legislative and policy analysis, and evidence based advocacy at local and regional levels. Additionally, Carol has immense experience in grant management. She had managed grants from Ford Foundation, DANIDA, Swedish Embassy (Kenya), state bureau of Democracy for Human rights and Labor (DRL), Open Society Institute of East Africa (OSIEA), and United States Agency for International Development (DANIDA).

Over the years, Carol has been able to monitor and advocate for women participation in politics. For example in 2010, Carol trained women on their gains as espoused in the Constitution of Kenya that was promulgated the same year. In 2017, she developed a gender sensitive election monitoring tool that was utilized by the Kenya Human Rights Commission and its partners to monitor the participation of women during 2017 political primaries, voter registration and Elections Day.

Carol holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the United States International University- Africa (USIU-A) and a Masters of Business Administration from the same university.

In her spare time, Carol enjoys watching movies, hanging out with family and friends, shopping and travelling.

Melizah portrait
Melizah Memena

Grantmaking Programme Assistant

A Malagasy national living in Benin, Melizah is a pan-African human rights activist in various parts of Africa. Proud to be part of the network of Young Francophones for the Promotion of the French language, she is a very active contact in the Francophone feminist movements, especially in West Africa and Madagascar. 

Melizah has a Master’s degree in marketing with a specialisation in Communication and the use of social media. After her studies, she deepened her knowledge in community development and has more than 7 years of experience in several international organisations. Melizah has been in the line of young women’s rights advocates and UNFPA activists in her home country Madagascar. She has advocated for young people from Madagascar in South Africa and Namibia. She then helped set up the communication for the Jeux de la Francophonie 2017 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. This experience at the heart of culture and diversity was a springboard for her career at the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie in France. She then contributed to the improvement and protection of children’s rights and women’s empowerment in the Republic of Benin within SOS Children’s Villages Benin.  Melizah is currently involved in promoting womn’s rights in Africa with UAF-Africa, and wants to make a difference.

In her spare time, Melizah likes to travel. Her discoveries give her ideas for vlogs and blogs that she shares from time to time with her friends and family. Melizah is also passionate about research and data, hence she spends much of her free time writing about the research she has done. She also has a website where she shares her research on sustainable development and women’s lives.

Mukuku Francoise
Francoise Mukuku​

Board Member (DRC)

Francoise Mukuku is a human rights activist and an independent consultant on women and sexual minorities’ issues. She has 20 years of activism. She is currently the Executive Director of Amazone Consultancy- a gender justice and communications firm based in Kinshasa, in Democratic Republic of Congo (RDC). Francoise works mainly in the Great Lakes Region (Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania) as well as francophone Africa (Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Gabon, Republic of Congo, Benin, Togo and Senegal) where she has specialized in research and communications. In her consultancy work, Francoise has worked with organisations such as; Akina Mama wa Africa , APC, UHAI, UNECA and the University of Sussex, UK. Francoise is an engaged activist who founded SJS, a DRCongo inclusive young feminist group in 2001. She regularly organises trainings in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Agency and Voice, and is passionate particularly on the intersections that exist between development, human rights and social justice. Prior to being an independent consultant, she worked for renowned organisations such as Oxfam GB, MONUC/MONUSCO (UN Peacekeeping Mission in DRCONGO) and International Music Council (IMC). Francoise has good language skills; she speaks Lingala, Kiluba, Kibembe, Kiswahili, French, English and working knowledge of Spanish. She holds a BA in public law from the Université Protestante au Congo (2005) and a MA from Mercure International (2012). Francoise is a storyteller who enjoys traveling, reading books and the performing arts.