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WHO WE AREThe International Organization for Migration (IOM) is part of the United Nations System as the leading inter-governmental organization promoting since 1951 humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all, with 175 member states and a presence in over 100 countries. IOM has had a presence in Belgium since 1973.
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In May 2019, we celebrated the end of the successful Women4Development Academy project, supported by IOM. During this project, the participating organizations were trained in project management, communication and visibility, and fundraising over the course of several weekends.
One year later, we interviewed Femmes PluriElles, one of the participating organizations, to talk about their activities and the impact of the project.
Thank you Ms. Nyatanyi for taking the time for this interview. Could you tell us a bit more about the projects of your organization, and especially those organized after the end of the Women4Development Academy project?
Since 2016, the activities of Femmes PluriElles revolve around the book "PluriElles, Women of the African Diaspora", which addresses themes such as sub-Saharan female migration to Belgium, stereotypes and prejudices against African and Afro-descendant women, and roles of women in the diaspora in host societies and in Africa. These themes have also served as the common thread for round tables, conferences, workshops and symposium that were organized by the platform and that took place across Belgium.
In March 2019, an "International Symposium on the Leadership of African and Afro-Descendant Women" was held at the premises of the Wallonie Bruxelles International. This led to recommendations that would serve as a basis for future actions by the platform. One of the recommendations, creating links and bridges with women living in Africa, was implemented via conferences that we organized in Guinea in May 2019 and in Senegal in November 2019. The planned conferences in Cameroon (March 2020) and in the Parliament of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation have been postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis.
At the invitation from the Center d'Action Laïque de Namur we also intervened during the opening of the exhibition of PluriElles portraits in March 2020. This brought us in touch with an audience interested in the theme but who are not used to attending our activities.
One of the key modules of the Women4Development Academy project focused on project cycle management and how to prepare proposals for submission. Since the end of the Academy, have you successfully submitted a project proposal to a donor?
One of the recommendations of the International Symposium was to concretely resolve certain problems encountered especially by young women entrepreneurs. We therefore successfully submitted a project to support young African or Afro-descendant girls with an entrepreneurial project or wishing to embark on entrepreneurship.
You have also received a visibility training. Is your association now more active on social networks and other communication channels?
The communication coaching allowed us to develop and improve our visibility on social networks through the choice of images and accompanying texts. We have also become aware of certain communication elements that we were missing (for example the website) and we are in contact with a web developer to remedy them. These corrections increased our audience and interest in the project and the platform.
What are the next steps for your association?
The next steps are to act concretely on the ground, whether in Belgium or in Africa, to provide technical and practical assistance to African and Afro-descendant women so that they are able to fully exercise their leadership and act as change agents.
COVID-19 has impacted the work of many organizations around the world. We have also seen stories about diaspora members who decided to re-direct their activities towards COVID-19 relief efforts. How has COVID-19 influenced your activities?
The crisis has put our activities on the back burner but also gave us the opportunity to quickly set up a #Masquespourtous project. Confinement in Africa has deeply impacted the women who are often active in informal economy. They therefore had to face both the health crisis and an economic crisis due to the cessation of activities without financial compensation. We financed the local production of protective masks, which has enabled some women to benefit from income while providing masks to vulnerable populations. This was carried out in Cameroon, Guinea, Senegal, Zambia, Côte-d'Ivoire, the DRC and Mali and is expected to end in Swaziland.
What do you think of the Women4Development Academy project one year later?
The project was a great experience which allowed us to strengthen our capacities while putting us in touch with other associations of African women. The inter-generational dimension via the coaches was a winning bet by bringing together the experience of the elders and the knowledge newly acquired by the young coaches. As far as we are concerned, we put this dynamic into practice during the conference which was organized in March 2019: the various associations intervened either in the public or in the panels and the young coaches put their talents into practice both in organizing the event and by moderating panels or leading workshops.
Thank you Ms. Nyatanyi for your kind words! We wish PluriElles all the best.