Women Deliver 2023: The importance of public-private partnerships in achieving gender equality

Dakar, 18th July 2023- Alongside the Women Deliver 2023 conference taking place in Kigali, Rwanda, Voix EssentiELLES, Her Voice Fund, Speak Up Africa, Y+ Global, ViiV Healthcare Positive Action, and the Global Fund hosted a side event on the theme "Advancing gender equality through investing in women and girl's meaningful engagement in decision-making spaces". This event kicks off the second phase of Voix EssentiELLES, an initiative supported by Fondation CHANEL and the Global Fund and aimed at empowering women and girls and promote their participation in decision-making processes and spaces.

This year, 2023, marks the twentieth anniversary of the Maputo Protocol on African Women's Rights. This protocol established African women's rights guarantee as a fundamental condition for sustainable development. Yet women still face multiple barriers in accessing healthcare, education, economic opportunities, and decision-making bodies in Africa. Organized as part of the Women Deliver 2023 conference, the event was an opportunity to highlight the voices of community organization, women and girls, activists and funders committed to tackling health, economic, religious, and socio-cultural barriers to the development of women and girls in all their diversity.

Larissa Bachia, Senior Program Lead at IDEO, emphasized the need for a community-based approach to the design and implementation of gender equality programmes. "We need to neutralize hierarchies, reinforce girl's agency, and ensure they have the means for active participation. They should sit on a table with funders and implementing organizations as peers. We need to embrace new ways of working. We can be subject matter experts, but decision-making on what will work and what will not work should be left for those whose lives are affected by the solutions we design and implement" she commented.

Participants from feminist organizations, women's networks, civil society, private sector, and philanthropic organizations discussed best practices, approaches and lessons learned from women-led initiatives to promote gender equality. The event featured inter-connected themes including: What Works- featuring promising initiatives, success factors and bottlenecks within collaborative initiatives that address multiple needs of women and networks and Strategic Partnerships - interrogating funders and women and girls can collaborate better, building alliances, leverage on each others' expertise, influence policies, programmes and financing towards advancing gender equality and meaningful participation.

Jennifer Van, President of "Jeunes engagées pour la sexualité", a Voix EssentiELLES Fund grantee in Côte d'Ivoire in 2021 and 2022, was one of the panelists. She highlighted her organization's significant achievements and impact in fighting gender-based violence and inequality in Côte d'Ivoire. She also emphasized the urgent need to invest in women's leadership and empowerment and the need for long-term funding for organizations like hers.

"Through the Voix EssentiELLES initiative, we have helped hundreds of young girls take control of their sexual health by avoiding risky sexual behavior. It is vital to support women-led organizations working to eliminate gender inequality, as women's empowerment is a key lever for sustainable and equitable development in Africa," said Jennifer Van.

The meeting also provided participants with an opportunity to explore new partnership opportunities and innovative financing to support community-based initiative to ensure that gender equality becomes a reality. The speakers highlighted the importance of public-private partnerships in increasing investments and finding innovative ways to accelerate progress towards advancing gender equality.

"There are still enormous challenges to achieving gender equality and we must leverage the skills and contributions of all. Governments and businesses must work together with women and girls in all their diversity to create an inclusive ecosystem where women and girls can thrive and contribute fully to development," said Kate Thomson, Head of Community, Rights and Gender at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

Maximina Jokonya, coordinator of the HER Voice Fund, believes that public-private partnerships can be a powerful strategy for ending gender inequality and amplifying women and girls' voices. "It is crucial that the public and private sectors pool their resources and expertise to drive social change and achieve gender equality. The synergy of their actions can lead to the implementation of inclusive policies, the creation of positive role models and the development of women as leaders and decision-makers," said Maximina Jokonya.

Fara Ndiaye, Deputy Executive Director of Speak Up Africa, emphasized that collaboration between the public and private sectors is a key strategy in all Speak Up Africa interventions, including gender equality initiatives.

"As once a younger, smaller organization with what was considered lower absorptive financial capacity, we feel tremendously blessed to now be in a position where we can strengthen the capacities and unleash the potential of dozens of grassroots organizations across West Africa. With this second phase, we strive for increased impact as we further build trust and sustainable relationships with our grantees", she concluded.