From last edition

as a woman rights activist, what challenges do you face in Benin?

In West Africa, and Benin in particular, there are significant challenges in facilitating the participation of women in the political process and having them represented in spheres of decision-making and power. Additionally, ending violence against women has been a challenge. We do not deny the efforts underway, of course, but time is for action. In West Africa, civil society organizations are viewed with a negative eye, therefore it is difficult to implement our various actions for the benefit of women’s rights.

What forms of gender discrimination are prevalent in Benin?

Despite the legal provisions in force in Benin, we see discriminatory behavior towards women every day. Stereotypes still exist and in the minds of people women are still the “weaker sex.”

Traditional practices such as widowhood rites, FGM, early and forced marriages, and the internment of girls in convents persist to this day. Social responsibilities are still unequally shared between men and women. The problem is that even if public opinion is more and more sensitized, the culprits are seldom punished because the victims are afraid to denounce them.

What are the achievements of your organization over the past five years?

We have organized several advocacy activities on the use of international and regional human rights procedures for the promotion and protection of women’s rights in Africa. RFLD has also conducted research on a wide range of issues relating to women, including ending sexual violence. Our activities provide beneficiaries with more knowledge and skills in the promotion and protection of women’s rights by using African and international human rights systems to act in cases of human rights violations.                


Hannah J. Forster from the Gambia

Mrs. Forster is the Executive Director of ACDHRS, a regional institution whose main objective is to build and maintain a human rights movement in Africa and to promote greater respect for democratic principles. She has been with ACDHRS since 1990 and has worked with both African and international human rights systems and mechanisms for over three decades. Additionally, Mrs. Forster is a trained and practicing mediator and a member of the Women Mediators across the Commonwealth. She serves as a Steering Committee Member for the World Movement for Democracy and the International Civil Society Committee of the Council for the Community of Democracy.

As a woman rights activist, what challenges do you face in The Gambia?

In The Gambia, like elsewhere in the region, the promotion and protection of women’s human rights has not gone without challenges. The main challenges are related to religious, traditional, and cultural barriers, patriarchy, lack of awareness, and sensitization on the role of women which continues to impede the advancement of women’s human rights. However, civil society actors continue to develop strategies to engage diverse stakeholders to implement actions that contribute towards the promotion and protection of women and girls’ rights.

What is the current situation in The Gambia in terms of promoting women’s rights?

The Gambia is a State Party to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Maputo Protocol and other women’s human rights instruments. Other progressive laws and policies have also been domesticated. However, implementation of the provisions of said instruments remains a challenge, like in other African countries. Civil society and other stakeholders continue to engage with governments at different levels to ensure that barriers to the realization of women’s human rights are overcome. The impact of COVID19 has further negatively impacted the promotion of women’s human rights, especially as related to economic justice.

What steps should the Gambian government take to improve the situation for women and girls?

There are very progressive laws that have been passed by The Gambia pertaining to women’s and girls’ human rights, including but not limited to the Maputo Protocol, the Women’s Act 2010, Anti-FGM/C Act 2015, Children’s Act 2005, the Sexual Offences Act 2013, Domestic Violence Act, 2013 amongst others. However, the implementation of said laws remains a challenge. There is a need to move from words to action, and concrete steps need to be taken by the government and complemented by relevant stakeholders to ensure the implementation of the provisions of the instruments.

Mariam Lamizana from Burkina Faso


Mrs. Lamizana Mariam is the President of VDF. Established in 2000, VDF works to promote and protect the legal, socio-economic, cultural, and political rights of women and girls. The NGO employs communications campaigns and capacity-building training to sensitize Burkinabé women of their rights. A campaigner against female genital mutilation, Lamizana was the first Chairperson of the National Committee to Combat the Practice of Excision and is Chairperson of the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children. She served in the Government of Burkina Faso as Minister of Social Action and National Solidarity from 2002 to 2006.

What are some positive developments for women’s rights in Burkina Faso?

To be Continued

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