Local elected women are ready for Marrakech 2018

This REFELA campaign will give another vision of women’s entrepreneurship,” says Célestine Ketcha Courtès , President of the Network of Locally Elected Women of Africa ( REFELA ) , Mayor of Bangangté ( Cameroon)

“The Africities 8 Summit planned in Marrakech from November 20 to November 24, 2018, will give women a central place in sessions and decision-making. The Network of Locally Elected Women of Africa (REFELA), which constitutes the standing committee of CLGU Africa, will hold 8 flagship activities, including the 1st Africa Women Entrepreneurship Festival. In this interview, the President of REFELA, Ms. Célestine Kectha Courtès, addresses the major issues of this session, which aims to promote women’s participation in the economic sector.”

 At the next Africities Summit, one of REFELA’s flagship activities will be the organization of Africa’s first women’s entrepreneurship festival. Why organize such a festival? What goals would you like to achieve?

The festival is part of the logic of promotion of gender and especially the promotion of women in the economic sector as a guarantee for the improvement of the living conditions of women. Female leadership may not be limited to the social and political sphere. This being aid, the attainment of a gender-balanced society can only be possible if and only if women are present in the economic production sector capable of empowering them. This financial autonomy constitutes a crucial element of motivation of women in the process of political participation. The main goals of this session are to  :

–        Create a meeting place between women entrepreneurs,

–        Create an opportunity to exchange experiences,

–        To make visible the economic activities of women,

–        To stimulate women’s participation in female entrepreneurship,

–        To create symbiosis between the women’s political network and the    Businesswomen’s network ,

–        To boost women’s sponsorship and financial support to REFELA’s    activities.

This festival is part of the preparation of the launch of the campaign on “African Cities Promoting Women’s Leadership and Economic Empowerment.” Could you please share with us some of the key challenges facing women entrepreneurs and how this campaign plans to highlight and solve these challenges?

The main challenge for women entrepreneurs in Africa is the ability to overcome the complex of inferiority and disability that African society has developed towards women.  Thus, the lack of trust from some partners as well as the resulting legislation prevent women from having access to finance, land and support from financial institutions, both international and national. This campaign will help:

–        give another vision of Women Entrepreneurship through the success stories of leaders who have become thriving businesswomen;

–        mobilize a women’s network of economic and financial support and coaching for women .

In a nutshell, this Festival is an opportunity for women to develop an economic intelligence in favor of women for their empowerment.

What are REFELA’s current priorities for women’s economic empowerment and how does REFELA contribute to the achievement of Agenda 2030?

REFELA prioritizes the achievement of SDG 3 (Ensure health lives and promote the well-being for all at all ages) and SDG 5 ( Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls);Empowering women by building capacity that produces wealth and value. In this regard REFELA through the Country Networks works with Development Cooperation Partners to achieve these Goals 3 and 5 or even all of the 17 SDGs that integrate the Paris Agreement on Climate and Agenda 2063 of the African Union.

As an illustration, REFELA_Cameroon in partnership with the AIMF (International Association of Francophone Mayors) , the Veolia Foundation, the SIAAP (Public Service for Sanitation in the Paris Region, “Service Public Pour l’Assainissement Francilien ») and the ADEME (French Agency for the Environment and Energy Management) with the support of Feicom ( Special Fund for Equipment and Intercommunal Intervention, of Cameroon)) are engaged in the implementation of Solar Energy in cities managed by women in Cameroon. This beautiful project will provide more security for girls and women as well as alleviate women’s burden consisting in supplying families with water, allowing little girls to find more time for school.

Similarly, the “Désir D’Avenir” (Wish for a Future) Foundation of Mrs. Ségolène Royal has extended this project with the equipment of maternity hospitals in Africa with solar energy. We also benefited from the support of UN-HABITAT to train the women of the Bangangté Commune in the construction of improved stoves and the assembly of solar-powered lamps and lampposts.

You can therefore see from the efforts REFELA is making to support women in addition to  the local policies led by the elected female officials that we are in favor of the empowerment of women through the delivery of public services such as the construction and management of women’s markets , support for women’s Community Interest Groups, etc. These combined activities are aimed at achieving Agenda 2030.

This session will also enable REFELA to inform people on the launch of its Awards of Excellence program to recognize cities and local and subnational communities that have made outstanding contributions to women’s economic empowerment. Can you tell us more about this program  ? Are there any examples of initiatives / contributions that you can share with us?

 This prize is a policy of encouragement and emulation that REFELA puts in place to get elected women to give priority to actions in favor of women and girls in the communes in order to narrow the gaps created. We can share with you the example of the project of initiation of women to the construction of improved stoves, which led to another project to create a Community Interest Group maturing in the field in the Commune of Bangangté.

Are there any actions that mayors and local governments should do to promote the economic empowerment of women in their cities? If so, why?

Of course, YES, because as a community-based institution and one that has a real direct impact, local elected officials must build and implement local policies of encouragement for women, including:

– The specialization of markets or activities;

– The establishment of support funds for local economic initiatives of women and girls;

– The establishment of women’s cooperatives and the support and coaching for these cooperatives;

– Special tax policies to support or encourage destitute women involved in an economic activity;

– The creation of community funds to finance start-ups managed by girls or women;

– The support to young girls in their schooling, including by covering their tuition fees.

What will REFELA’s key activities be in Africities and what message does REFELA want to convey during the Africities 8 Summit?

Our main goal will be to sensitize people about REFELA by making visible the activities of REFELA and of its Country Chapters. We shall therefore:

– Intensify advocacy with institutions, organizations, and chapters for effective financial support for REFELA’s activities;

– Evaluate the progress made since Tangier (2011, year of creation of the network) and develop a strategic plan to ensure the Network’s sustainability,

– Intensify Advocacy for zebra lists in Municipal and Legislative Elections to achieve SDG5,

And, of course, the renewal of the management bodies (The REFELA General Assembly)  will be held on November 23, 2018.