I have worked for over 17 years to promote justice for women and girls through economic empowerment, education, counselling and legal actions. To broadly fulfil my mission, I founded the organisation SIN-DO which is women-led and women-focused. At present I work as Chief of Party of the EMPOWER Project, a project implemented by CARE International, which works to promote women’s rights through the reduction of gender-based violence in across all communes in Benin. As part of this I lead a team of 12 organisations, two networks and public social promotion centres to increase understanding and application of women’s rights.
I call myself a feminist because I believe in women’s values, I understand the violations that women are victims of, and I work daily with them and with men for the full respect of women’s rights. I work for women to be recognised fully as human beings.
As with all African women, African feminists face social pressures linked to cultural and traditional norms. Social norms such as the expectation for women to be the sole care givers for their children makes it difficult for many women to have full time jobs. As women, many feminists have not had the same opportunities as their male counterparts to pursue education or to be visible in society. Feminists are often accused of being “deracina- ted and westernised”, which is an incorrect and unfair characterisation.
I was fortunate that from a young age I had support from my parents as well as a courageous temperament which allowed me to pursue an education. I had experiences of international women’s organisations such as the Association for Women’s Rights in Development and the Global Fund for Women from early on in my career, which also exposed me to feminism.
We still have a lot of work to do in building the feminist movement and in achieving the feminist goals of women’s rights and emancipation. To succeed we need to support feminist activists wherever they are and to involve young women in our work. We also need to keep working to change laws in order to comply with human rights principles, and to raise awareness amongst both women and men about the principles of human rights.
Whenever I need to feel revived I remind myself of the realities on the ground, the daily lives of women and girls and their battles for survival in the face of enormous challenges and difficulties. Their willingness to carry on is an inspiration.