Who We Are

The Coalition of African Lesbians is a feminist, activist and pan Africanist network of 14 organisations in 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa committed to advancing freedom, justice and bodily autonomy for all women on the African continent and beyond.

We are 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.

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

What We Want

The Coalition of African Lesbians builds with others feminist futures where social justice prevails and where we as 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

We are an organising space that believes in imagination, hope, generating ideas and seeking possibilities to create feminist futures. We insist on believing in the real possibility of creating a world we want to live in – one 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 we 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 movements towards transforming society. We use our individual and collective power to take action against oppressive forces of all kinds.

Collective feminist power

We believe in the collective power of feminist thinking, analysis, solidarity and action to create thoughtout vehicles for change. We believe 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 impact of our organising.

Africa as a place of power and justice

We insist 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 and gender non-conforming people is created and sustained by patriarchy, capitalism, white supremacy and heteronormativity.

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 and 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 membership increased to the point of setting up a Secretariat with staff to support the growing work 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 its international advocacy rapidly, engaging more proactively with a wide range of coalitions and networks to do targeted advocacy on sexuality and gender in United Nations spaces. From an initial focus on regional work, we also shifted to a broader range of projects. We reinforced our approach in using the domain of ideas as the basis of our change work by making greater investments in it.

2014 to 2016…

The Coalition of African Lesbians has become a strong, highly focused network with a clear political agenda and actions driven by explicit analysis and ideological underpinnings. We are an autonomous space for thinkers and activists 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.

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