Posted on: April 16, 2020 Posted by: Onyinyechi Okechukwu Comments: 0

The Double Jeopardy of Inequality and COVID-19 Lockdown.

UAF-Africa is working with feminist and women’s rights organisations across Africa to provide an inclusive response to the COVID-19 pandemic and also working with feminist psychiatrists to look into the mental health impact of the pandemic on African women. In this article, African feminists who were at the forefront of Ebola response shares thought on the danger inequality poses to African women in COVID-19 response in Liberia. We are at the turning point in the Liberian Government’s response to COVID-19 outbreak. The number of cases in Liberia has increased significantly over the last few days. There are 59 cases reported as of April 13, 2020 and climbing. Since the announcement of the first case on March 16, 2020, there has been a steady spread across communities. Majority of the cases of COVID-19 reported are community transmissions, meaning they are not due to foreign travel. Some include health workers who attended to their patients, family members who interacted with an infected relative, and domestic worker attending to their responsibilities. Liberia is not alone in the spread as this is a similar trend in the region and globally. However, Liberia bares a scar that reminds us that when outbreaks and crises do not slow down before they reach communities, the impact can be devastating. Liberians lived this reality most recently with the 2014 Ebola virus disease epidemic that hit the region and took over 4,000 lives. Stringent measures were announced on April 9, 2020 to help curb the spread including the declaration of a state of emergency and a lockdown (stay home mandate) for four counties, Montserrado, Margibi, Nimba and Grand Kru. However, those measures themselves are ineffective if the Government of Liberia does not apply an intersectional feminist analysis, which factors in socio-economic status, class, gender and geographic location, to its COVID-19 response. This approach is mandatory to center people at the risk of the outbreak and the very restrictions meant to protect them. The new government came into power on a call for change that sought to shift development’s narrative towards the recognition of the thousands of Liberians experiencing poverty across rural and urban communities. A new national development plan, Pro–Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development, launched in 2018, outlined the government’s plan “build a stable, resilient, and inclusive nation and lift an additional one million Liberians out of absolute poverty”.  Over half of the 4.8 million people living in Liberia are experiencing poverty and intersecting forms of inequalities. Close to one third of Liberia’s population live in and around Monrovia, once again the epicenter of the virus outbreak. Many of  them live in low-income communities where access to basic services are limited or non-existent – education, water and sanitation, energy, transportation, housing, and emergency preparedness (fire, flooding, etc.). These public services have decades long history of government’s neglect to invest in it and or were severely damaged during the civil war. Deep-rooted socio-economic and political hierarchies have normalized unequal power relations between different groups of people based on class, sex, education, geographic locations and other factors and limited realization of basic human rights. These power relations were instrumental in the cyclical shifts for power and access, from 1980s to the civil war, and the recent 2017 elections. With COVID-19, Liberians face another unprecedented crisis. The lockdown has taken effect with a clear trajectory that puts many families deeper into the very socio-economic disparities they struggle with daily. Liberians must now contend with staying in homes where access to food is scarce or braving the lockdown to survive. Their choices could not be much more despairing. For many, the daily hustle brings in the money for the end of day meal, and sometimes the only meal for the day. For some, self-isolation is impossible when you share a home with more than 10 persons and frequent and close contact with the elderly. For others, clean water remains scarce for cooking and drinking, let alone washing hands, one of the key prevention measures for COVID-19.  Many people also cannot afford the alternative – hand sanitizers. Access to public electricity is unpredictable. Homes and families have been lost to fire from the use of personal generators or and poor connection to public electricity lines. For others, limited access to electricity means you cannot store food beyond a day. Sanitation – access to latrine facilities also lacking. This is the reality of many Liberians. The lockdown will only exacerbate their conditions of poverty. The lockdown mandates people to stay home and limit movement to an hour within their communities. Yet, for women and girls, a home is not always safe and secure. In addition to the increased burden of caregiving, it will become a space where sexual and other forms of gender-based violence is further normalized.  It is where the family friend lurks to plan his sexual assault. It is where the father beats on the mother for not cooking food on time. It is where fiancés are murdered; partners are stabbed over allegations of affairs; and children have been abused and killed. Traditionally, long distance between communities and police stations, poor logistics for police officers, and high transportation costs hinder survivors from reporting cases of abuse, harassment and domestic violence. Now under a lockdown, measures for movement are not clear if access to justice services are essential and if and how survivors of SGBV can report cases or access facilities within the time limits (i.e. one hour), including during curfew (after 3 PM). This also increases women and girls’ exposure to sexual violence and exploitation when law enforcers, under the enhanced power dynamics, violate women’s rights in communities. Furthermore, for women on contraceptives, a lockdown could mean making critical decisions related to their sexual and reproductive rights and health. For women and other persons living with HIV, the lockdown could mean lack of access to their medications or support groups and or being forced share or ration their medication with their partners. Persons with disabilities already constrained by limited state services further marginalized (for examples, one-hour limitation for movement and access to transportation) during the lockdown. For queer communities, their survival, has, in most cases, been dependent on their invisibility and anonymity; and even in these instances where they are subjected to violence and hate. This situation is especially difficult within the context of religious fundamentalists defining the origin of the pandemic and promoting homophobic violence and myths. Law enforcement officers have been deployed across communities to enforce the lockdown measures. A militarized enforcement focused response, however, fails to center people.  As with Ebola, a militarized response aims to protect assets, property, “development”, “stability” and stop “people” from spreading the virus. Liberians’ relationship and history with law enforcement and the disproportionate use of force against citizens should caution the Government to assume people can simply be terrified into adherence. The Government must recognize people’s survival may supersede their obedience to regulations and mandates to stay home. There are reports of demolition of marketplaces under the directive of the Monrovia City Corporation; and acts of violence on citizens’ to enforce a curfew. These actions are not only counterintuitive to a Pro-Poor Agenda but also adversely impact the national response to COVID-19, especially in a time when Liberians will need to find reassurance, trust and not fear repercussions for their survival. These actions further undermine self-reporting and result in loss of income for people already struggling to feed themselves.  Government’s response to COVID-19 must therefore be feminist in centering people to prevent the spread and delivered in real time to mitigate harm and save people’s lives. This must include the analysis of varying and multiple factors that intersect and expose people to poverty in the first place and of unequal power dynamics reinforced during the lockdown. We therefore call on the Liberian Government to undertake the following actions to uphold its commitment to its own Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development in a feminist way:
  1. Communications on Covid19 must be transparent and risk mitigating. Ensure that communications to the public is strategic, demystified, aligned to all literacy levels and provided in real time. The use of existing resources and platforms within local media (community radio stations), the state media entity and social media platforms is critical to coverage to all audiences. Women and other community leaders can translate the government’s life-saving advice into local languages to equip hard to reach communities with the information needed to protect themselves and stop the spread of the epidemic.
  2. Delivery of Home Survival Packages to High-need Communities. The need to align social protection strategies to the response cannot be overestimated. This action must be driven by key government institutions, including the Ministries of Labour, Gender, Agriculture & Finance and Development Planning. Many low-income communities are going to struggle to heed to lockdown because of hunger. Repurpose funding from capital expenditures and divert travel budgets to the provision of food and cash transfer programs. Many of the countries in the region have started this to incentivize communities to stay in by providing care cushions of  rice, oil, canned goods, hand sanitizers (many communities are without water), hand soaps, etc.  This action is lifesaving and promotes the public health prevention measures the government is demanding of Liberians.
  3. An Inclusive Economic Relief Package. This starts with timely payment of civil servants’ salaries; cancelling tax or tariffs on key items needed for response (i.e. masks, gloves, hand sanitizers); and preventing price hikes on food, pharmaceuticals and infection/prevention materials. It also includes engaging mobile service providers to reactivate promotions such as three-days free call; working with private sector on issues of rent freeze; and working with banks and credit facilities for economic recovery for small-medium enterprises. An engagement with the Liberian Business Association is long overdue in this light.
  4. Community Engagement is mandatory. Strengthen relationship with community leaders so that they can own their community prevention actions and work along with County authorities to support community led actions for self-isolation and quarantines. Communities are not silent recipients of prevention. Make them active contributors to plans.
  5. Recognition of Women Leadership must transcend superficial positioning seen over the last two years. Bring in more women and those working with communities that are highly vulnerable to the outbreak and measures, including persons living with disabilities and HIV/AIDs. This is at both county and national level. This means working with women groups that have the evidence and relationships with communities. There are many women organizations working in their communities and various socio-economic issues. Bring them to the tables. Listen to them, learn from them and support their outreach to their respective constituents.
  6. Decriminalization of Poverty. This means clearly stopping any demolition exercise on people’s homes and livelihoods. In addition, ensure protocols are in place for protecting citizens against human rights abuses and clear reporting channels in place for accountability and redress.
  7. Ensure all law enforcement personnel have the requisite training in place to minimize use of force as their default response. This includes working with UN for basic human rights trainings and integration of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) support to them, anti-sexual exploitation and abuse. It is critical that law enforcement do not become the monster’s women and girls, and marginalized groups already fear in homes and communities. This action, in addition to other priorities, means that the Government of Liberia must embed SGBV prevention services into community engagement to support and uphold the safety and security of women in their homes. Therefore, bringing women organizations to the table is important but also to ensure when women and girls experience violations, they can safety access services and psychosocial support.
Over the next 14 days, many Liberians will be depending on their government to honor its commitment to inclusive development and lifting them out of poverty. Therefore, now more than ever before, Government’s Pro-Poor agenda needs to apply a feminist analysis to center people in its response to ending COVID-19 in Liberia. This ensures the ongoing lockdown does not exacerbate inequalities and conditions of poverty. Liberia’s overall approach must center the needs of people most vulnerable to the virus and lockdown measures and be gender responsive to effectively stop the spread of coronavirus outbreak and prevent hunger, criminalization, abuse, Authors: Caroline Bowah, Feminist, Co-Founder, Liberia Feminist Forum Korto Reeves, Feminist, Co-Founder, Liberia Feminist Forum Lakshmi N. Moore, Feminist, Liberia Feminist Forum Image: Count Me In! Consortium
Atieno Odhiambo

Member (Kenya)

Atieno Odhiambo is a lawyer whose work focuses on human rights, democracy and governance. She is currently the Technical Lead – Africa for the Center for Reproductive Rights, a global legal advocacy organization

dedicated to advancing reproductive rights. She is the past Chief of Party (Kenya) for Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG) a global pro bono law firm that 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.

Rosettee Nanyanjo

Learning, Monitoring & Evaluation Associate

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.

Njoki Njoroge Njehu

Board Secretary (Kenya)

Njoki is the Director of Solidarity Africa Network in Action and the Daughters of Mumbi Resource Center in Kenya. Prior to this, Njoki was the Executive Director of the 50 Years is Enough Network in… Washington DC. Njoki is a Kenyan national who worked with women’s groups and the Greenbelt Movement in Kenya for over a decade. She serves on the board of the Quixote Center and Jobs with Justice. She also serves on the coordinating committee of the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, which organized and facilitated the participation of U.S. community-based, people of colour, youth, and grassroots organizations in the World Social Forums in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2003 and Mumbai, India in 2004. She is a founding member of the International Coordinating Council of the World Social Forum and the Africa Social Forum.

Korto Reeves Williams

Board Chairlady (Liberia)

Korto is the Country Director of ActionAid (AA) in Liberia.She has vast development experience working on post-conflict reconstruction and development issues in Liberia.She has had numerous short term experience in programme development and assessments in Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Burundi, Haiti, Sierra Leone and the Middle East (Jordan and Palestine).Before joining ActionAid, she worked with a variety of development institutions, including the US Agency for International Development, the UN Development Programme and the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help. She is a strategic civil society leader in Liberia and works on women organising on the issues of women’s rights, feminism, aid effectiveness and youth development. Her academic research on feminism in Liberia: Beyond Mass Action: A Study of Collective Organising among Liberian Women Using Feminist Movement Perspectives has provided the opportunity to shift power dynamics and coalition building within the women movement and with key populations in Liberia. In 2010, Korto served as a contributor and guest editor (Liberia Sea Breeze Online Magazine), placing a special focus on women’s rights. She also served as a regular contributor to ActionAid International’s magazine; Common Cause, and a book; Voice, Power and Soul: A Portrait of African Feminists. Korto holds a Master’s degree in Sustainable Development from the School of International Training (now the SIT Graduate Institute) in Vermont, USA; and has a certificate on Mobilizing Your Non-Profit Board (Harvard University ExEd training, 2014).

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Ndanatsei Bofu-Tawamba

Ex-Official Member (Zimbabwe)

Ndanatsei Bofu-Tawamba, an African citizen and Zimbabwean national, is the CEO & Executive Director at Urgent Action Fund-Africa (UAF-Africa) in Kenya. UAF-Africa is a feminist and pan-African rapid response grant making organisation that invests in African women’s power to change the status quo. Ndana is a seasoned feminist and women’s rights advocate, a social entrepreneur with philanthropic expertise spanning 20 years. Prior to leading at UAF-Africa, Ndana was in charge of the UN Women Office in Zimbabwe where she led in the execution of the multi-million-dollar funded EC, DFID & DANIDA Gender Support Programme. Ndana has leveraged over USD100 million directed towards strengthening African women’s movements and achieving women and girls’ rights. She has lectured at the Women’s University in Africa, been invited as guest lecturer and speaker at several high-level platforms across Africa, Europe, South and North America. She is a renowned speaker and published writer on topics of African women’s leadership in conflict transformation, Regenerative African & feminist philanthropy, and the nexus between Ebola, HIV&AIDS, women and culture. In the global human rights community, Ndana is a staunch figure and voice for enhanced women’s rights investments Ndana is an Executive Education alumnus of INSEAD Business Schools in 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, obtained her Bachelor of Science Honors Degree in Social Psychology from the University of Zimbabwe and holds a Diploma in Personnel Management. Ndana serves on the Board of the African Philanthropy Network. She represents African Women’s Funds on the Governance Board of the International Network of Women’s Funds (Prospera), in Mexico. Her leadership at UAF-Africa, the UN, academia, international boards, 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 women and girl’s realities throughout the world. Twitter: @NdanaTawamba & @UAFAfrica.

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.

Shinaz Rehema Ali

Feminist Republik Culture Curator

Prior to joining UAF-Africa, Shinaz worked as a social worker, theatre trainer and a project officer within different projects of AMREF’s Children In Need Programme. She has extensive experience and expertise in women’s rights, development and implementation of legal policies

and community oriented capacity development on psychosocial issues. She is passionate about women’s human rights and keen on the intersectionalities between women’s rights and religion with emphasis on fundamentalisms, women and natural resources governance, policy reforms and has specific interest on Young Women and Girls in Africa.Shinaz’s rare skills set in legal, social work and the arts has been greatly valued at UAF-Africa’s grant making portfolio where intersectional strategies in the provision of grants is of huge priority. Her analytical, inquisitive and curious nature has afforded her the opportunity to conduct instructive grant making due diligence thereby ensuring provision of sound and innovative grants that have gone on to change women’s realities on the ground.

She holds an LLB from the University of Nairobi School of Law and Diplomas in Project Management and Social Work and Development. She is currently completing her studies in French and finalizing her Master of Arts Degree in International Relations and Political Science from the University of Nairobi. She enjoys fashion, art, reading, sewing, cooking and working out during her spare time.

Susan Asio

Grantmaking Programme Officer – Anglophone

Susan is a Ugandan National, with over 10 years’ experience championing gender equality and women’s rights. She is currently pursuing a Master’s of Science Degree in Development Management at the Open University-United Kingdom, she holds a post-graduate diploma in gender equality studies from University of Iceland, a bachelors’ degree in social work and social administration from Uganda Christian University, and a certificate in gender statistics from statistics Sweden.

Prior to joining Urgent Action Fund-Africa (UAF-A), Susan served as Uganda’s National Mentor/Gender Advisor at the Swedish International Center for Local Democracy (ICLD), where she coordinated projects on Gender Mainstreaming Local Democracy in Municipal Council structures. As Program Manager at the National Association of Women’s Organizations in Uganda (NAWOU), Susan drafted a gender statistics publication for Uganda, to be used as a national tool for evidence-based advocacy, in addition to a gender barometer for advocacy to East Africa’s heads of state. Her program management competence has also been acknowledged, earning her the role of Uganda’s Ambassador to UN Women Singapore for her work empowering rural women with economic skills for self-sustenance. Susan has also worked as Head of Department – Gender and Economic Policy at Action for Development (ACFODE), she also served as Program Officer with Isis-Women’s International Cross-Cultural Exchange (Isis-WICCE). While at Isis-WICCE, Susancoordinated the women’s task force which advocated for women’s specific needs to take priority in the National Peace Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP) for war affected Northern Uganda.

Through consolidated advocacy for gender responsive policies, research and documentation, capacity building, coalition building, mobilization and sensitization, Susan has worked to empower women and influence legislation and policy for gender equality in Uganda and across the globe. Susan enjoys jogging, travelling and singing.

Chiedza Muchena

Executive Assistant

Chiedza Muchena 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.

Chiedza 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 organised. 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, cultural and religious backgrounds has helped her appreciate the power of diversity.

She is passionate about her own 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 travelling.

She holds 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) and a Certificate in Management Development Skills for Executive and Personal Assistants (Zimbabwe Institute of Management).

Edmond Mugisha

Grantmaking Programmes Associate – Francophone

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 Associate

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.

Vongai Tinarwo

Research Attachee

Vongai is a journalist by profession, she holds a B.Sc Honours Degree in Media and Society Studies. Prior to joining UAF- Africa, she worked with Chengeto Zimbabwe Trust, a media-based organisation, as a Programmes Officer. In her role as Programmes Officer she explored, investigated and unpacked issues around rape, child sexual exploitation, child labour, gender-based violence, gender inequality and child marriages.

She also worked at Musasa project as Assistant Programmes Officer, a post she held for more than three years. Among other duties, she ran a programme on promoting a culture of active citizen engagement in governance and development processes using ICT and other more conventional modes of communication.

This programme gave voice to communities, and in particular young women in Zimbabwe using the communication for development approach. Vongai is compassionate and enthusiastic about women’s advancement, she firmly believes in a society where women and girls are not only seen but are heard.

She also believes that when women and girls are empowered, they can realise that they have power within themselves to bring change in their lives and
communities they live in. Realising that girls and women in Africa always find themselves on the periphery of discussions and development processes,
she is very ardent about using media to develop communities.

Vongai is currently working towards a Master’s Degree in Gender and Development studies with National University of Science & Technology, Zimbabwe.

Onyinyechi Okechukwu

Communications & Media Coordinator

Onyinyechi Okechukwu is a Nigerian national, a communication for development specialist with over 15 years’ experience of developing and implementing programmes that promote human rights in Africa with a strong interest in women’s rights.

She has worked in several international development and feminist organisations including Alliances for Africa, Media for Development Nigeria, WaterAid and ActionAid leading communications, advocacy and campaigns initiatives across Africa and Europe. She has a strong media relations experience having worked as a radio and television producer promoting women’s rights and advocating for women equal opportunity for women in governance and the economy. She has led several media networks across West Africa advocating for public policies that advances women’s rights in Nigeria’s Delta region and other parts of the sub-region.

Onyinyechi is using her work to create innovative digital and traditional media activities that influence policies, attitudes and public behaviour towards advancing women’s rights across the world.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Lagos State University, a Masters’ degree in Humanitarian and Refugee Studies from University of Lagos as well as certificate in Communications in Emergency

Masa Amir

Research & Protection Coordinator

Masa is an Egyptian national. Masa has a passion for women’s human rights and is particularly interested in women’s economic rights, and strengthening the protection mechanisms and effective responses to women human rights defenders (WHRDs) at risk,

with special focus on WHRDs in North Africa. Prior to joining UAF-Africa, Masa worked with Nazra for Feminist Studies, as a researcher for the Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) Programme. Masa has experience in the documentation of violations faced by women human rights defenders and conducting advocacy at the Human Rights Council and African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Masa holds a Master’s degree in International Human Rights Law from the American University in Cairo (AUC), Arab Republic of Egypt, the focus of her thesis being on the manner in which violations of the right to social security contribute to poverty among women in Egypt; and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, with a minor in philosophy, from the American University of Sharjah (AUS), United Arab Emirates. In her spare time, Masa enjoys diving, baking, and sometimes Zumba dancing!

Oumy Ndour

Communications & Media Engagement Associate

Oumy is from Senegal. She’s a multi-graduate from the University Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar. At an early age, sensitive to the issue of children’s rights, she decided to work for her graduation thesis validating her degree in journalism, on the issue of child mechanics in Dakar with a film entitled “Children’s sweat”. Prior to joining Urgent Action Fund-Africa (UAF-A), she was the Head of The Culture Desk of Senegalese National TV.

After graduating in Senegal, she moved to Montreal, Canada, where she went back to advance her studies while working at Vues d’Afrique, the African and Creole film festival. In 2007, she directed her first documentary “Njakhass” (Patchwork), which will be followed by several others for television. After her return to Senegal, she joined RTS, the Senegalese National Television where, in addition to reporting, she presented the mid-day and evening news. Then she created and anchored the film section of the morning program «Kenkelibaa».

Oumy Ndour has covered for RTS many cultural events in the world. Over the last ten years, she has coordinated and hosted on the national channel, all the major cultural events that took place in Senegal, which gave her the opportunity to interview world celebrities such as Germaine Jackson, Charles Aznavour, Randy Weston, Akon, Angelique Kidjo, Danny Glover, former french President François Hollande, Youssou Ndour, etc. With her training in documentation, journalism, video technology, experiences in documentary production and press relations, she masters the entire information production chain, from newsgathering to broadcasting, not to mention documentary research, popularization, and archiving. She directed, coordinated and hosted many productions in her private capacity for other organizations. She has been a jury member of several international film festivals and competitions. She often anchors prestigious events in Senegal and elsewhere in the world. Oumy Ndour is also an activist for children and women’s rights. In 2016, she co-founded with a friend “Ladies Club Senegal”, a Facebook platform that brings together nearly 60,000 women, monitoring, promoting women’s rights and freedoms, women’s leadership and entrepreneurship. Her commitment to this segment of the population has gone stronger. She is one of the founding members of the collective “Dafadoy” fighting violence against women and girls which launched in 2019 the mobilization for the criminalisation of rape in Senegal. Along with other activists, she’s at the forefront of all struggles for women’s rights in Senegal. Alongside the World Food Programme, she has made a commitment as a volunteer to provide quality food for all children in Senegal through the Group of Friends of School Food. She is passionate about travel, cinema, reading and fashion. 

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

Nancy Chitiza

Head, 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 8 years, where she worked with the UN Mission in Liberia,

UNMIL, and 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. Nancy loves the field of Human Resources Administration and Management; she has worked in the field for over 14 years and is very excited about the endless possibilities at UAF-Africa. Nancy works from Harare, Zimbabwe.

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.

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.

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.

Roseline KAMDEM
Roseline Kamdem

Grantmaking Programme Officer – Francophone

Roseline has over 13 years of experience working on various projects to support women and girls empowerment at the grassroots level. She is passionate about the empowerment of women and the education of children. She worked in Cameroon as Finance Manager for a local NGO for 6 years and for a Swiss NGO for 10 years as Programmes & Finance Manager.

She volunteered as Advisor for the Young Feminist Fund (FRIDA) for 4 years and worked as a Transformation Support Consultant for the same organization.
She cofounded a youth female led organization working to improve girls and women’s rights in rural remote areas of Cameroon. She designed and implemented educational,
income generating, micro credit and environmental activities for women in Cameroon.

During her stay with FRIDA, she had the opportunity to work with various young feminist groups grantee partners for FRIDA in Sub Saharan Africa, assisting them in
capacity development, communication and conducting outreach. She facilitated FRIDA’s annual participatory grant making processes by screening applications,
reviewing final results, and supporting due diligence.

Roseline is fluent in French and English. She holds a master’s degree in commerce and Distribution from the Catholic University of Central Africa in Cameroon.

Roseline is very excited to be part of the team at UAF – Africa. She looks forward to engaging with women’s rights activists and organisations, especially those
from Francophone Africa with whom she hopes to learn and collaborate to advance the rights of women.

Tariro Tandi
Tariro Tandi

Head, Partnerships & Development

Prior to joining UAF-Africa, Tariro lectured in Gender, HIV&AIDS and the Law at Great Zimbabwe University. She worked at Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA) as the Transformative Justice Manager as well as at Plan International and Musasa Project

in various coordination and advisory capacities. Her core expertise is in the areas of gender based violence, human rights and the law as it impacts on women. Tariro is a seasoned gender legal researcher and analyst who has spearheaded several cutting edge women-centred partnership initiatives in Zimbabwe and within Africa.

Tariro holds a Master’s degree in Women’s Law (MSWL) attained from Southern and East African Regional Centre for Women’s Law (University of Zimbabwe), a Bachelor of Laws Honours Degree (LLBS) from the University of Zimbabwe and an Executive Certificate in Community Development and Humanitarian Project Management.She recently participated in the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) in the US.

In 2015 she was nominated for the Female Youth Human Rights Defender Zimbabwe Award.Tariro enjoys mentoring young women leaders. She is an avid legal and social justice journals reader and a keen blogger who writes about socio-political, legal and gender justice issues. Tariro is a fitness-cum-wellness enthusiast; a runner who has actively participated in the 2 Oceans (56 Km) Marathon in South Africa.

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.

Vanessa Luendo Bwale

Grantmaking & Programme Attaché

Vanessa Luendo Bwale is a Congolese national from DRC and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications graduate from Daystar University Kenya. In Vanessa has worked with NewMark Group as PR account manager.

She is currently undertaking her Masters Degree in Diplomacy, Development and International Security and is well versed in issues pertaining to women’s rights and development.

Through the different countries she’s lived and worked in, Vanessa developed over the years unparalleled abilities in contextual and critical analysis that will support UAF Africa in advancing women’s human rights across Africa.

She previously taught English in India through AIESEC and is fluent in French, English, Kiswahili and is currently learning Spanish. She acquired interpretation and translation skills through her work with Oxfam GB and African Voices. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, cooking, travelling and reading motivational books.

Zanele Mbugua

Feminist Republik Champion

Zanele is a feminist  who is passionate about women’s rights advocacy,with a focus on lgbtiqa+ rights and sexual reproductive health rights. She holds a BA 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.

Zanele is a Kenyan national who has lived and completed  her schooling in South Africa before re-locating back to Kenya in 2018. She is excited about being part of the UAF-Africa team in contributing towards women’s empowerment and advocacy.

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

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

Partnerships & Development Associate

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 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.

Christine Ruguaru

Grantmaking Programme Attaché

Christine Ruguaru is a Kenyan National and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Sociology graduate from Egerton University Kenya. Christine has worked with Hand in Hand Eastern Africa as a Business Relationship Office which focused on social mobilization and training on entrepreneurship for the rural women groups and at NCBA bank PLC Kenya as a customer experience officer.

She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Public Policy and Administration and is passionate about advocacy on women human rights. She has continued interest in seeing continuous improvement and advocacy on women. In her spare time Christine enjoys watching movies, hiking and reading.

Carol Werunga

Grantmaking Programmes Coordinator

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 Memena

Grantmaking Programme Assistant

Melizah holds a Master’s Degree in Marketing with a specialization in Communication. After her studies in Communication, she deepened her knowledge in community development and has more than 6 years of experience in several

international organizations. Melizah has been on the line of young girls’ rights advocates and activists at UNFPA in Madagascar, her home country. She has advocated for youth from Madagascar to South Africa. She then contributed to the improvement and protection of children’s rights in Benin Republic.  Melizah is currently involved in advancing women’s rights in Africa with UAF-Africa, and is keen to make a difference.

Francoise Mukuku​

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.