The African Feminist Forum is a biennial conference that brings together African feminist activists to deliberate on issues of key concern to the movement. It was developed out of the growing concern amongst feminists on the continent, that the efforts to advance the rights of women on the continent were under serious threat from a number of sources. The women’s movement seemed to have lost its focus and direction. Growing religious, ethnic and cultural fundamentalisms had also developed within the movement. At the same time, new actors drawn from communities of marginalised women, such as lesbian and bisexual rights activists, women with disabilities and commercial sex workers emerged to demand greater autonomy, accountability and representation of their issues amongst the mainstream women’s movement. This often resulted in reactionary and fundamentalist responses from many within the women’s movement. With the onslaught of the AIDS pandemic, worsening impoverishment, increasing violence against women and girls together with the fact that funding for women’s rights issues was decreasing steadily over the years; the influence of the women’s movement on the continent appeared to be in decline. Yet, it was widely recognised that women’s empowerment is central to development.
A group of feminist activists decided that the time had come, for the development of an autonomous space for feminists from the continent to deliberate on these issues internally reflecting on the current architecture for the advancement of the rights of women, as well as assessing and developing strategies to address the external challenges on the movement. The first such convening took place in November 2006 in Accra, Ghana.