NOTICE | Irene Charnley: Women’s Empowerment Organizations Benefit Everyone

A single woman cannot change every socio-economic, political or environmental issue we face, but as a collective and as a larger constituency, we can make a difference, writes Irene Charnley.

Why do we need women’s empowerment organizations? Why do women need to be empowered? How does empowering women benefit everyone in society? Well, what about men?

The truth is, now more than ever, women’s empowerment organizations are needed to play different roles in society, like fighting for gender equality, women’s financial inclusion, and fighting gender-based violence. and femicide.

Just over twenty years ago, former First Lady Zanele Mbeki and a group of women founded the local chapter of the International Women’s Forum (IWF), a global organization of more than 7,500 prominent women with significant achievements and diverse in 36 countries. and 6 continents.

The IWF South Africa (IWFSA), with members drawn from business, government, science, arts and many other fields, is a platform for women leaders to be inspired and invigorated. each other on critical issues that have a positive impact on a changing world. He is inspired to be the voice of women leaders who bring about change and to be a catalyst for ethical leadership.

READ | OPINION: Irene Charnley – The importance of uplifting, nurturing and empowering women

This is done through collaborative initiatives locally and globally by offering specific leadership development programs to educate, empower, mentor and coach the next generation of female leaders in South Africa.

We elevate as we elevate, we cultivate leaders. We inspire, uplift and enable the next generation to continue the work of positively transforming the world. They are the future leaders, and the responsibility to equip and empower them is more urgent than ever.

Having worked tirelessly to address the socio-economic, political and environmental issues affecting women in our country by contributing in many ways to initiatives that address the systemic oppression that perpetuates an environment where safety, financial security and women’s rights are undermined, we celebrate more than 20 years aware of the path traveled by those who preceded us and the path to be traveled.

The truth is, one woman cannot change every socio-economic, political or environmental issue we face, but as a collective and as a larger constituency, we can make a difference. Our clarion call is for every woman to step out of the sidelines, into the game, and help our sisterhood and each other overcome social inequality.


That’s why last year, IWFSA spearheaded the launch of the Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Response Fund (GBVF) 1, a collaborative financial initiative of the private sector, philanthropists and various stakeholders to address gender-based violence and femicide in the country.

The GBVF fund honors and recognizes the women and girls whose lives and voices mattered but who have been silenced by the GBVF pandemic, and our failure to dedicate sufficient resources to end it. It is a response to the plight of women and children in towns and cities across the 44 districts of our country, who live in fear and die every day due to the GBV pandemic.

The GBV Response Fund 1, managed by an independent Board of Directors, is structured with the highest governance and due diligence protocols based on the principles of fairness, integrity, empowerment, conscience social and measurable impact and is a vehicle through which the private sector can make financial and non-financial contributions.

There are hundreds of women’s organizations in South Africa. They play important and different roles and responsibilities. For example, People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA). POWA, established in 1979, was the first organization in South Africa to establish a shelter for abused women in 1981, undertakes campaigns, projects and research related to violence against women in Africa.

Holding Governments Accountable

As the IWFSA celebrates its 20th anniversary, there is no doubt that women’s empowerment organizations play a crucial role in holding governments accountable for the full implementation and upholding of international norms and standards on equality. gender and women’s empowerment.

We realized that women’s empowerment would never be achieved if we did not muster enough courage to launch initiatives such as the GBV Response Fund 1 ourselves.

We have a responsibility to move forward with projects that can transform the lives of girls and women to help positively transform our society.

Our country relies on the symbiotic relationship with the women’s movement, and it manifests from the grassroots, from working with local grassroots associations to including civil society in intergovernmental forums and negotiations.

Time and time again and throughout history, such as when Charlotte Maxeke co-founded the Bantu Women’s League in 1918 and became its first president, and today, when women see the needs of their communities, they organize to meet these needs and they build their societies in the process.

Just think of the fight to end domestic violence and all forms of violence against women, women have been front and center.

READ | OPINION: Let’s mobilize to empower women as agents of change

The global women’s movement is important. This is accompanied by public recognition, laws, policies, international conventions and finally the integration of GBVF into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 5 to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” and the new 2030 Agenda, which aims to “bring peace and prosperity to all by 2030.’

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development commits governments for “work to dramatically increase investments to close the gender gap, strengthen support for gender equality institutions at all levels, and systematically integrate gender perspectives into the implementation of the Diary.”

There is also Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality calling on governments to “make national commitments to address the challenges that prevent women and girls from reaching their full potential”.

It is a pity that no victory was ever given to women, each one was won with blood, sweat and tears.

A benefit for all

It is truly sad that we are often seen as passive victims and recipients, and excluded from the forums where our lives are decided.

Women’s organizations testify that it is so crucial to take into account our needs and work with us to rebuild societies.

The truth is that women’s empowerment organizations benefit us all. For example, nowadays in poor areas, especially remote areas, education for boys is prioritized over girls, which means that many young girls grow up without the opportunity to learn. Teenage pregnancy leads to even more dropouts.

Indeed, we all know that education is the key to breaking the chains of generational poverty for young girls around the world. We know that when a girl is educated, her whole family grows up prosperous.

We know that when girls have access to educational opportunities, they are lifted out of poverty and a more sustainable life becomes more accessible.

The very principle of women’s empowerment organizations is to remind our society that women deserve to be listened to just as much as men. A sustainable future for this Rainbow Nation, this continent and this planet depends on the full participation of women, the rallying of women for action, the myriad women’s organizations that form the very fabric of communities and companies.

– Irene Charnley is President of the International Women’s Forum of South Africa. Founded 20 years ago, IWFSA is an international organization of 7,500 accomplished women in 33 countries on six continents.

To receive Opinions Weekly, subscribe to the newsletter here.

* Want to answer the columnist? Send your letter or article to [email protected] with your name and city or province. You can also send a profile photo. We encourage a diversity of voices and points of view in our readers’ submissions and reserve the right not to publish all submissions received.

Warning: News24 encourages free speech and the expression of diverse opinions. The opinions of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the opinions of News24.

Mara R. Wilmoth