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Location: Malawi

Southern African Alliance for Youth Employment


The Southern African region (SADC) has a large youth population and low levels of decent employment for its youth, resulting in high levels of youth unemployment and underemployment. The lack of formal employment, irregularity of work and social protection means that youth in the SADC region face poverty and inequality.

Researchers have described the effect of this insecurity on youth as a ‘transitional limbo’. Without a secure income, young people are unable to meet their social roles that accompany adulthood. These challenges are compounded by a lack of credible information and a lack of mobilisation around youth employment. Youth voices in designing and implementing prevalent national and regional youth employment strategies and policies has been limited.


The Southern African Alliance for Youth Employment (SAAYE) was formally established in February 2016 by the Economic Justice Network with the Commonwealth Foundation’s support. The Alliance is made up of representatives from trade unions, church councils, student unions, and civil society organisations across nine Southern African nations. Trade unions, churches and the civil society organisations, cumulatively have considerable potential power to determine the shape of policy for youth employment in Southern Africa.

The Economic Justice Network (EJN) performs as the Secretariat of SAAYE. SAAYE aims to play a coordinating and facilitating role for youth formations to inform and influence public discourse about youth employment; contribute to reforming employment and youth related policy; and, to hold governments accountable to their commitments to address youth unemployment across the SADC region – both nationally and regionally.

The Commonwealth Foundation’s capacity development approach has facilitated training, engagement and development of structures within the Alliance. A six member Working Group serves as the highest decision-making body of SAAYE. They also represent the Alliance at events such as the SADC-CNGO Civil Society Forum and to plan regional actions.

Making the Post-2015 agenda work for gender equality


In 2008, Southern Africa governments signed and adopted the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development, which integrates and mainstreams gender issues in the region. The Protocol is now under review.


Gender Links will enable civil society organisations from eight Southern Africa countries to work with the SADC Gender Unit and governments on drafting a revised Protocol on Gender and Development, and to follow up on its implementation. This will include gathering case studies on gender equality from civil society, local and national government in the region, and using the Citizens Score Card to gather citizen perspectives on progress made by their governments towards gender equality.

It is expected that by the end of the project, a new Protocol with civil society input will have been adopted by the Southern Africa Development Community. Civil society will also have acquired the necessary tools to track progress towards achieving gender equality in line with the new Post-2015 development framework.

Gender Links, South Africa

Gender Links works with partners at local, national and regional level to: produce evidence based research on gender gaps and progress in the SADC region and use it in advocacy efforts; promote gender equality in all areas of governance; foster a gender movement through coalition building; and, build capacity of civil society to engage in processes that advance gender equality and justice. Gender links coordinates an alliance of 15 national networks, comprising 40 organisations, and nine regional networks. Organisations from the alliance based in the eight target countries will be involved in country activities such as in the delivery of workshops, collation of a matrix of indicators and case studies.


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Strengthening women’s voices to advocate for women’s land rights


There exists, in African countries, a drive to continue strengthening leadership of African women, tackling patriarchy and empowering them for a secure and just Africa.


Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) are strengthening the voice of women to advocate for secure and equitable land rights in Southern Africa.

This project aims to strengthen the collective voice of women to talk about large scale land acquisitions in Southern Africa, and promote women’s access to land in Namibia, Kingdom of eSwatini and Zambia.

This will be achieved by building the capacity of women’s organisation members in these countries to undertake and publish feminist research on the effects of land acquisitions on women, and conduct advocacy campaigns with affected communities and policy makers.

Women’s experiences will be documented in their own words in the form of oral ‘herstories’ through which women will articulate the challenges, gaps, successes and strategies employed in control and access to land rights.

It is expected that by the end of the project, women will have access to important advocacy documents and research, which can be used as tools to raise awareness of and advocate for stronger land rights for women.

Akina Mama wa Afrika

Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) is an international, Pan-African, non-governmental organisation for African women with its headquarters in Uganda. It was founded to create space for African women to organise, build links with each other and speak for themselves. AMwA has been working to build African women’s leadership capacities since its creation, acting as a training centre and an advocacy engine for the African women’s movement. The organisation aims to: influence policies that affect African women at national, regional and international levels; strengthen and promote African women’s feminist leadership; participate in the construction of a feminist epistemology by African women.


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Strengthening the PEN Africa network for civil society engagement


The pen and the written word are powerful tools for upholding free expression, cultural rights and democratic governance. Through creative expression, Commonwealth citizens have the ability to advocate for the legislation that underpins these rights.


PEN International (founded 1921) is a global community of writers, who work to promote literature and defend freedom of expression. The organisation will target measures to build capacity, skills and knowledge in order to advocate in favor of freedom of expression. Local PEN Centres will participate in policy training to help with advocacy work on local, regional and international levels and a three-year advocacy strategy will map out plans to engage with regional-level forums such as the Africa Commission on Human Rights. 

This work will serve to leverage the voice and influence of PEN Africa Network members in Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia. PEN members will gain greater understanding of areas including freedom of expression and digital freedom, cultural and linguistic rights and quality education. It will help to empower not just them but the people with whom they work and future generations of writers, journalists and advocates.

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Promoting fair trade networks


Fair trade between Commonwealth nations is recognised as vital in order to drive business.


Shared Interest Foundation is promoting fair trade in Africa by giving three networks a chance to share experiences and learn from each other.

With a grant from the Commonwealth Foundation, Shared Interest Foundation is collaborating on joint activities to allow greater networking and sharing of benefits, as well as learning from the success and failure of others. It will allow time and space for critical reflection involving those working in a similar context as well as those without any prior knowledge, helping to create a more objective analysis of progress, challenges, barriers, hopes and opportunities.

Focusing on learning by seeing and doing, project partners will visit each other’s operations and meet members, producers and board members to hear a wide range of experiences about how projects and schemes, such as income generation activities, have worked in reality.

The project has a strong emphasis on peer-to-peer learning and staff exchanges working in different country contexts. This project also responds to the 2013 Commonwealth Theme ‘Opportunity through Enterprise’.

Shared Interest Foundation, UK

Shared Interest Foundation was formed in 2004 as the charitable arm of Shared Interest Society.

It uses the pooled investments of its members in the UK to effect real and lasting improvements to people’s lives in poorer parts of the world. The organisation has an extensive knowledge of the fair trade sector, with prior experience of managing capacity building exchange projects through the Commonwealth Local Government Forum. It has worked directly with fair trade businesses in Africa for nine years.


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