Out of 444 participants (all in the LBQ community) in Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Togo and Burkina Faso, 71.4% expressed a desire to have one or more children but live in countries where the right to have children is not extended to all women.
In Benin, high poverty and income inequality rates add another layer of disenfranchisement for women in the country, particularly queer and marginalised women.
“The idea that women should not be employed is still deeply rooted in Benin […] We found that 28.7% of women [that participated in our research] were self-employed while 27.2% worked for other people. Many of them worked in difficult conditions, receiving low salaries, being judged for the way they dress in the case of LBTQ women or even being subjected to sexual harassment.” – Benin Collective
These are some of the findings yielded in research conducted by collectives in West and Central Africa that participated in a research and knowledge production project implemented by the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) between 2019 and 2021.
In 2015 the Coalition of African Lesbians undertook a mapping exercise of the gender and sexual rights work done in the West and Central African (WACA) region, focusing primarily on lesbian, bisexual and queer (LBQ) women. This exercise was conducted through a consultative process with a few activists, collectives and networks in the WACA region to establish an understanding of what work existed and what support was needed to strengthen the work of the gender and sexual rights activists in the region. CAL extended its work from Southern Africa into WACA with the objective of both growing and strengthening the feminist network as well as the gender and sexual rights movements on the continent. After a series of relationship building activities, solidarity visits, several workshops and events, a WACA network was formed to develop a plan of action.
CAL and the WACA network were primarily concerned with the repressive political, socio-economic and cultural dynamics in the region. Movements concerned with gender and sexuality in West and Central Africa, particularly those whose mandate includes LGBTQ communities, face many difficulties due to religious fundamentalisms, repressive religious and customary beliefs which permeate sexist and patriarchal notions, secular law, scarce resources, and income inequality. In addition to the repressive environment, LGBTQ communities and activists are also marginalized within many feminist spaces and movements as well as sexuality and gender networks. This understanding of the context within which the WACA network works informed the prioritisation of strengthening the WACA network through support for research and knowledge production and to ultimately form an evidence base for their advocacy. The CAL WACA Knowledge project was thus developed to strengthen the WACA network through capacity development, creating spaces for learning and strategizing while simultaneously supporting collectives’ research and knowledge production projects. The WACA knowledge project was funded by the Foundation for a Just Society (FJS) and was implemented between 2019-2021.
The WACA knowledge project culminated in the publication of four reports as follows:
- Report on Violence in Queer Women Couplses in Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Côte D’Ivoire,
- Procreation in LBQ Communities in Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Togo and Burkina Faso,
- Women’s access to employment in Benin,
- Access to justice for LBTQ women and other vulnerable women and girls in Liberia.
These reports mark the beginning of more activist generated knowledge in the near future. The collectives in the WACA Network together with CAL, welcome more support to collectives and activists to produce research and knowledge products that are for them and by them. CAL is committed to supporting feminists as well as gender and sexual rights collectives and movements in their activism of which knowledge production is a part. CAL continuously seeks to contribute to a growing body of work, shaped by women that challenge Global north hegemonies in knowledge production. We see the work of producing our own knowledge as a critical component of disrupting existing, skewed systems of knowledge production. CAL will continue to work towards creating and supporting knowledge production that shares the voices, experiences, theories and practices of African women in their diversity.