Who We Are

The Coalition of African Lesbians is a feminist, activist and pan Africanist network of 14 organisations in 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa committed to advancing freedom, justice and bodily autonomy for all women on the African continent and beyond.

The Coalition is committed to raising consciousness amongst and strengthening activism and leadership of lesbian women on sexuality and gender and its intersections with a wide range of lived realities.

We understand the place of Africa in the world and work in ways that affirm African agency and power to contribute to transformative change on the continent and in the world.

We believe in the power of collective action. We view ourselves as a part of social movements, including the women’s movements, the sexual and reproductive rights movements and the economic justice movement.

What We Want

The Coalition of African Lesbians [CAL] builds with others a feminist future where social justice prevails and where we Africans live in dignity and freedom and work in solidarity with our friends all over the world to create transformatory change.

What We Believe

Imagination…

The Coalition of African Lesbians is an organising space that believes in imagination and hope and in generating ideas and seeking possibilities to create a feminist future. We insist on believing in the real possibility of a world we want to live in with freedom and dignity. We generate ideas and build on the ideas of others, we ask questions, think and question in our pursuit of a world where justice is a reality. We believe that the answers to all the challenges we face in the world and how to create another kind of world are within us all.

Agency and autonomy

Women are people with agency and have the right to autonomy over our own bodies and lives. We can, do and will continue to exercise our will to make meaning of the contexts and realities within which we live and to build this organising and movements towards transforming society. We refuse to be oppressed. We use our individual and collective power to take action against oppressive forces of all kinds.

Collective feminist power

The Coalition of African Lesbians believes in the importance of women stepping into our power and building our power within and our power with others as part of collective feminist effort and action. This collective power helps sustain our activism and expands the reach and impacts of our organising.

Africa as a place of power and justice

We insists on sustaining our work to build Africa as a continent where social and economic justice are a reality for all people who live here and to ensure that injustices are named and confronted and that systems and processes to strengthen equity are established and sustained. We believe in transformatory change where the structures and systems of economic and political power are exposed and confronted as part of movements concerned with freedom and dignity for all.

Confronting oppressive power

At CAL, we are mindful of how oppressive forms of power keep us unfree and unequal and rob us of our dignity. We understand that the oppression we live and experience as women is created and sustained by patriarchy, the system of male domination which is responsible for the oppression of all women and all those who do not conform to gender norms and who challenge gender and gender power relations.

Multiple intersecting oppressions

We believe that our multiple sets of realities and contexts intersect and are linked. Our race, class, gender, sexual orientation, [dis]ability, geographic location amongst others are connected in a web of oppression. To disrupt this web, we have to work across identities and issues and connect struggles. We have to make real in our organising and movement building the fact that an injury to one is an injury to all and constantly ask ourselves who else is affected by this oppression. Then seek and use opportunities to advance these struggles collectively and in solidarity with each other.

Where Do We Come From:

2003…

The Coalition of African lesbians emerged out of a 2003 meeting of 50 women sexual rights activists attending the Sex and Secrecy Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. We were concerned, from the outset, about the fact that as women and lesbian women in particular, we were often marginalized from decision making and leadership processes and our voices were seldom heard and respected. This was both within social movements and within policy spaces.

2005…

CAL embarked on a process of mobilizing lesbian women and organizations in the feminist, women’s rights, sexual reproductive health and from what was then the gay and lesbian community in Sub-Saharan Africa. This was part of our commitment to organize ourselves and get ready for collective action and the building of solidarity to advance social justice and to defend the full spectrum of women’s rights on the continent.

2006…

We grew rapidly and our work and membership increased to the point that we set up a Secretariat with staff to support the process of mobilising and organizing ourselves on the continent. We began more structured programming and established a strong advocacy project at the regional level working with coalitions and movements to change the conversation and to assert our realities and presence.

2010…

From 2010, CAL expanded the international advocacy rapidly to engage more proactively with a wide range of coalitions and networks and doing targeted advocacy on sexuality a nd gender within UN spaces. We also shifted to a broader range of projects and expanded the work that until now was focussed on the regional level. Our focus on the domain of ideas as the basis of our change work was now well established and this aspect of our approach became more explicit and greater investments made into it.

2014 to 2016…

The Coalition of African Lesbians has, in the last 2 years, become a strong, highly focussed network with a clear political agenda and an orientation towards action driven by explicit political analysis and ideological underpinnings. We insist on leading ourselves as an autonomous space of thinker-activists and deliberately and consciously refuse to be blind followers or consumers of the ideas of others. We challenge those who try to name us and determine the space we organise in or limit our possibilities to speak and think for ourselves. We are fierce feminists with a deep commitment to building Africa and to advance social justice for all from this standpoint. We are activists and advocates working at an international, regional, sub-regional and country level with others to foreground sexuality and gender as one critical entry point towards creating a feminist future. To do this we work at the personal and interpersonal level; the ideological level, the institutional and the systemic and structural levels. We are ready for a new phase of feminist organising as we wind down 2016 and ready for 2017 and beyond…

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