Written by Isabella Muthoni, Equality Now
Equality Now uses the law to address discrimination against women and girls. One of our thematic areas is to end harmful practices of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and child marriage, which are barriers to girls’ right to access education. There has been a recent regime change in one of the countries where we work and, as a result, the operating environment for organisations working on social justice and human rights issues became restrictive. Organisations faced a lot of resistance from the regime on speaking on rights and freedoms. The government threatened to deregister organisations working around issues that the government considered sensitive or ‘forbidden’ to address. Furthermore, activists who attempted to convene or lobby against such restrictions have faced arrest. Our partners have also had their communications monitored and intercepted.
To address these particular challenges, we had to find different ways of implementing our planned activities and also addressing the rights of the women and girls that were being infringed upon. As we are a regional organisation and implement our work regionally, we moved our conventions to a neighbouring country where it was safe to convene around issues of ending discrimination against women and girls. We made use of our online platforms and published messages that condemned the oppressive acts of this particular government’s regime, and took advantage of the regional bodies to issue statements concerning the worrying trends that this government was adopting.
We achieved the immediate outputs that we intended to, which were to bring actors together to call against the oppressive laws and ordinances that negatively affected girls, and for appropriate measures to be taken against perpetrators of sexual violence. We were also able to amplify our messages to the government, the general public and the international audience that acts of oppression against women and girls are not acceptable.
Through this experience, we learnt that there are other ways of organising and campaigning against unfair laws and policies, especially in a restrictive environment. We had to prioritise the security of the organisations and human rights defenders, yet not be silenced on speaking about critical issues affecting the girls. We learnt that it is important to connect with other players and actors who are doing similar work in order to collaborate, utilise their expertise and explore different ways you can advocate for change.
Isabella Muthoni is a Grants Officer at Equality Now, where she provides guidance on grants management and processes. Isabella works closely with the programme, communication and finance teams to ensure compliance with donor requirements, timely submissions, accurate grant reporting, preparation of project proposals and development of project budgets. Isabella has experience in project design and developing quality proposals as well as increasing funding and diversifying funding sources for the organisation. Isabella is an Advocate of the High Court in Kenya, a feminist lawyer and a champion for women’s human rights and equality.