WLP Senegal Regional Training Boosts Women's Political Participation in West Africa

The following article is a first-person account of an interview with Julie Cisse, Founder and Coordinator of GIPS WAR, conducted by WLP Senior Global Facilitator Lina Abou-Habib in Dakar, Senegal, May 30, 2015.

During my stay in Saly (Senegal, 27 May to 1 June), I spoke with my colleague Julie Cisse, the founder of WLP’s partner organisation in Dakar, GIPS WAR. GIPS WAR was founded in 2004 with the aim of supporting the social, economic and cultural development of rural women. According to Julie, the association includes a membership of 300 rural women supported by some 30 resource persons. The association seeks to support the organizational development of local women’s groups and the emergence of rural women leaders, and to build women’s capacities for entrepreneurship and economic empowerment.

Senegal ratified CEDAW in 1985 with no reservations; however, women in Senegal face several challenges as elsewhere notably in terms of access to resources, notably land, economic and political power and representation in addition to unequal intra-households gender relations leading to an unequal distribution of work thus undermining women’s opportunities and life chances. For Julie, women in Senegal, especially rural women are at the heart of the eco-system and are instrumental in preserving bio-diversity and food sovereignty. Women leaders at the local level are playing a key role in securing livelihoods and in ensuring that other women have opportunities and spaces to be active in the public and political sphere.

GIPS WAR and Julie started collaborating with WLP since 2011 with the implementation of the first sub-regional Global Training of Trainers for West Africa.  According to Julie, “many of the women participants in the workshop were transformed by the event and by the materials and tools they received.” Julie notes the experience of Beatrice from Casamance who was inspired by WLP’s Leading to Action Guidebook on women’s political participation and decided to engage in local politics at a time when the engagement of women in politics is not much welcome by either her family or her community. Julie adds that the capacity building and training that she has carried out so far with WLP have helped hundreds of young and less young women and men to question their earlier beliefs about leadership and about women’s political participation. Her work at this stage is focusing on building a sub-regional network of women and community organisations to support women’s rights, leadership skills and engagement in politics.

This week in Saly, WLP is doing just that with GIPS WAR who has convened a group 18 women and men from Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Konakri, Niger, and Senegal for a regional training of trainers on women’s leadership and political participation. The group will then replicate the training within their own contexts and communities with the aim being to help local women emerge as leaders and as political actors.

S:SSO to Sakai