Bridging the Inter-Generational Gap Between Women’s Activists in West Africa

Bridging the Inter-Generational Gap Between Women’s Activists in West Africa

In early 2018, a video went viral where a young boy in a relay race took over a baton and ran in the opposite direction. He ran so fast even the House Master could not catch up with him. He was determined to win the race, only that he was going the wrong way!

That video captures the feelings expressed by some older gender activists that I have made acquaintances within recent times. A feeling that younger gender activists are running in the wrong direction even though the common goal is gender equality. Indeed, we are in a race. Some started off the race and have been exchanging batons with peers. The baton is about to be passed on to the younger generation. However, there is a gap between the generations of women activists in West Africa. The gap is obvious but can be bridged.

My experience 
I started work quite early in comparison with my peers because while the average age of breaking into the labour market as at the beginning of the current millennium (2000) was about 25, I had started work at 21. Starting work early has given me some privileges. I collaborated with older activists (48 – 60years old with not less than 20years of experience) quite early and was considered an ally to younger ones (fresh graduates and females within the age range of 25 – 37years old) as they came on board. This gave me the opportunity of listening in during conversations among the different generations of activists and I am summing the gaps I heard during these conversations as knowledge gap, age gap, ideas and ideals gap and gaps in strategies and approaches.

The inter-generational gap 
Even though women’s rights have been argued, agreed and professed as human rights the world over, documentation of how these arguments were made is not in abundance and where it exists, most are written in complicated sentences and steeped in technical jargons. So, while older activists with whom I have made acquaintance complain that younger ones have refused to read to gain knowledge about women’s rights and the past efforts, younger ones hold the view that the literature is not necessarily accessible (found majorly in books catalogued in libraries or not written in simple language or written by non-Africans thus considered too foreign). This has created a knowledge gap. The knowledge gap is noticeable also in older activists who could be unaware of strides being made by younger activists within their circle of influence to change negative and pervasive mindsets. On both sides, this gap is exacerbated by reduced feminist scholarships in West Africa and by West Africans.

There is a noticeable difference in ideas, ideals, strategies, and approaches employed by women activists to address gender equality. For instance, while some older activists having gone through years of struggle and compromises have settled for ‘equity’ rather than ‘equality’, some younger ones are insisting it’s ‘either all or nothing’- we either achieve equality or nothing.

To exemplify this gap, the story of the Gender & Equal Opportunities Bill (GEO Bill) in Nigeria comes to mind. In the last 3 years, there has been a renewed move by Nigerian women activists to push for the passage of the Bill. The GEO Bill seeks to domesticate some provisions from the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), African Union (AU) Protocol on Women’s Rights and the National Gender Policy. There were several oppositions to the Bill within and outside the legislature and gradually, some sections (reproductive and inheritance rights) had to be re-written or taken out as the process continued. At some point, younger activists shared concerns about the ‘watering down’ of the Bill and considered pulling out of the struggle. However, for older activists, ‘half bread is better than none’ and they pushed on. Even though the younger activists eventually continued in the advocacy, they repeatedly shared concerns about the compromises. I have also noticed how strategies and approaches of younger ones have the potential to ‘rock the boat’ and challenge institutional structures. However, some older activists will prefer critical engagements or discourses that seek to understand the institutional perspective and provide support to remove barriers instead of outrightly challenging those barriers.

Perhaps it is trite to assume that some of these gaps are fueled by age differences and more especially experiences. However, these gaps are worsened by the hierarchy that exists among the women’s movement. Younger activists believe all are comrades and thus equal in the struggle for gender equality but older activists acknowledge seniority within the ranks and files. Seniority is therefore judged by age and experience. Thus, they would defer to senior ones or expect younger ones to defer to them.  In another sense, there is a gap in the age of the women activists whereby the system appears to have more activists within the age range of 70-48 and 30-18. I can attempt two reasons for this. The year’s activists between the age range of 31-47 could have been employed (at least in Nigeria) was the period when funding opportunities for non-governmental organisations were quite low and even lower for women-focused or women-led organisations – 2008 – 2016. (2) Conscious efforts were not invested in recruiting young females into the movement and where employed, some moved to work for development partners who within that period moved into Nigeria to establish offices and operations.

No wonder participants at a recently organised dialogue by WACSI in Ghana all agreed that there is no unified women’s movement in any English-speaking West African country. Neither is there any for the entire region.

What way forward? 
All is not doom and gloom. We can bridge the gap by consciously and deliberately taking the following actions:

  • Advocates and feminists collaborating with donor agencies should advocate for increased funding of feminist scholarships in West Africa and for West Africans. These scholarships should have a strong focus on documenting ‘herstories’ and various struggles.
  • Advocates and feminists should also initiate mentoring schemes that are not left to interest but structured for actual knowledge exchange. These mentoring schemes should as much as possible reduce the hierarchical lines within the movement and especially between mentors and mentees.
  • Feminists should organise periodic informal discussions on women’s rights and feminism in West African countries. The discussions should be intergenerational in nature where the exchange of ideas is encouraged and understanding is engendered. This will foster understanding so that young people can get the essence of some compromises and see reason in some approaches. We should also agree that while the goal will not change, approaches can be different so long as we have a common goal. Therefore, while some activists can engage in demonstrations and protests, others can hold meetings and discussions to advocate for the desired change.
  • Older activists should embrace social media as a tool to reach a wider audience and recruit more activists. They should also share knowledge instead of accusing young people of being lazy and only living on social media.
  • Feminists should recruit young people who are not within the civil society sector into the women’s movement. Young artists, entrepreneurs, scientists, media personnel etc. should be targeted.

Right now, the baton needs to change hands to bridge the gap and younger ones if not properly instructed will be considered by older ones as running the wrong way!

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FIIFI BOATENG

Fiifi is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Communications and Information Officer at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. He joined the Institute in December 2020.

NANCY KANKAM KUSI

Nancy is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Programme Officer in the Knowledge Management unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. She joined the Institute in January 2021.

AGNES ADWOA ANIMA

Agnes is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Head of the Administration unit in the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2021.

DORIS ODEI

Doris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social sciences (Economics and Sociology) from the University of Cape Coast. She is passionate about impacting young lives hence co-founded Impart Foundation. A non-profit organization which seeks to empower young lives through education, technology and entrepreneurship.

PRINCE AKOWUAH

Prince Akowuah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Assistant in the Translation Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.

MAXWELL APENTENG

Maxwell Apenteng is a Ghanaian and joined WACSI in September 2010. He provides gardening and janitorial services at the Institute.

GEORGE ADU-MINTAH

George Adu-Mintah is a Ghanaian and currently the Protocol Assistant/Driver at the West Africa Civil Society (WACSI). He joined the Institute in October 2006.

IBRAHIM KWAKU GBADAGO

Ibrahim Kwaku Gbadago is a Ghanaian. He joined the Institute in 2008 and provides janitorial services and assisting the institute's errands. Before joining the Institute, he worked at the Palestinian embassy in Accra, Ghana.

RUTH YAKANA

Ruth Yakana is from Cameroon and currently the Receptionist at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.

BETHEL KWAME BOATENG

Bethel is a Ghanaian. He provides technical and IT related support to the Institute. He joined the Institute in October 2006.

WHITNAY SEGNONNA

Whitnay Segnonna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Management from the University of Benin. With 2 years of experience, she has a strong knowledge of organizational and project management. Combined with her bilingualism, she is very passionate about her work. She joined WACSI as Project Assistant on Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for the Capacity Development Unit.

STELLA YAWA WOWOUI

Stella Yawa Wowoui holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Translation Studies. She has a perfect grasp of both French and English, as well as an intermediate level in Spanish. She is currently working as a Project Assistant on the Techsoup Project.

KWAME ASANTE

Kwame is an experienced IT Consultant/Software Developer. He is skilled in Web Applications Development, Digital Security, Database Management, Digital Marketing and Brand Management. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology and is a Microsoft Programme Alumni. He is currently serving as a Marketing and IT Officer on the Techsoup Project.

GRACE AKPENE ZIGGAH

Grace Akpene Ziggah is a Togolese and currently the Logistics Officer and also assists in administration duties at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in June 2009.

LILLIAN DAFEAMEKPOR

Lilian Dafeamekpor is a Ghanaian and currently the Assistant to the Executive Director at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.

JOHN P. FRINJUAH

John P. Frinjuah has expertise and interests in civil society, international development, democracy and governance, conflict, crisis, and security. He has extensive experience working with civil society and international development organizations where he supported and managed research, programmes, and provided technical assistance on a variety of themes around public policy, governance, and development. He is an alumnus of the University of Ghana and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy - Tufts University in the United States, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from two institutions respectively. John speaks English, French and several Ghanaian and regional West Africa languages.

GERVIN CHANASE

Gervin has extensive international development experience, including 5 years of policy advocacy and capacity building of grass root organisations. He has implemented over the years a combination of agriculture value chain, livelihood, food security and governance and rights programmes.
Prior to joining WACSI, Gervin worked on two USAID projects focusing on agriculture value chain development and governance in northern Ghana
Gervin holds a master’s degree in development & Governance from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany as well as a Masters in Global Studies from the Universities of Vienna (Austria), Leipzig (Germany) and California (Santa Barbara), USA. He is passionate social justice and inclusion.

LEANDRE BANON

Leandre Banon, Beninese, joined WACSI in September 2014 as Capacity Development Programme Assistant. Since then, he has worked in various units within the Institute to support operational and institutional capacity strengthening programmes for civil society in the region. Currently serving as Capacity Development Programme Officer at WACSI, his main responsibilities involve designing, planning, implementing and monitoring capacity development programmes for civil society constituents and grouping across the West Africa. Leandre is a certified Change the Game Academy Programme Trainer. His background lies in the areas of economics and development planning.

SAMUEL APPIAH

Samuel Appiah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Officer in the Finance and Administrative Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in May, 2016.

JIMM CHICK FOMUNJONG

Jimm Chick Fomunjong, Cameroonian, joined WACSI in May 2018 as the Head of the Knowledge Management and Communication Units of the Institute. He has over ten years’ experience as a journalist and a development communications expert. He has a vast experience in supporting African organisations to strengthen their internal and external communications, building and sustaining relationships with the media and, leveraging on the power of social media to promote their mission. He is also excellent at supporting organisations to set up and operationalise functional communications and knowledge management systems. He has a deep passion and expertise in supporting Africans and African civil society organisations to document their praxis, share and learn from experiences documented from the African civil society sector.

FRANCK A. SOMBO

Franck Sombo is a development practitioner with the drive to lead self and others to influence productivity and efficiency. His work involves supporting organisations to develop strategic plans, design monitoring and evaluation systems, develop and use relevant performance measurement tools to track progress, assess organizational growth and institutionalise learning. Franck has eight years of experience working with WACSI where he currently serves as the Head, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning. His academic qualifications include Masters in Organisations’ and Projects’ Management, and in Business Sciences and a High National Diploma in Finance and Accounting.

Franck is a Fellow of the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) and a graduate of the Graduate Training Institute (GTI) - Ghana with specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Leadership. He has a rich experience in Project Management, Capacity Development, Strategic planning, Data Analytics, Monitoring and Evaluation, Training and Facilitation, Mentoring and Coaching among others.

OMOLARA T. BALOGUN

Omolara is a development practitioner and advocacy strategist with over 10 years progressive experience in development programming targeted at strengthening civil society in West Africa. She joined WACSI in November 2009 as an Advocacy Consultant. And later became the first Policy Advocacy Officer in 2010 and Head of Policy Influencing and Advocacy unit in 2015. As head, she offers strategic direction to the institutes’ ambitions to connect and convene groups of organized and organic civil society actors; and influence regional and global discourses on crosscutting policy issues including—civil society regulations, sustainable development goals, civic space and enabling environment, aid effectiveness, gender equality.


Previously, Omolara served as a Service Development Marshal at TVQ Consulting Group, a customer service firm focused on designing strategic customer relationship and business growth plans for private and public financial institutions in Nigeria. She also served as a Programmes Associate with the Women in Peace and Security Network-Africa where she teamed up to design and implement two programmes on—multidimensional peace support operations and gender mainstreaming in security sector reform in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

KWABENA KRODUAH

Kwabena Kroduah is a Ghanaian and currently heads the Finance Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in January 2008.

CHARLES KOJO VANDYCK

Charles currently serves as the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Charles has over 10 years of experience working in international development and social justice issues in Africa. Charles has expertise in strengthening civil society and public agencies including the design and implementation of governance and leadership programmes, development of knowledge pieces and policy advice. Charles was the founding Board Chair of Innovation for Change (i4C)-Hub Afrique, as well as the founding member of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), an initiative of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. Charles currently serves as the Member of the Governing Board (Coordination Collective) of Africans Rising. He is a Member of the Development Studies Association, United Kingdom. Charles is a 2017 Stanford University Fellow for Nonprofit Leaders and a certified Change the Game Resource Mobilisation Trainer.

NANA ASANTEWA AFADZINU

Nana Afadzinu is a Ghanaian and currently serves as the Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2010.