The Autonomy Project expansion

From 2018 to 2020, CAL worked on an expansion of its Autonomy project in Benin, Rwanda and Tunisia, and more broadly on the African continent to advocate for continent-wide reforms around the rights of all women, including lesbians, bisexual and queer women, to freedom and autonomy over their lives and their bodies. This expansion project was funded by the African Women’s Development Fund

More specifically, we worked to address issues related to violence against women and girls and sustain respect for women’s bodily integrity and autonomy and to expand democratic space for women, addressing issues of inclusive governance and equal political participation. 

The majority of women in Africa face huge constraints to their freedom and autonomy, in relation to their everyday lives, decision making, and bodies. The idea that women are possessions, to be owned by male relatives and partners, is deeply embedded in social norms and has been institutionalized. This means that women’s and girls’ freedom to make their own decisions over their lives and bodies, to give and withhold consent and to exercise their individuality and collective sense of self is deeply regulated and policed and that punishments and sanctions are applied to those who disobey, resist and refuse to comply with sexuality and gender norms. This project was designed to address some of these issues, as well as foreground the questions of women’s lack of freedom from disease and violence.

Our achievements:

We published and disseminated research and knowledge products with, by and for activists on VAW, women’s political participation, and wellbeing aimed at shifting the conversation on gender and women’s sexuality. These research and knowledge products’ objective was to understand the political and social contexts in which feminist activism takes place in Benin, Rwanda and Tunisa, with the aim of strengthening the advocacy work undertaken by CAL and by the collectives we work with in each country on women’s bodily autonomy. 

Read the research:

We campaigned against VAW in the framework of the #16DaysOfActivism . With this campaign, we sought to support our partners in Benin, Rwanda and Tunisia in addressing the rampant rise in violence against women and girls withing their own context. We enabled spaces to hold dialogues on wellbeing for feminist activists and women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and their communities.

  • We organised a 3 part web-series named In Plain Sight: Discussing Power, Violence and Wellbeing .
  • We supported collectives in Benin, Rwanda and Tunisia to mobilise their constituency and hold national conversations on VAW, women’s political participation and wellbeing.
  • We implemented an online media campaign through social media engagements and e-newsletter linking the research and knowledge products created in the framework of this project to the larger global discourse on VAW.
  • We’ve published 2 issues of African Feminist Standpoint in line with the project themes on autonomy, wellness and wellbeing.

We advocated regionally and internationally at the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and at the United Nations Human Rights Council to increase the support of multiple stakeholders of ideas related to autonomy. We held training workshops with collectives in Benin, Rwanda and Tunisia and in Southern Africa on regional and international human rights mechanisms and worked with them to draw the links between national advocacy strategies and regional and international human rights systems. 

We were able to respond more effectively to the context of the global COViD-19 pandemic by improving the organisation structure and our capacity to implement programmes in the context of a remote-working environment and living under lockdown restrictions. 

Special Projects

Special Projects refers to work done to research, conceptualise and incubate projects for later integration into the work of the Coalition of African Lesbians. Issues are identified by staff and members and agreements made about which to prioritise for development. As soon as the Project is designed and established, a new project is explored, designed and developed.

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