The Board Meeting in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

IAW Board Meeting, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. 8-16 November 2016

The meeting in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe was from every point of view a great success. If present you would have experienced the beauty of this country and the warmth and generosity of its people.

The hosting organization, Women’s Comfort Corner, did its very best to have us stay in a very nice hotel from where we could see each morning and afternoon elephants, rhinoceros, giraffes and other animals parading almost in front of our hotel in order to go to a small lake fifty meters away from our hotel to drink water. The monkeys were everywhere. Some carried their small babies to our verandas. Others visited our meeting room.

The food and the service at the hotel were of a high standard. The meeting room was a spacious one and we could project whatever we needed on the screen.

The Board Meeting was successful because we had an in-depth exchange of views on many issues, and we took a number of important decisions that will be forwarded to the executive for adoption as in the Board Meeting we did not have a quorum.

We first of all adopted the idea of having a database on the basis of the proposal of Louise Demeure. The database will be administered by Brigitte Van West. She will have the central coordination and supervision of the database. She is a professional secretary and has already the experience in managing a database for a big sports club. The Agreement will begin on 1st January 2017 and after one year and a half there will be evaluation (31 December 2018) with the purpose of continuation.

We also decided to create three working groups. One group will look into the internal organization of the IAW. It will update the guidelines for different office holders and meetings in particular the Congress if needed. We will also have to look on how our different office holders are doing their job and if there are problems what should be done. We must also look at how our regions are working and if there are problems what should be done. The working group should study the matter and make recommendations. Another working group should elaborate on a strategy of the IAW for the future. What themes we should focus on and in what way we should work with these issues. Finally we decided that the IAW has to become more visible. So we decided to create a working group that will elaborate on initiatives at the international level and will find other feminist NGO’s having the same ideas and interests with us that we could partner with.

Another issue of great importance to the IAW is the recruitment of young feminists. We have been gradually recruiting a number of young, very qualified women who would be interested to work with us. We have decided to create a space for them to build solidarity and empower young feminist activists, to enable the IAW to know more about their interests and needs and bring these more into the center of IAW future strategy and action. Signe will contribute into this endeavor by creating a group on  Facebook for young members of the IAW.

We have also decided to look into our past, which is a brilliant one. We have decided to have an archives officer, preferably a historian, who would try to find feminist historians interested in writing about some aspects of the history of the IAW.

We decided that we will continue with the new approach of our journal focusing each time on a theme and its different aspects but we will put more emphasis on the layout to make it more attractive to the readers. Our new approach has been very successful with the social media. So our journal has a very positive impact on our visibility.

We decided that we will continue with the booklet with the reports every year as it gives a lot of visibility to the IAW.

We now have a new Secretary General up to the next Congress. Regina Smit from the Netherlands who is very much interested in working for our organization. She has a lot of knowledge concerning women’s and feminist organizations.

The Conference on Violence Against Women and Girls was also very interesting with keynote speaker Jessie F. Majone, member of Parliament from the opposition, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, African Union Ambassador for Ending Child Marriage, Elisabeth Markham, Executive Director of Ntegwe for Community Development. Elisabeth is working with her self-help group approach with women in rural areas in Zimbabwe to give them the possibility to change not only their lives but those of their children and their families. There were also men speakers : Mr Bafana Khumalo, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Sonke and Mr Douglas Musirongofa, Director with United Children of Africa (UNICA). They spoke about ways to change the construction of masculine identities of men and young boys in order to fight violence against women.

The next day of the Conference, we visited a village in a rural area in Victoria Falls where Elisabeth has been working with her self-help group approach. The women were waiting for us and were very happy to meet us. We listened to their stories of how for a long time they felt marginalized in their communities due to poverty, were abused and ignored but now they have gained confidence in themselves due to small business they exercise which gives them the means to support themselves, their families and send their children to school. They have also gained influence and appreciation in their communities. The discussion with these women was a very inspiring one.

For those who did not make it to Victoria Falls, I have to say that they have lost a great opportunity to fall in love with Africa and its people, in particular Zimbabwe. But there is always a next time, and I hope there will be many next times for us in Africa.