The African women's movement made history recently when it held the first African Feminist Forum, November 16-19, in Accra, Ghana. Over 100 women's rights activists from 22 African countries (including Africans from the UK and the U.S.) convened for strategy sessions on steps to reform the status of women and ameliorate the conditions under which the majority of African women live.
I joined six Global Fund Advisors, several grantees and former GFW Board Chair Hope Chigudu in the Forum program.The aim of the Forum was to combine the efforts of activists to bring about lasting transformative change in the status of African women, while defining and claiming a distinct African conceptualization of feminism. Forum sessions addressed key concerns, including:
1) Building knowledge of African feminism and developing strategies to strengthen positive aspects of African cultures that dignify and empower women.
2) Assessing women's rights organizing in Africa and prioritizing the documentation of the lessons of African feminist history.
3) Politicizing women's organizing, in contrast to generic gender mainstreaming.
4) Challenging and negotiating state and multi-lateral institutions whose policies reverse women's rights and African sovereignty.
5) Developing strategies to challenge fundamentalisms and subordination of women's sexual rights, the lack of response to women's vulnerability to AIDS.
6) Determining available resources to advance African feminist organizing and institutional capacity.
7) Rejuvenating the African feminist movement with effective leadership and mentoring of young feminists.
Forum outcomes included the adoption of a Charter of Feminist Principles, establishment of a listserv to advance cross-border action agendas, and cross-generational, multi-sectoral learning and networking in appreciation of the diversity and richness of the African feminist movement. The Forum will release a set of position papers on key thematic clusters and seek strategic engagement with other social movements. A second African Feminist Forum will be held in 2008 and subsequently on a biennual basis.