Decades after the Beijing Women’s Conference in China, gender equality continues to face stiff resistance across sectors of African society. Notwithstanding, the inclusion of gender equality as a key policy agenda in many international instruments including the Sustainable Development Goals (specifically Goal 5), Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), Maputo Protocol among others, African governments have been reluctant to move these global agreements into actions for lack of political will.
WACSI, in its effort to promote women’s leadership in West Africa, is championing an initiative to amplify women’s voices in the region. From 10–12 July 2018, the Institute convened forty-six (46) key stakeholders from women’s rights organisations and women’s movements from across Africa to participate in a forum to reflect on the status of women’s movement and gender equality agenda in West Africa.
During the 3-day discussion, participants from Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, the Gambia, Cameroon, South Africa, Uganda, Burundi and the Caribbean reflected on strategies that have worked for women over years and shared challenges best approaches for advancing women’s rights agenda across the region in the 21st Century.
At the opening ceremony, Nana Asantewa Afadzinu, Executive Director of WACSI stated that “Women all over the region [West Africa] are not only faced with the same gender issues but are fighting for the same rights in the different countries regardless of the different contexts”. She explained that, although progress has been made in relation to the operationalisation of policies and laws to protect women, the change that is desired is not seen or felt in West Africa. “It is for this reason that WACSI and the Commonwealth Foundation have organised this forum to facilitate futuristic thinking, learning and to identify ways to amplify women’s voices in the region”, she said.
The three-day forum presented participants the opportunity to think through new ways of engaging and strategising towards bridging the prevailing inter-generational, data and knowledge gaps in the women’s movement in West Africa.
The gender barometer projects in Southern and Eastern Africa were used to inspire discussions on gender data curation to measure progress made on gender equality at the forum. The forum also leveraged on the Commonwealth Foundation’s reinforced commitment and practical approach to make a significant contribution towards realising sustainable development goal 5 (SDG5), to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” by 2030.
The forum ended with key recommendations targeted at women, women’s movement, civil society, national government, ECOWAS and the international development partners, including;
- Creating a platform to bridge the growing intergenerational, sectoral and knowledge gaps in the region,
- Conducting action research to document the history of the feminist movement in West Africa,
- Strengthening the women’s movement with networking, coalition building and advocacy skills,
- Proving requisite support for women’s movement to champion the localisation of SDG 5 and its indicators,
- Devise practical strategies to increase the number of qualified women in mainstream politics especially in the legislative arm of government.