ACORD wins the 2016 Betty Plewes award
The Betty Plewes award was created to highlight an African non-governmental organization engaged in research and policy development on issues of priority to women. Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC) created the prize in 2000 to honour the exceptional contribution made by Ms. Betty Plewes while President-CEO of CCIC, who has always been a passionate advocate for women’s rights.
The 2016 award is given to ACORD in recognition of its stellar work in promoting and supporting human rights in Africa – and comes with a prize of $5000 Canadian dollars. ACORD’s work with local organisations throughout the continent has resulted in more people empowered to defend their rights and improve their living conditions, especially women.
“On behalf of ACORD, its Board, Staff and Assembly, we are very honoured to be recipient of the 2016 Betty Plewes award and wish to extend our gratitude to CCIC and the selection panel for the honour”, said ACORD Executive Direcor, Ousainou Ngum, upon receiving the news.
ACORD is a pan-African organization working for social justice and development in Africa. Its history of collaboration with Canada goes back to its origins with Inter Pares being a founding member of ACORD 40 years ago and remaining a close partner of ACORD up to today. As a leading Pan-African organization, ACORD has also collaborated with the Canadian government on the implementation of a Pan-Africa Agriculture Programme (2010-2013). This supported more than 100,000 small-scale farmers and pastoralists, especially women, to enhance their food security, production, and income through increased utilization of improved agricultural practices. Moreover, it built the policy literacy of more than 200 farmers’ organisations and their members to engage with CAADP (the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme), and its national and local level implementation.
An external evaluation confirmed the positive results and noted that one of the key successes was to work with local community based organizations to bring together farmer and pastoralist groups to work collaboratively towards a common purpose; form groups, speak with one voice, have access to services and achieve economies of scale. The programme was also effective in building capacity and knowledge, increasing incomes and, improving the livelihoods of farmer and pastoralist groups at the farm/household level. As expected, the evaluation also confirmed implementation was particularly strong on inclusion of women in all key activities.
ACORD firmly believes that women’s rights and gender equality will not be achieved simply through changes in policy from the top, but are by their nature an expression of the needs and interest of those at the bottom, and their achievement relies on an active citizenry, especially women and girls, participating in a democratic system to ensure they are upheld. To promote sustainable and dynamic change, a key feature of ACORD’s work supporting local organisations is therefore to strengthen them to go beyond addressing immediate needs to also engage with decision-makers and represent their own interests, claiming community rights, demanding accountability and contributing to the policy formulation and implementation processes.
For example, ACORD led in the drafting and publication of the Non State Actors’ 10 joint policy recommendations, which called on African Governments and donors to increase support to small-holder farmers, especially women, in the CAADP process for concrete results and positive impacts. This was signed on to by 120 organisations across the continent and delivered to the African Agriculture Ministers Meeting. From 2016, ACORD has been chosen to host the Secretariat of the non-stake actors’ coalition on CAADP. ACORD also continues its work with farmers, especially women, now looking to see how to translate the increased production into tangible gains through reducing post-harvest losses and get more effective and beneficial links to markets.
ACORD and its partners were also very closely involved in influencing the global goals, Agenda 2030 that is in effect from January this year. ACORD organized citizen-driven workshops in 13 African countries, collecting and putting forth in particular the voices of women and girls on the world they want for themselves and their children. The findings of this participatory, community rooted research was documented in the publication “Africa in 2030 – Responsive states, empowered citizens” and presented at the United Nations in New York, as well as to African Union leaders and was well received.
For ACORD, our research and policy advocacy must both empower individuals to positively contribute to change, and challenge social structures, decision makers and other powerful actors to pursue systemic changes that create the conditions for women’s rights and gender equality. To structurally embed results necessitates an approach that values action at all levels, from community level to national, regional and global levels and seeks to make this mutually reinforcing to give synergies for effective results. ACORD seeks to ensure the actions find relevance in society and are integrated in state interventions through citizen demand to ensure long-term sustainability.
ACORD’s strategic approach (working with citizens, for citizens and driven by them) thus enables the effective influencing of policy at national, regional and continental level. At community level we also research and pilot‚Äźtest solutions for effectively reaching the poorly served. Lessons and best practices are documented and brought to the attention of policy makers and the wider development community – enabling replication at a wider scale. In this way we can add value and work proactively in partnership and complementarity with other stakeholders. We do this within the African continent and globally through our network of partners, ACORD staff in selected locations and allies internationally. This approach to work from community level to national, regional, Pan African and Global affords us a unique opportunity to lead well informed, tried and tested recommendations for effective policy formulation within our Pan Africa programming and policy work.
To continue and further deepen our work, the collaboration with our partners in Canada is very valuable. ACORD is happy to several times have contributed in the Africa-Canada forums. We are also privileged to have benefited from the service of Betty Plewes on the ACORD board for a number of years (2004-2012) and continue to have this link through Canadian membership in ACORD. “ACORD values the relationship with CCIC and by extension our Canadian partners and look forward to many more years of a mutually beneficial relationship toward our common interests globally”, the ACORD Executive Director concludes.