The room is packed. There are so many women flocking in that people needed to add three rows of additional chairs. On this, the second day of the 8th Africities Summit in Marrakech, the workshop on Strategies for Gender Equality for the Network of Local Women Elected in Africa (REFELA) is an undeniable success. In the room are committed women from all over the continent. Women from local or international civil society organizations, municipal elected representatives, mayors of small villages, medium and large cities, such as the first woman mayor of Tunis, Souad Abderrahim, as well as Celestine Ketcha Courtès, Chairwoman of REFELA and Mayor Bangangté, Cameroon. The workshop was (sic) enriched by the presence and proposals of Catherine Samba-Panza, former President of the Central African Republic. She urged all the women in the audience to show both ambition and solidarity between them. “Reaching the presidency was a huge challenge, but I did not arrive alone, but with thanks, for the support of Central African women.”
In the room, there is another woman who does not lack ambition, Mariam Iddrisu, Mayor of the city of Sagnarigu, in northern Ghana, the youngest mayor at the Africities Summit. Ghanaian mayors are not elected but appointed by the President of the Republic, but before being appointed, one has to go through an incalculable series of local, regional and national pre-selections, “And I
triumphed. The President finally appointed me in 2017, while many people did not believe in my candidacy, especially people close to me who thought that I did not have the shoulders wide enough to manage a city of 148,000 inhabitants. “ But nothing stopped this dedicated feminist who campaigned whilst pregnant with twins. “You know the strength of a teabag only after soaking it in hot water. It has been a year since I became Mayor of Signarigu. From now on, everyone recognizes my skills and the quality of the projects that I realized for the city.” Why is she at the REFELA workshop? Because she is convinced that we need to develop and strengthen this selfhelp network of women and that, “the world must realize all that women have to offer.”
…And REFELA women have so much to offer. On this day, they took two huge steps towards gender equality on the continent. They adopted the Africa-Europe Pact of Marrakech for Local Equality, which triggers the official launch of an African Charter for Local Equality to be drafted and adopted soon. These two tools will help African women on the ground to get access to more elected positions. In Marrakech we saw small steps for women and a big leap for equality.
Strategies for Gender Equality for the Network of Local Women Elected in Africa (REFELA).