International Women’s Day – Inspire Inclusion

In recognition of International Women’s Day, we celebrate the essential contributions of women as leaders and change-makers within their communities. At the Movement for Community-led Development (MCLD), we firmly believe that women lead the way to driving resilient and sustainable solutions to address the challenges facing their communities. 

As articulated in MCLD’s goals, including the first goal of “Voice and Agency for Women, Youth and All Marginalized Groups,” we advocate for the full inclusion and participation of women in community-led initiatives. We believe that when women are included and participate fully in their communities, true community-led change becomes possible. 

Across the globe, MCLD members are dedicated to making gender equality a reality. Becky Irakiza (MCLD-Burundi) has a clear vision of what equality would look like: 

“For me, equality for women transcends mere quotas and inclusive efforts within institutions and power structures. It involves investing in support and resources that will prepare and empower women to be self-confident in their roles and careers. These resources can take various forms and must be tailored to the specific women they aim to serve. Equality for women acknowledges women’s shared identities without disregarding their individual differences, thereby ensuring personalized support and unlocking their full potential to contribute to the betterment of their communities. In every setting, achieving equality for women necessitates substantial efforts to ensure they are afforded opportunities to lead and participate in decision-making on matters that affect them and their communities, along with all necessary support to fulfill their responsibilities effectively. With a genuine commitment to this cause, we can anticipate significant restructuring of organizations and sociopolitical spaces, potentially leading to the full realization of equality for women worldwide.”

As we expand the space for women to take leadership roles to drive positive change and build their communities, we promote solidarity among women and highlight their achievements. For example, in Liberia, Jude Nwachukwu emphasizes the importance of recognizing and celebrating women. As the coordinator for MCLD-Liberia, Jude remarks, “The celebration of Women’s achievements is of high esteem because of the women’s persistence and commitment in their endeavors.”  

Moreover, MCLD actively promotes women’s leadership in decision-making processes. In Uganda, one-third of our steering committee leadership comprises women, reflecting our commitment to reaching gender parity and inclusion that is laid out in the Association’s membership charter. Country coordinator Joanna Mbakulo outlines the importance of emphasizing women’s leadership: 

We empower women through knowledge sharing during MCLD meetings. We encourage their participation, consult them on CLD practices, and provide case studies, to have their voices heard and make them part of the decision-making process. We encourage women to facilitate which strengthens their leadership capacity and broadens their participation.

However, the journey towards gender equality is ongoing, and the global system as it stands is failing women. Women continue to face challenges in their communities, including gender-based violence, limited access to education and healthcare, and economic inequality. In fact, a new report by the World Bank shows the gender gap is larger than we thought. 

MCLD-Kenya Director Steve Ogutu’s vision for gender equality is clear: “Equality for women would mean empowered communities.” When there are safe and inclusive spaces for women within communities and their voices are heard and valued, women will thrive and lead. At MCLD we are working to ensure equal access to resources, opportunities, and decision-making spaces so that women’s inclusion is not a goal, but a reality.

Thought-piece by Sera Bulbul, MCLD-US.