Highlights of the first day of “We Rise 2023”


Group photo on stage on the WE RISE 2023 Regional Learning Exchange
Abigail Erikson, Chief of the UN Trust Fund, with representatives of grantee organizations at the Opening Plenary of We Rise 2023. Credit: Digital Tailor Agency Limited

Nairobi, Kenya. On December 4, 2023, the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund) kicked off its first regional learning exchange, “We Rise 2023”, bringing together over 55 grantees located in Africa and Latin America who received funding from the UN Trust Fund under the EU/UN Spotlight Initiative for the past three years.   

At the height of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence with the theme focusing on investment in preventing violence against women and girls, We Rise 2023 represents the commitment of the UN Trust Fund, UN Women and its key partner, the Spotlight Initiative, in investing in civil society and women’s rights organizations, who have historically been the powerful force behind global feminist movements. 

“The EU understood that only women's empowerment leads to sustained development and peace in the world. That's why the EU/UN Spotlight Initiative has also made sure there is a strong civil society component that supports front line activists and supports the activists in countries and across different regions. The networks are the ones that bring the movement forward,” said H. E Henriette Geiger, European Union Ambassador to Kenya at the opening of the convening. 

At the opening ceremony, PS. Anne Wang’ombe Principal Secretary State Department for Gender and Affirmative Action, Ministry of Gender, Culture, the Arts and Heritage of Kenya, extended a warm welcome to all We Rise 2023 participants in Nairobi. PS. Wang’ombe acknowledged the ongoing work led by civil society and women’s rights organizations that contributes to Kenya’s national commitment to advancing gender equality and ending all forms of gender-based violence, as a co-leader of the Gender-Based Violence Action Coalition. 

We Rise 2023 takes place in the context of complex, overlapping and protracted crises happening around the world. Since the start of these projects, civil society and women’s rights organizations have experienced and adapted to numerous global challenges, from the COVID-19 pandemic to natural and human-made disasters that have increased backlash to women’s rights as well as anti-rights movements and unprecedented levels of violence against women. These organizations remain as vital first responders to survivors and those at high risk of violence before, during and after emergencies.  

“We have the evidence in all of our regions that activism and the role of women's orgs is essential to reduce impunities and structural inequalities. Women's organizations and feminist movements are at the core of the work to sustain peace and strengthen movements; it is why we need long term funding. We must strengthen South-South and triangular cooperation for gender equality”, said Cecilia Allemany Billorou, Deputy Regional Director of the Latin America Regional Office, UN Women, during her remarks . 

We Rise 2023 is the moment to reflect on these past few years of implementation of these projects, throughout which collective actions have brought innovation, built resilience, and taught invaluable lessons to deliver systemic solutions to violence against women and girls.  

The opening session of We Rise 2023 welcomed: 

PS. Ms. Anne Wang’ombe, Principal Secretary State Department for Gender and Affirmative Action, Ministry of Gender, Culture, the Arts and Heritage, Kenya 

H. E Ms. Henriette Geiger, EU Ambassador to Kenya  

Cecilia Allemany Billorou, Deputy Regional Director of the Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Office, UN Women 

“This pivotal moment provides us with a unique opportunity to glean insights from your remarkable achievements, understanding what worked, the challenges faced, and how we can carry these lessons into the future. Over the past three years, our collective efforts have navigated the challenges posed by the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, alongside a rise in climate crises escalating conflicts and emergencies, disproportionately impacting women and girls. This week offers a rare opportunity to think deeply, learn from one another, and exchange valuable knowledge to advance our collective efforts to end all forms of gender-based violence and press for peace, equality, security and freedom for all women and girls,” Abby Erikson, Chief, UN Trust Fund. 

Contributions and conclusions from participants will inform the UN Trust Fund’s work in feminist grant-giving and its future convenings to ensure full delivery of its Strategic Plan 2021-2025.   

Welcome to We Rise 2023 ! 

Following opening high-level remarks, a panel discussion set the scenes of the Regional Learning Exchange, with Faye Macheke, Co-Executive Director of AWID, Tarcila Rivera Zea, Founder of the Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas, Shruti Majumdar, Monitoring & Evaluation Manager at the UN Trust Fund, Shamah Bulangis, Spotlight Initiative Civil Society Advocacy and Monitoring Co-Coordinator, and Leah Wangechi Wachira, Executive Director of the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (Kenya).  

Taking Stock of Progress and Emerging Challenges in Ending Violence against Women and Girls 

The first thematic plenary session of We Rise 2023 focused on tacking stock of progress and emerging challenges in ending violence against women and girls.  

Namuma Mulindi from Sonke Gender Justice (South Africa) highlighted the importance of engaging men and boys, as well as cultural and religious leaders to ensure the sustainability of their work to end violence against women and girls. Claudia Monserrat Arévalo Alvarado, Executive Director of AMT shared her organization’s advocacy efforts to collect resources for the senstizitation of actors in the justice system. 

Anicette Kemneloum Beassoum, from PILC (Chad) explained how support from the UN Trust Fund under the EU/UN Spotlight Initiative enabled them to establish a new safehouse for women and girls to access information, psychosocial support and health services.  

Lorena Fernanda Gonzalez from FUNDECO (Argentina) highlighted her organization’s work with community leaders to accompany and support survivors, by creating an advisory group for them to monitor and identify risks and develop mitigation plans against gender-based violence. 

Gaudence Mushimiyimana, from UNABU (Rwanda) emphasized the significance of empowering women and girls with disabilities to become advocates in their own communities and to challenge stigma and discrimination.  

The afternoon was dedicated to thematic workshops running in parallel focused on the importance of adopting an intersectional approach when working to end violence against marginalized women and girls, including with adolescent girls, women and girls living with disabilities, refugee and internally displaced women and girls, self-identified female sex workers and LGBTQ women and girls. Workshops sessions were also held on the three thematic areas of the UN Trust Fund

  • Prevention of violence against women and girls; 
  • Improvement of access to essential services to meet the needs of women and girls affected by violence; 
  • Strengthening Implementation of laws, policies, and action plans on violence against women and girls. 
Abigail Erikson, with Maxime Houinato and Kalliopi Mingeirou
Abigail Erikson, Chief of the UN Trust Fund, Maxime Houinato, UN Women Regional Director, Eastern and Southern Africa and Calliope Mingeirou, Chief of the Ending Violence against Women Section at UN Women. Credit: UN Trust Fund


The day ended with bringing everyone together to share key reflections and findings from the day to support grantee organizations to look back in order to look forward. 

At the Welcome Dinner, Maxime Houinato, UN Women Regional Director, Eastern and Southern Africa, officially welcomed all We Rise 2023 participants and encouraged them to take the opportunity of this Regional Learning Exchange to bring forward incredible knowledge, expertise and voices into critical forums happening in 2024 such as the Commission on the Status of Women, the 2024 SVRI Forum and the Global AWID Forum.





For media inquiries, please contact:  

Adina Wolf, Resource Mobilization & Reporting Specialist 

UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women 

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