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Feminists group decries inadequate ‘civil’ spaces

West African Feminists have decried the shrinkage of civil spaces and regression in women’s rights advocacy in the West African sub-region.

The group made its position in Abuja on the sidelines of a two-day West African Feminist conference with a theme, ” Feminism as Practice: Movement Building and the Rise of Fundamentalisms” organised by Alliance for Africa in collaboration with African Women’s Development (AWDF) and the African Feminist Forum (AFF).

Representing Ghana, Ms Abena Benewa-Fosu, said salient points raised from the conference included the need for self-identified feminists to contend with emerging issues in the feminist movement and how the younger generation of feminists could benefit from the movement to stand the regression of wider women’s human rights.

She added that the conference was to enable feminists to analyse previous and contemporary trends in the movement, which include economic justice, feminist leadership and power.

For Ms Theriyeh Korima-Nenneh, representing Sierra Leone, women have contended with patriarchy for a longer time and advocated the need for collaboration and mentorship between older and younger feminists to exchange ideas on tackling it.

“We also spoke about women’s sexual reproductive health and rights. We talked about abortion rights. We talked about access to family planning; we talked about body autonomy how women can have full control of their bodies. We talked about laws and policies that have to be in place and implemented properly to protect the rights and dignity of women.” She said

On her part, Mrs Bunmi Dipo-Salami, representing Nigeria said the end goal of the feminist movement was to ensure the inclusion of women in every sphere of life.

“In Nigeria, for instance, all the gender bills were thrown out. For us, we are not giving up, it is to re-strategise and say we are equal citizens. The constitution of Nigeria says there is no discrimination based on gender, religion and any other distinction, “she said.

Liberian representative, Ms Naomi Tulay-Solanke, stressed the need for a safe space to enable women to express themselves without discrimination and denial of their human rights.

“We want a world that is free from violence. Where the rights of women are respected and protected.

“So feminists want a safe space for everyone where freedom of speech is respected and protected. We want a space when health care services is available to everyone and no one is not discriminated against because of your choice,” she said.

The Executive Secretary, of Alliance  for  Africa and member of the Nigeria Feminist Forum, Ms Iheoma Obibi, said society tends to push the envelope around things that are sensitive, difficult to articulate and nuances in communities.

“This  encourages those working on women’s human rights, gender and development extractive industries around the agenda to begin to address other issues.”  She said

145 feminists from Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, The Gambia and Nigeria attended the hybrid conference, to push for the rights of women in the west African.

Reporting by Azizatu Sani; Editing by Abdullahi Lamino