The forum of young francophone feminists to catalyze a dynamic space for young activists



On Saturday November 25, 2023, the Forum des Jeunes Féministes Francophones (FJFF) was held as a prelude to the International Francophone Forum 2023, initiated by the XOESE Fund, which kicked off on November 27 in Lomé. This meeting, intended as a forum for exchange and reflection on themes specific to groups of young activists within the French-speaking feminist movement, was attended by several activists from various French-speaking countries.

From November 27 to 30, the XOESE Fund is holding its second international francophone forum to strengthen the francophone women’s rights movement.

Preparing young feminists to contribute actively to the forum’s activities, encouraging networking between young feminists from different countries, and facilitating open and participatory discussions on the issues and challenges facing young feminists in the French-speaking world are the main objectives of the forum des jeunes féministes francophones, held as a pre-event to the grand forum.

Panel discussion on the generational divide: how to establish and maintain contact with older generations?

To achieve these objectives, several panels were held, divided into three main sections. These sections were preceded by a plenary debate on the theme of the generational divide, and mechanisms for establishing and maintaining contact with older generations.

Among the speakers were Ms Elsa M’bena BA, a feminist activist from Togo, and Ms Amida TCHAMDJA from the Réseau des Associations des Femmes en Action pour le Développement. They assessed the situation and put forward ideas to change the situation. In summary, the speakers recognized the obvious difficulty of collaboration between old and young activists, which should not be the case, given that the struggle is the same notwithstanding the inherent realities of each generation. There is therefore an urgent need for “regular frameworks for exchange to evolve and lay down common strategies for an efficient struggle”, they recommended.

Panels rich in exchanges of experience

The first section dealt with the themes of feminism and beliefs: dialogue for equality and justice, on the one hand, and feminist activist strategies in politics, on the other. The first panel featured numerous testimonials, each speaker sharing his or her personal experience of confrontations between these two realities, a situation that calls for clear-sightedness and discernment. To avoid getting lost in the dilemma, it’s a good idea to read one’s beliefs in the light of the struggle for women’s rights and liberation from the patriarchal system.

As for feminist activism strategies in politics, panelists including Ms Jaly BADIANE, a Senegalese feminist activist, and Ms Chanceline MEVOWANOU, a feminist activist from Benin, shared their experiences and called for feminists to integrate decision-making spheres to have a greater impact. “It’s not just a question of having women in decision-making bodies to corroborate decisions, but convinced feminists to influence and weigh in on decision-making by really taking women’s interests into account,” insisted Jaly from Senegal.

The two panels in the second section were on the themes of “combining activism and skills(training)” and “web activism: online safety and resilience against harassment” respectively.

This was an ideal opportunity for resource persons to show how they combine their training with their activism. In addition to the training they receive for their professional activities, to become a professional feminist it’s important to seek out training on feminist-related themes via the channels available, so as to fully grasp the concepts and master the various issues involved.  “When you decide to become a committed feminist, you have to be involved, and to do that, training is essential. You have to know what you stand for and take responsibility for it. And there’s no shortage of training courses available,” emphasized Ms. Elsa M’bena from Togo.

On the subject of online harassment, the speakers stressed the importance of not allowing oneself to be intimidated by detractors, and of following through with one’s initiative, as there will be no shortage of cyber-stalkers and threats.

Work continued with the final sections devoted more to preparation for the forum. A day rich in exchanges and sharing that the participants greatly appreciated.

Participants leave very edified

Participants invited to sign the wall of expression

The forum was a great success, and participants took away useful information. In the words of Guinea Conakry activist Lydie Tinyuno: “In Guinea, we want to create a movement for real feminist commitment, and it’s a pleasure to meet so many committed feminists today. I learned a lot about the challenges they face and the strategies they adopt to overcome them. In particular, what touched me was the panel on beliefs and feminism, and you know that in our country the population is predominantly Muslim and many don’t dare broach certain subjects, but listening to the testimonials, I also shared mine. I just wish more of us had been invited from Guinea in the near future, because there are enough young feminist activists in Guinea who need these experiences”.

Ms. Amida TCHAMDJA, coordinator of the network of women’s associations in action for development, who shared her experience as an elder in the struggle during the exchanges, was also totally satisfied with the day: “As an adult invited by the young activists, I greatly appreciated the exchanges and I understood that young people want to be given space so that they can emerge and become more effective. In terms of motivating young people, I felt that the next generation is assured. The desire is there, it’s just a question of training them, combining activism and training, activism and capacity building, so that they’re up to the task when we need them”.

A committed feminist activist in Benin, Ms Chanceline MEVOWANOU expressed her satisfaction: “My impressions are very good. It’s a real pleasure to exchange, to converse, to discuss our strategies and to move forward together. There was a remarkable diversity in the exchanges. At the end of the day, I think we came away with a lot more perspectives on how to build an intergenerational feminist movement, strategies that also work in politics, and prospects for collaboration. I’ve shared our experience in Benin in terms of political interference strategy, and our strategy for strengthening sisterhood, to enrich the reflections”.

With Senegal having the highest rate of feminist activists in French-speaking Africa in politics, its example and the considerable efforts of its feminist movement became a textbook case in the discussions. President of the WA MBEDMI association in Senegal, Ms. Jaly Badiane outlined winning strategies in Senegal, in particular the highly effective intergenerational solidarity between feminists. At the end of the day’s work, she was a very satisfied participant: “The day was rich in exchanges. We can say that we are building an effective Francophone feminist movement. This new feminist youth is aware of the challenges and is preparing to meet them. We have the highest proportion of women in the national assembly, we have a law criminalizing rape, all these experiences in Senegal and how we got there are things to share. And in any exchange of good practices, it’s important to point out the things that have worked and those that haven’t. We’ll have the opportunity to talk about them. We’ll have the opportunity to learn more at the forum. The English-speaking world has succeeded in building up a very strong dynamic, and we need to do the same in the French-speaking world to create a very strong network to influence our different countries, and above all to create an inter-regional exchange mechanism to communicate and share information, so that we can also use it in the advocacy campaigns we run in our own countries”.

The young feminists’ forum sets the scene for the theme of this year’s international francophone forum: “building the francophone feminist movement: where to start”.