West African Women at the forefront of ending violence against women and girls

Bamako Mali 21-22 March 2023

African women’s rights advocates and feminists in all their diversity conglomerated in Bamako Mali to assess and address the status of Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in a forum dabbed the Women’s Forum on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls.

The forum was a joint collaboration of West African Network of Young Women Leaders (ROAJELF) and other FEMNET members in West Africa with the support of multisectoral partners through the Spotlight project, a global partnership between the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN).

The forum reinforced a strong tone on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030 and brought together participants from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Cote D ‘Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Togo.

In her opening remarks, Fatoumata Djire Vice Chair, West Africa region of the African Women’s Development and Communications Network (FEMNET) and the vice-president of the board of directors of the West African Network of Young Women Leaders (ROAJELF) said “The magnitude and prevalence of Gender Based Violence in Africa warrants urgent attention.”

Djire noted that even though international legal instruments such as the one on “the elimination of violence against women and girls (EVWAG) exists violence and harmful and discriminatory practices against women and girls ensue in Africa, women need to collaborate and fight for their freedom.

On the same note, Abdramane Coulibaly, the Project Manager for EVAWG at UN Women, Mali said “The efforts towards the elimination of violence against women need to be enhanced,”

Coulibaly emphasized that eliminating gender-based violence in Africa is a collective effort that needs collective actions because the ramifications affect the entire community at large,”

Accordingly, Jill Anami, Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Officer at FEMNET said, “African countries need to collectively implement and accelerate efforts towards elimination of violence against women and girls.

Anami reiterated that regional and global bodies need to prioritise and promote policies that safeguard against sexual gender-based violence and harmful practices for all African women and girls.”

Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) manifests sexually, physically, emotionally, financially, and economically (where women are forced to give in so as to access to decent jobs, public services, quality education).

Linda Fremah the National coordinator of the Substantial Ladies in Governance in Ghana stated that institutions must put in place safeguarding policies that protect women and girls against all forms of discrimination including sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse.

Fremah insisted that government and donors should continue funding policies that promote SRHR for effective implementation West Africa.

Seemingly, many African corporate institutions, governments and key stakeholders continue to pledge to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goal 5 without checks and balances that eliminate violence against women.

From the deliberations, it was evident that there is an existing disparity in women engagement and policy formulation and implementation. However, the resounding conviction from the participants was that African women need to resume the struggle for freedom and liberation. This view was underscored as quintessential to realize key SRHR policies such the Maputo Plan of Action.

In general, the meeting was poignant and powerful, it deeply connected with the contemporary realities African women encounter but remained alive to the reality that women are no longer second-class citizens. The collective voices were truly transformational and catalytic to the continental feminist agenda while the promoting women’s rights in Africa.

Sentiments on the aforementioned forum can be retrieved via #SRHRDialogues. This article was written and compiled by Imali Ngusale ; i.ngusale@femnet.or.ke . For additional information on the Spotlight initiative in West Africa contact email Sheila Odongo; s.odongo@femnet.or.ke , Lisa Taiyana via l.otieno@femnet.or.ke and Maureen Oduor via m.oduor@femnet.or.ke

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