Feminist activists in action : a visit to Paris and Brussels to amplify their voices

From April 22 to 26, 2024, a delegation of seven feminist activists, representing organizations supported by the Feminists in Action Project, traveled to Paris and Brussels to share the realities faced by women in their countries. They come from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Burkina Faso, Benin, Madagascar, Chad, and Morocco and were welcomed at the Elysée Palace, the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, the National Assembly, the French Development Agency, and the European Union in Brussels, and invited by numerous media outlets.

Picture of the delegation in Paris. Photos : Juliette Dupuis Carle

A delegation uniting feminist causes

These seven women collectively denounce gender inequalities regardless of their form or where they occur. Their voices often reveal contained anger but consistently express the conviction that feminist commitment and the power of sisterhood can bring about change.

Constanza Jauregui, founder of the Ecuadorian association Las Hijas de Pandora (“The Daughters of Pandora”), explains how her organization supports survivors of sexual violence by providing psychological and legal assistance.

Yolande Via, president of the Malagasy organization FPFE, advocates for women’s participation in social, economic, and political life.

Bénédicta Aloakinnou, from Fondation des Jeunes Amazones pour le Développement au Bénin (Young Amazons Foundation for Development in Benin), highlights the importance of addressing gender stereotypes and protecting women from new forms of violence like cyberbullying.

Gratias Kibanja Lukoo, coordinator of the WAHDI association in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, emphasizes that women’s and girls’ emancipation requires access to education.

Catherine Djimet, representing the CIFDES association in Chad, insists on the necessity of women’s economic independence to ensure their autonomy.

Najat Ikhich, a veteran of the women’s cause in Morocco, shares how the Ytto Foundation she leads travels the country with “women’s caravans for equality” even to the most remote regions.

Zita Désirée Belem fights in Burkina Faso for the recognition of the rights of women with disabilities and the inclusion of all non-abled individuals.

Nonetheless, the fight for a world where the rights and freedoms of women and gender minorities are truly valued is far from safe for those who engage in it.

Feminists in the global south confronting anti-rights movements

Feminist organizations face systemic challenges. In addition to financial constraints, especially for smaller organizations, they face a backlash against feminist progress. Activists contend with pervasive sexist stereotypes and gender-based violence to varying degrees in most societies. These cultural and sociological projections have real consequences for women, who are often relegated to their homes and considered “incapable,” making them targets of multifaceted violence.

This trend worsens as anti-rights and regressive movements gain political space, with resources and influence far exceeding those of feminist associations. Reactionary movements organize intimidation campaigns and do not hesitate to use threats and violence to achieve their goals.

A call to action following budget cuts in french development aid

In response to the rise of movements challenging women’s rights, France has distinguished itself as a key player, notably through its promotion of feminist diplomacy. However, recent budget cuts in public development aid raise significant concerns about continued French support for feminist initiatives. During this week of advocacy, the seven activists represented thousands of mobilized women worldwide, reminding France of the importance of its commitments.

We encourage you to read : French cuts international aid by €800 million

Encouraging France to support feminist organizations globally

In their discussions with representatives from the Presidency, National Assembly, MEAE, and AFD, the delegation emphasized the need for feminist organizations to rely on sustainable French support, aligned with real challenges and needs. Long-term funding is essential for organizations that desperately need financial stability to maintain and expand their actions on the ground. Easier access to international funding for feminist organizations also requires simplifying administrative and financial accountability procedures.

The delegation also urged France to support feminist activists in international decision-making spaces. Francophone feminists, especially from Africa, often struggle to be heard in international forums dominated by English. They count on France to support their demand for “linguistic justice.”

During their meetings with political authorities and media interviews, the activists stressed the importance of ensuring the safety of feminist activists and mobilizing resources to protect them, such as emergency funds for dangerous situations.

Constanza, Yolande, Bénédicta, Gratias, Catherine, Najat, and Désirée left with the feeling of having been attentively listened to by their interlocutors. Their testimonies, well-supported arguments, and powerful convictions sparked undeniable interest. Feminists in the Global South count on France’s commitment, which must be translated into concrete actions. May their voices be heard!