Feminisms and Women Fighting for their Rights: A Brief Mozambican History

Catarina Casimiro Trindade e Solange Rocha
Maputo, 4 de Julho 2020

Identifying oneself as a Mozambican feminist is something that has been growing over last 10 years, largely due to the visibility of the work of some leading organizations and activists who have taken a position and publicly identified themselves as feminists, changing the status and redefining the meaning of feminism in the Mozambican context.

The first organizations/networks that publicly defined themselves as feminists were Women and Law in Southern Africa, Mozambique (WLSA), Forum Mulher (FM) and, more recently, the Young Feminist Movement of Mozambique (MOVFEMME) and the Socio-Cultural Association Blue Horizon (ASCHA). We saw a new phase of feminism emerging, a feminism that is increasingly outside the walls or delinked from organizations and academia, that is on the streets and in communities in a “spontaneous” and “popular” way. It comes from grassroots movements and collectives that have a strong connection to the arts and social networks. A phase where feminist identity is recognized by a wide range of women with diverse thinking who question heterosexual /bisexual norms and those related to the body and sexuality, and who increasingly reflect on what it means to be a feminist in the Mozambican and African context (ROCHA ET AT, 2019).

In recent years, we have been following the emergence of networks, forums and movements that identify with feminism and are located beyond the capital and exhibit a greater political diversity (young women, women with disabilities, rural and peasant women and lesbians, among others). These new collectives enter into dialogues and negotiate with agendas and visibility with existing organisations, mainly the urban areas and in the capital, and have made profound changes in the Mozambican patriarchal system, in addition to achieving greater visibility of their political ideas and demands

Examples of this are the creation of provincial networks such as the Nucleus of Female Associations of Zambézia (NAFEZA), the Nucleus of Female Associations of Tete (NAFET), the Forum of Female Organizations of Niassa (FOFEN) and the Forum of Female Associations of Inhambane ( FAFI) and collectives and organizations outside the capital, such as the organization Get Up Women and Follow Your Way (LeMuSiCa), the Mozambican Association of Women and Support for Girls (Ophenta), the Mozambican Association for Women and Education (AMME), the Women's Association for the Promotion of Human Rights and Citizenship (AMUDHF), the Women's Association for the Promotion of Community Development (AMPDC) and the Sofala Group of Women Sharing Ideas (GMPIS). In relation to the latter, it is worth highlighting the mobilization and solidarity work that women have been undertaking, mainly in relation to natural disasters that have mainly affected women and children (as in the cyclones Idai and Kenneth, in the centre/north of the country). Another example is the realisation of solidarity camps for women which promote the active participation of women and girls in the processes of peace, security, and economic recovery in Mozambique. These camps focus on gender and the socio-economic empowerment of women to strengthen them both individually and collectively, and to influence advocacy in the development of policies, programmes and legislation that best address the challenges faced by women and girls. They started in 2014 and followed in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Historically, the word feminism has always been disputed. On the one hand, it is perceived by some activists in a negative way, as something that comes from outside and that is not part of the country's culture. On the other hand, it is seen as a struggle for identity, taking into account that Mozambique is part of a patriarchal system. For a long time, this has led to a large number of women's organizations and women's rights activists to reject identification with feminism, or even sharing feminist views and objectives, preferring instead to position themselves as defenders of women's rights and gender equality. Thus whilst, on the one hand, the understanding of feminism as a struggle for the rights is the narrative and agenda of many organizations, there is still, on the other hand, a degree of ignorance and political resistance which results in the disqualification of feminists and the essence of the feminine (TRINDADE , 2020; ROCHA ET AL, 2019).

Whilst feminism has had a troubled trajectory, Mozambique is one of the countries in Africa that has made the most progress in terms of formal norms, policies and laws linked to women's rights and gender equality. In all areas of public life, the government has formulated policies and implemented strategies aimed at promoting more egalitarian gender relations. The numerous international treaties have been ratified that guide the development of laws and strategies in Mozambique that are designed to promote the advancement of gender equality and the rights of women, youth and children. The creation of these formal norms has placed Mozambique in the position of being an international reference point for its high level of gender inclusion (ROCHA ET AL, 2019).

All of these national and international processes – the creation of policies, plans and strategies – have occurred within a framework of strong women's activism, organized in collectives, networks and movements that acted to transform the legal framework, increase the enjoyment of rights, and diminish or end existing gender inequalities. This has been achieved through important lobbying and advocacy work, the production of shadow reports on the implementation of international and regional commitments undertaken by Mozambique, an action-research work - which has significantly contributed to a greater knowledge and understanding of the position of women in the country – analysis of social and traditional media, positioning documents, dialogue with the government and other actors and marches and or public demonstrations. By positioning themselves in this way, women have placed themselves as agents of transformation, in addition to the position of victims, and have reconfigured their relationship with the State (TAELA ET AL, 2019).

The number of organizations dedicated to advancing women's rights and gender equality has increased considerably over the past 25 years. The first women's organizations began to appear timidly in the 1980s, but from the mid-1990s the number of organizations mushroomed, especially after the 1995 Beijing Conference in which Mozambican feminist leaders played a strong role. Through being more autonomous, and without relying on political parties to develop their agendas and ways of acting, these organizations have benefited greatly from the political, social and economic changes that that have taken place, namely the country's democratization process and the approval of the 1990 Constitution, which introduced the right to free association (TRINDADE, 2020).

The Peace Accord (1992) and the country's alignment with World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) policy led, on the one hand, to neoliberalism but, on the other, enabled social organisations greater access to funding sources for the realisation of their activities. It is noteworthy that humanitarian aid, present throughout the conflicts that plagued the country, left a complex legacy which was, and still is, a source of resources for many associations and NGOs, and the persistence of relationships of interdependence. It also led to the mass entry of international aid organizations which

The first women's organizations created in the period before the country's independence - linked to the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), now party in power - were the Women's League of Mozambique (LIFEMO, 1962), the Women's Detachment (DF, 1965) and the Mozambican Women's Organization (OMM, 1973). In the period after independence, women's voluntary organizations, commercial and non-profit associations began to emerge, such as the Mozambican Association for the Defence of the Family (AMODEFA, 1989), the Association of Women Entrepreneurs and Executives (ACTIVA, 1990), the Mozambican Association for Rural Development (AMRU, 1991), the Association of Housewives (ADOCA, 1992), the Association for the Promotion of Women's Economic and Socio-Cultural Development (MBEU) and the association PROGRESSO (1991). Linked to the Department of Studies on Women and Gender (DEMEG) at the University of Eduardo Mondlane, the regional project the Woman and Law in Southern Africa Research Trust was created in 1989 which carried out a series of research project to better understand the position of women in Mozambique. The project de-linked from the University and became an NGO in 2003, becoming Women and Law in Southern Africa Research and Education Trust (WLSA Mozambique). The Association for Women, Law and Development (MULEIDE, 1991), was the first Mozambican association that disseminated and defended women's human rights. Also created were the Women and Environment Centre (NUMMA, 1992), the Women’s Forum, for women in development (FM, 1993), a network created as an initiative to coordinate a series of projects, activities and organizations working in the area of ​​gender and development (TRINDADE, 2020). Woman and Law in Southern Africa Research Trust, onde se fizeram uma série de pesquisas para conhecer a situação da mulher em Moçambique. Este projecto sai da universidade e transforma-se em ONG em 2003, transformando-se em Women and Law in Southern Africa Research and Education Trust (WLSA Moçambique). São criadas, também, a associação Mulher, Lei e Desenvolvimento (MULEIDE, 1991) – a primeira associação moçambicana de divulgação e defesa dos direitos humanos das mulheres -, o Núcleo Mulher e Meio Ambiente (NUMMA, 1992) e o Fórum Mulher – Coordenação para a Mulher no Desenvolvimento (FM, 1993), rede criada como iniciativa de coordenação de uma série de projectos, actividades e organizações que trabalhavam na área de género e desenvolvimento (TRINDADE, 2020).

Thus, over the years, there has been an increase in resources, a greater commitment to the gender equality agenda, strong articulation and academic effort and a social movement in the construction of a Mozambican and African feminism, in dialogue with other feminisms. The commitment to assume the international coordination of the World March of Women also brought new political positions and new disputes to build a progressive, anti-patriarchal and anti-capitalist campaign.

Clearly, the area of women’s rights that advanced the most in response to advocacy by was that of Gender Based Violence (GBV) which was greatly influenced by participation in Beijing and the commitments that emerged from it. One of the main achievements of the women's movement was the approval of the Law on Domestic Violence Practiced Against Women in 2009 that started in 1996 with the creation of the ‘Todos Contra a Violência’ campaign (All Against Violence, TCV). The relationships and articulation between academia, women's organizations (national and international) and government with regard to the processes of discussion, drafting and approval of the legislation for greater gender equality and women's rights, have resulted in other important achievements in the protection of women's rights, such as the Land Law (1997), the Family Law (2004), the Law Against Trafficking and Abuse of Women and Children (2008), the Anti-discrimination Law Against People Living with HIV and SIDA (2009), the revision of the Penal Code (2014), the revocation of Order 39 (2018) - which decreed the compulsory transfer of pregnant girls at school to the evening course - the law for the Prevention and Combat of Premature Unions (2019), the new Family Law (2019), the Succession Law (2019), among others.

However, despite their strength and countless achievements over the years, the Mozambican women's and feminist movement still faces several obstacles. Although there is a relatively comprehensive and progressive framework of policies and legislation, there is still a major deficit in regulation, budgeting, and implementation. This translates into a large mismatch between what exists on paper and the reality and women and girl’s access to, and the enjoyment of, their rights in practice.

Although feminist mobilization has contributed powerfully to the changes that have occurred, there is still a long way to go in the struggle for women's rights and gender equality. However, more women occupy positions of power, have greater access to education, take a stand against forced unions and premature pregnancies, choose whether, when and how they want to become pregnant, speak openly and publicly about their body and their sexuality in the media and on social networks, which bring greater visibility to the agendas, demands, struggles and voices of women who have always struggled to be heard.

Referências Bibliográficas:

ROCHA, Solange, TAELA, Katia, JAIME, Unaiti. Linha de Base. Programa ALIADAS, Women’s Voices and Leadership. (2019).

TAELA, Katia, ROCHA, Solange, JAIME, Unaiti. Mapeamento Economia Política Feminista dos Direitos das Mulheres em Moçambique. Programa ALIADAS, Voz e Liderança das Mulheres, CESC. (2019)

TRINDADE, Catarina Casimiro. “Tem vida esta coisa!”: Construção e actualização do campo em torno dos direitos das mulheres e da igualdade de género em Moçambique. 2020. Tese (Doutorado em Ciências Sociais), Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ciências Sociais (PPGCS) da Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Campinas 

Laws, Rules and Policies that promote gender equality in Mozambique

Formal Rules

 Resolution 61/143 (2006): intensifies efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women; (Link 

•  Resolution 63/155 (2008): requires the State to adopt an integrated national plan for the combat of violence against women;

•     Resolution 54/7 (March 2010), ends the practice of female genital mutilation;

•     Resolution 14/12 (2010): accelerates efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls;

•     Na office created fro the Family and Minors, Women and Children Victims of Domestic Violence through Decree 85/2014 of the 31st December;

•     Repeal of Dispatch 39 which required young pregnant women to transfer to evening classes at school (2019)

Laws promoting gender equality in Mozambique

Revision of the Commercial Code that establishes women's autonomy in conducting economic business;  (link)

•     The Land Law (19/97), which gives women and men equal rights to use and benefit from the land;  (link)

•     Constitution of the Republic , 2004, which recognises women's rights as human rights (Articles 36 and 67) and encourages women’s development (Article 122);  (link)

•     The Family Law (12/2004), which outlaws discrimination against women in marriage, divorce, child custody and in the division of assets, among others related to the family; (link)

•     The Labour Law (12/2007) which confers the rights to maternity and paternity leave, as well as transversal equality at work;  (link)

•     The Law against Trafficking and Abuse of Women and Children (6/2008);  (link)

•     The Local Government Law (8/2003) which provides for a quota of 30% for women in the composition of Consultative Councils (Article 118) ; (link)

•     The Law for the Prevention of Discrimination against People Living with HIV-AIDS (12/2009);  (link)

•     The Law on Domestic Violence Against Women (29/2009) (link)

•     The Law for the Protection of the Person, the Worker and the Jobseeker Living with HIV AIDS (19/2014);  (link)

•     The law for the Right to Access to Information (34/2014);  (link)

•     The Revision of the Penal Code (Law 35/2014) decriminalizing abortion and homosexuality; (link)

•     The Law for the Prevention and Combat Premature Unions (19/2019); (link)

•     The New Family Law (22/2019);  (link)

•     The Inheritance Law (23/2019);  (link)

•     The further revision of the Penal Code (Law 24/2019);  (link)

Policies, plans and strategies to promote gender equality:

•     Policies, plans and strategies to promote gender equality:

•     Strategy for the Implementation of the Gender Policy (Approved in 2006 and revised in 2018);  (link)

•     National Policy on Sexual and Reproductive Health (2011);

•     National Plan for the Advancement of Women (2018 - 2021);

•     National Action Plan on Preventing and Combating Gender-Based Violence (2018-2021); (link)

•     National Multisectoral Action Plan on Gender and HIV-AIDS (2011-2015);

•     National Plan for the Elimination of Vertical Transmission;

•     Gender Strategy: Public Service (2009); Education Sector (2016-2020); Preventing and Combating Premature Marriages in Mozambique (2016-2019); Agrarian Sector (2016-2025); Family Planning and Contraception (2010-2020); Prevention and Treatment of Obstetric Fistulas (2012); Gender, Environment and Climate Change (2010); Environmental Calamities and Disasters INGC (2015).

Women’s Voice and Leadership ALIADAS ( WVL - ALIADAS)
Av. Julius Nyerere, N.º 258 Maputo, Moçambique      CP 4669

(+258) 21 48 75 52 (+258) 21 48 75 65

(+258) 84 51 08 505 (+258) 82 47 08 431

e-mail: info@aliadas.org