AfWID 2018

by | Nov 13, 2020

The very first African Women in Dialogue (AfWID) Forum took place from 18 – 23 November in 2018 at Birchwood Hotel, Johannesburg. It was a week of bonding, deliberation, self-reflection, networking and learning for the + 1000 women who attended largely from the SADC region and beyond.

AfWID 2018 Theme

Strengthening the Continental African Women’s Movement in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) towards a new and value-based ecosystem.

2018 was a very significant year wherein we witnessed the detrimental effects of some of the global and local shifts which threatened to reverse developmental gains made over the years. Over time we’ve seen the emergence of worrying political shifts to the right, declining economies, the rise of human rights violations, deepening poverty, inequality, anti-migrant policies, environmental changes, and increased violence against women. These were but some of the worrying trends that among others ignited the resurgence of the new wave of the global women’s movements and active feminism seen across the world. Against this backdrop, the intent of AfWID 2018 was for us as African women to dialogue about our own roles in this movement.

The theme of “Strengthening the African Women’s Movement within the Fourth Industrial Revolution towards a new and value-based eco-system” came from the recognition that most women are not familiar with the concept of this 4th revolution. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is upon us and it was, therefore, worthwhile taking some time to consider exactly what kind of shifts we are experiencing and how we might, collectively and individually, ensure that it creates benefits for the many, rather than the few.

We invited women from all over the continent in their diversity: businesswomen, women in public service, rural and urban women, entrepreneurs, activists, academics, young women, students, and homemakers to bring their thoughts and expertise on how to build our continent with women at the centre. Through informative and uplifting presentations, panel discussions, commissions as well as training workshops, the forum created a safe space for participants to learn from, share, and reflect on challenges that face women in their homes, in the community, and in the workplace.

Our dialogue approach was intended to touch the hearts and souls, as well as the heads and hands, believing that the changes our continent needs reside in the changes each one of us can make within us and in our own lives.


The AfWID Dialogue, launched in November 2018, targeted representatives mainly from the Southern African Development Community (SADC). We did this in order to ground ourselves in our region before we cover the whole continent.

Over 1000 women attended the forum from the following African countries: Angola, Botswana, DRC, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, with the largest contingent coming from the host country, South Africa.

Speakers and Facilitators

A highly skilled team of speakers and facilitators was invited to the Inaugural AfWID Forum, as well as moderators and panellists, all experts in their given fields. The response to attend the event was highly favourable, and the response to the theme of dealing with issues around how to Strengthen the Continental African Women’s Movement within the Fourth Industrial Revolution was unpacked in its many layers with the valuable contributions of the speakers, moderators and panellists all bringing their particular wisdom to the table.

The Programme

The programme was carefully put together to ensure that many aspects of the main topic were covered, but also to give the participants time to get to know each other a little bit better. The Breaking Barriers workshops were aimed at just that – allowing participants to connect through communication and discussions; the commissions allowed the groups to take part in various topics and issues brought forward during the conference, and the country caucuses were aimed at creating some real discussion around various issues and having participants discuss their challenges and possible solutions to problems. A formidable line-up of speakers and panellists shed light on the theme of AfWID 2018, and the audience responses also shed immense light on the fears, questions and needs that should be addressed when looking at Strengthening the Continental Women’s Movement in a time of 4IR with a focus on ushering in a new and value-based ecosystem to sustain an inclusive change.

Song, dance and many blessings

A forum for African women means cause for celebration, song and dance that were ordinarily part and parcel of the event. The opening ceremony began with South Africa’s Imilonji KaNtu Choral Society singing the AU Anthem and the South African National Anthem, followed by an Inter-Faith devotion (Muslim, Christian and traditional). A major highlight of the opening ceremony was the musical item/poem by the energetic young ladies of the Chief Albert Luthuli Primary School. Poetry, music, song and dance continued throughout the week, culminating with the various countries wearing their traditional gear and performing traditional song and dance at the gala dinner on the Thursday evening.


The 53 young volunteers, many of them wearing #WeAreHere T-shirts, offered an incredible service to all attendees – no favour seemed too big or small. A team of volunteer rapporteurs also played a wonderful role in recording and documenting key highlights of AfWID 2018, and creating a noteworthy newsletter handed out to participants as they departed on the last day.

AfWID partner’s breakfast

Preceding the dialogue, AfWID hosts a partners’ breakfast for its partners and sponsors to get them up to speed on the exciting developments of the platform and thank them for their support. The first partners’ breakfast was hosted in 2018 prior to the launch of the platform while another one was hosted at the beginning of 2019 to set the preparations for the next dialogue in motion. Of course, they are an almost all-women affair filled with laughter, generosity of spirit and support for the platform.