This interview delves into the inspiring journey of AGUEH Dossi Sekonnou Gloria, President of the Réseau des Femmes Leaders pour le Développement (RFLD), tracing the organization’s evolution since its inception in 2012. From its humble beginnings, RFLD has grown into a formidable pan-African feminist force, operating in 27 countries with a network of 60 member organizations. AGUEH Dossi Sekonnou Gloria reflects on the challenges overcome and milestones achieved, highlighting the commitment to empowering women, advocating for gender equality, and fostering strategic partnerships that amplify the impact of the organization across the continent. The interview provides valuable insights into RFLD’s contributions to advancing women’s rights, promoting social change, and shaping a more inclusive and just Africa.
Question: Could you please introduce yourself and your role as the Founder and President of the Réseau des Femmes Leaders pour le Développement (RFLD)? What inspired your more than 15 years of commitment to women’s rights, gender equality, economic justice, and development?
- ANSWER: Hello, I am Agueh Dossi Sekonnou Gloria, the Founder and President of the Réseau des Femmes Leaders pour le Développement (RFLD). With over 15 years of experience in advocating for women’s rights, gender equality, economic justice, and development, I hold a degree in Communication. For nine years, I have dedicated my career to thematic areas such as women’s rights, gender equality, economic justice, and development.
In addition to my role as the Country Advisor for Benin at UAF AFRICA, my commitment extends beyond the region to international initiatives supporting women’s rights. At RFLD, we have implemented numerous projects empowering women and protecting the rights of girls, particularly those in vulnerable situations. As a regional organization in West Africa, RFLD has over a decade of experience in research, publications, training, advocacy, and litigation both at the local and regional levels, collaborating with African Union institutions.
My leadership style is characterized by a passion for social justice and a commitment to amplifying the voices of women. The projects we have undertaken have not only empowered individuals but have also significantly contributed to shaping policies promoting gender equality and protecting the rights of women and girls.
I am honored that my work has been recognized, and I remain dedicated to playing an active role in promoting positive change in the West African region. My commitment is unwavering, and I am determined to work towards a more just and inclusive society where the rights of women are respected.
Question: Recently, you were awarded the Outstanding Women Leadership Award by the Humanitarian Global Award in Ghana. Can you share your thoughts and feelings about receiving this recognition?
- ANSWER: I was deeply honored and humbled to receive the Outstanding Women Leadership Award from the Humanitarian Global Award in Ghana. This recognition holds special significance for me, as it reflects not only my personal commitment but also acknowledges the collective efforts of the entire team at RFLD. It is a testament to the impact of our work in promoting women’s rights and empowerment.
Receiving such an esteemed award is both a validation of our dedication to the cause and an encouragement to continue our efforts in creating positive change. It reinforces the importance of the work we do at RFLD and serves as a reminder that the pursuit of gender equality and social justice is a shared responsibility.
Moreover, this award is a recognition of the resilience and strength of the women we serve, especially those facing challenging circumstances. It amplifies their voices and stories, bringing attention to the need for continued support and advocacy.
In essence, the Outstanding Women Leadership Award is not just a personal achievement but a recognition of the collective impact we are making in the lives of women and girls in West Africa. It motivates us to persist in our mission to build a more just and inclusive society for all.
Question: What motivated you to start this work, and what was the catalyst that transformed it into a pan-African initiative?
- ANSWER: The motivation to embark on this journey stemmed from a profound commitment to addressing the pressing issues faced by women and girls in our region. Witnessing firsthand the challenges, disparities, and injustices they experienced, I felt a deep sense of responsibility to contribute to positive change.
The catalyst for transforming our work into a pan-African initiative was the recognition that the issues we were tackling were not confined to a specific locality. Women and girls across the African continent faced similar struggles, and a more comprehensive, collaborative approach was needed to address these challenges effectively.
This realization led to the establishment and growth of the Réseau des Femmes Leaders pour le Développement (RFLD). By expanding our focus beyond regional borders, we aimed to create a platform that could amplify the collective voice of African women, advocate for their rights on a broader scale, and foster collaboration among diverse communities and organizations.
The journey to a panafricanisme approach was driven by a belief in the interconnectedness of our struggles and the shared vision for a continent where women and girls can thrive, free from discrimination and inequality. It is about recognizing that our collective strength is a powerful force for change, and by working together, we can create a more just and equitable Africa for all.
Question : Can you provide specific examples of how RFLD intervenes in countries like Niger, Togo, Liberia, DRC, Guinea, Senegal, Congo, Benin, Mali, Chad, Gabon, and the Central African Republic to strengthen civic action, promote women’s rights, and contribute to climate and economic justice?
- ANSWER : Certainly! The Réseau des Femmes Leaders pour le Développement (RFLD) is actively engaged in various initiatives across these countries, aiming to foster civic action, empower women, and contribute to environmental and economic justice. Here are some concrete examples:
Niger: In Niger, RFLD collaborates with local women’s organizations to conduct programs on sexual reproductive health. By enhancing women’s health capabilities and leadership skills, RFLD empowers them to actively participate in decision-making processes.
Togo: RFLD has been instrumental in advocating for gender-responsive policies in Togo. Through strategic partnerships with local NGOs, we work towards creating an environment that supports women’s rights, economic empowerment, and representation in political spheres.
Liberia: RFLD plays a crucial role in Liberia by supporting grassroots movements that address issues such as gender-based violence and access to education. By partnering with local communities, RFLD contributes to building a society where women and girls can thrive.
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): RFLD collaborates with the ACHPR Special Rapporteur on Human Rights to protect human rights defenders in the DRC. Our joint efforts focus on creating a safer environment for activists working on women’s rights and other critical issues.
Guinea: In Guinea, RFLD is actively involved in awareness campaigns against gender-based violence and discrimination. Through research, engagement with policy makers and community engagement, we strive to change societal attitudes and promote a culture of respect and equality.
Senegal: RFLD works closely with local organizations in Senegal to address SHRH and women lack and gap to justice. By supporting initiatives related to litigation, sustainable development and women’s involvement in environmental conservation, we contribute to a more equitable and ecologically conscious society.
Congo: RFLD advocates for women’s representation in decision-making processes in Congo. Through partnerships with governmental bodies and civil society, we work towards policies that ensure equal opportunities for women in political and economic spheres.
Benin: RFLD has been actively involved in capacity-building programs for women grassroots organizations in Benin. By providing training and resources, we contribute to economic empowerment and the creation of a supportive ecosystem for women-led initiatives.
Mali: RFLD focuses on promoting justice and equality in Mali by collaborating with local organizations to address issues such as gender-based violence and women’s access to education. Our initiatives aim to create positive societal change.
Chad: RFLD engages in advocacy for women’s rights and justice in Chad. Through partnerships with legal and human rights organizations, we work towards creating an environment that protects and promotes the rights of women.
Gabon: RFLD supports initiatives in Gabon that aim to amplify women’s voices in decision-making processes. By fostering leadership skills and advocating for inclusive policies, we contribute to greater gender equality in the country.
Central African Republic: In the Central African Republic, RFLD is involved in programs that address the impacts of climate change on women. Through research, advocacy, and community engagement, we strive to ensure that women’s perspectives are central to climate adaptation strategies.
Question: As the President of RFLD, how do you define feminism, and how does this definition manifest in the actions of your organization?
- ANSWER: Defining feminism is a nuanced task, but at the core, it embodies the belief in and advocacy for the equal rights and opportunities of all genders. As the President of RFLD, my definition aligns with the understanding that feminism goes beyond gender; it’s about dismantling systemic barriers that perpetuate inequality.
This definition resonates in the actions of RFLD through our multifaceted approach. We prioritize programs, research, and advocacy aimed at eliminating discrimination, addressing inequalities faced by women and girls, and safeguarding the rights of defenders, including those of women, indigenous peoples, and vulnerable groups.
RFLD’s commitment to feminism is further evidenced by our in-depth knowledge of women’s rights movements, our ability to develop practical tools for local activism, and our emphasis on being a credible organization that prioritizes knowledge production and dissemination. We firmly believe in amplifying the voices of our members and using our expertise to advocate for meaningful social change.
Additionally, our status as an observer at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) is a testament to our dedication to promoting and protecting fundamental rights across the African continent. This role allows us to actively participate in Commission sessions, contribute to discussions, and present counter-reports that focus on the specific challenges faced by women. We utilize this platform to advocate for concrete measures promoting gender equality and human rights.
In essence, our feminist definition guides every facet of RFLD’s work, from documenting the lived realities of women and girls through consultations and participatory research to coordinating advocacy campaigns at national and regional levels. We strive to create a world where gender equality is not just an ideal but a lived reality, and our actions reflect this unwavering commitment to feminist principles.
QUESTION: How does your organization address the specific challenges faced by women in your community?
- ANSWER: Addressing the specific challenges faced by women is a cornerstone of our work at RFLD. We recognize that women often encounter unique obstacles, and our organization is committed to implementing targeted strategies to overcome these challenges.
One key aspect is our focus on documentation and research. RFLD has extensive experience in documenting the lived realities and struggles of women and girls through consultations, dialogue opportunities, and participatory research. By understanding the specific challenges faced, we can tailor our programs and advocacy efforts to address these issues at their roots.
Moreover, our engagement at the regional and national levels allows us to coordinate campaigns that specifically target the issues affecting women. Whether it’s advocating for policies combating gender-based discrimination, promoting women’s representation in decision-making bodies, or addressing economic and climate justice concerns, we aim to create systemic change.
Our commitment goes beyond advocacy, as we actively engage with decision-makers, organize training sessions, and provide long-term support to grassroots organizations. This multifaceted approach ensures that our interventions are comprehensive, tackling the diverse challenges faced by women in our community.
By fostering a culture of inclusivity, promoting women’s rights, and empowering women to be active participants in shaping their destinies, RFLD strives to contribute to a community where the unique challenges faced by women are not just acknowledged but systematically addressed for a more equitable and just society.
QUESTION: How do you perceive the role of men in the fight for gender equality, and how does RFLD involve men in its initiatives?
- ANSWER: The role of men in the fight for gender equality is crucial, and at RFLD, we recognize the importance of engaging men as allies in our initiatives. Gender equality is not just a women’s issue; it’s a societal concern that requires collective efforts for meaningful change.
We believe that men can play a significant role in challenging and dismantling patriarchal norms and stereotypes that contribute to gender-based discrimination. To this end, RFLD has implemented various strategies to involve men in our programs and advocacy work.
One approach is through awareness campaigns that promote positive masculinity and challenge harmful stereotypes. By fostering conversations around healthy masculinity, we aim to create a more inclusive understanding of gender roles. Additionally, we organize workshops and training sessions that invite men to reflect on their roles in perpetuating or challenging gender norms.
Collaboration with male allies is integral to our advocacy efforts. We actively seek partnerships with men’s groups and organizations that share our commitment to gender equality. By working together, we amplify our impact and promote a united front against gender-based discrimination.
Moreover, our programs often include components specifically designed for men, addressing issues such as toxic masculinity, fatherhood, and relationships. Through education and dialogue, we strive to build a community where men actively contribute to dismantling gender-based barriers and championing equality.
In essence, at RFLD, we view men as essential partners in the journey towards gender equality, and our initiatives aim to create spaces where men actively participate in dismantling harmful norms and contributing to a more equitable and just society.
QUESTION: What are the main obstacles you have personally overcome as a woman leader, and what lessons do you draw for young women aspiring to similar roles?
- ANSWER: As a woman leader, I have faced various obstacles throughout my journey. One of the major challenges was navigating an environment where women were underrepresented in leadership roles. Social pressure and gender stereotypes were often barriers, but I learned to turn these challenges into opportunities for empowerment.
One essential lesson I draw from my experience is the importance of perseverance. In the face of adversity, it is crucial to remain resilient and believe in one’s own ability to effect positive change. I have also learned to transform obstacles into levers for personal growth, drawing from my experiences to deepen my understanding of power dynamics and inequalities.
Another crucial insight is the importance of networking and mentorship. Building connections with other women leaders has provided valuable support and contributed to creating spaces where we can mutually support each other. This is a lesson I strongly encourage for young women aspiring to similar roles: building a strong network can make all the difference.
Lastly, I advise young women leaders to cultivate self-confidence and not be afraid to assert their ideas and skills. Every voice matters, and diversity of perspectives is essential to building a more equitable future. By overcoming obstacles, staying committed, and collaborating with others, each woman can play a key role in transforming our society towards greater inclusivity and equality.
When did you decide to create the RFLD, and how did you come up with the organization’s name?
- ANSWER : The inception of the RFLD in 2012 traces back to a defining moment of shared purpose and commitment among a group of visionary individuals. It was during a series of discussions and reflections on the challenges faced by women in our communities that the idea to create a dedicated organization took root. The decision to form the Network of Women Leaders for Development (RFLD) emerged from a collective recognition of the need for a cohesive force to drive transformative change for women. The name itself encapsulates our core values, signifying our dedication to empowering women to assume leadership roles in the pursuit of sustainable and inclusive development.
As the seeds of the RFLD were sown, it was a culmination of shared aspirations and a deep-seated belief in the potential of women as drivers of positive societal change. The process of naming the organization was a thoughtful one, aiming to reflect not only our mission but also the essence of women’s leadership in fostering holistic development.
What was the initial size of the organization, and how did you recruit new members?
- ANSWER: In its early stage, the RFLD began as a small yet passionate collective of individuals who were deeply committed to advancing the rights and opportunities of women. The initial size of the organization was modest, comprising a dedicated founding group whose shared vision formed the cornerstone of our mission. Recognizing the importance of broadening our impact, we adopted a strategic and inclusive approach to member recruitment. Outreach efforts were directed towards individuals who demonstrated a commitment to gender equality, women’s empowerment, and sustainable development. Through networking events, awareness campaigns, and collaborations with like-minded organizations, we actively sought individuals with diverse skills, backgrounds, and experiences to enrich the fabric of the RFLD.
The recruitment strategy also involved engaging with local communities, fostering connections with women leaders, activists, and advocates who were already making a difference at the grassroots level. This deliberate and inclusive approach allowed the RFLD to expand its reach and tap into the wealth of untapped potential within communities. As new members joined, the organization’s collective strength grew, enabling us to amplify our impact and address the multifaceted challenges faced by women across different contexts.
What are the current challenges of the RFLD and its priority needs?
- ANSWER: As the RFLD continues to evolve, we recognize that navigating the complex landscape of gender equality and women’s rights presents ongoing challenges. One key challenge is the persistence of deeply ingrained societal norms and discriminatory practices that hinder the full realization of women’s potential. Addressing these issues requires sustained efforts in advocacy, education, and community engagement.
Additionally, securing adequate resources to support our initiatives remains a priority. Sustainable funding is crucial for the successful implementation of programs, research, and advocacy campaigns. Collaborating with donors, partner organizations, and governments to secure reliable and long-term funding sources is an ongoing focus to ensure the RFLD’s sustained impact.
Another challenge lies in the dynamic nature of the issues we address, requiring adaptability and responsiveness to emerging trends and threats. Staying at the forefront of the fight for women’s rights demands continuous learning and innovation. Capacity-building within the organization and maintaining a diverse, skilled team capable of addressing evolving challenges are critical components of our strategy. Despite these challenges, the RFLD remains resilient, driven by the unwavering commitment of our members and the belief that collective action is essential for achieving lasting positive change in the lives of women across the African continent.
The RFLD emphasizes the importance of strategic partnerships to amplify impact. Can you elaborate on how collaborations with organizations like the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), CIVICUS, and others contribute to advancing women’s rights in Africa?
- ANSWER: The RFLD values strategic partnerships as integral to amplifying our impact and fostering a network of support for women’s rights.
We have forged alliances with prominent organizations such as the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), a critical partner in advancing women’s rights across the continent. Collaborating with AWDF enhances our ability to access resources, share knowledge, and participate in combating harmful practices.
CIVICUS, a global alliance dedicated to strengthening civil society, provides a platform for the RFLD to connect with like-minded organizations worldwide. This collaboration facilitates the exchange of best practices, advocacy strategies, and the amplification of our collective voice on the global stage.
Additionally, the RFLD has established partnerships with SIDA, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, through the CHARM Africa Consortium – Consortium for the Promotion of Human Rights, Civil Liberties and Media Development in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The U.S. Embassy in Benin has been a crucial ally, supporting our initiatives and contributing civic engagement and democracy. Engaging with the Black Feminist Fund underscores our dedication to intersectional feminism and addressing the unique challenges faced by Black women.
Partnerships with DefendDefenders, the African Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders, Equality Now, and other partners further enhance our capacity to navigate complex human rights issues, engage in policy advocacy, and foster collaborative solutions at regional and international levels.
These partnerships collectively strengthen the RFLD’s ability to drive positive change for women and girls in diverse contexts across Africa.
Has RFLD received unrestricted funding?
- Answer: No, RFLD has not received unrestricted funding.
Question: What would you do if RFLD were awarded unrestricted funding today?
- Answer: If RFLD were awarded unrestricted funding today, we would use it to continue and expand our work in the following areas:
Here are some specific examples of how RFLD could use unrestricted funding to support the areas that you have mentioned:
Combating harmful practices
- Fund research on the prevalence and impact of harmful practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation.
- Support programs that educate women and girls about their rights and help them to resist harmful practices.
- Work with policymakers to advocate for laws and policies that protect women and girls from harmful practices.
Funding RFLD WEST AND CENTRAL AFRICAN WOMEN FARMERS FUND FOR DIRECT FUNDING
- Provide direct financial support to women farmers in West and Central Africa.
- Help women farmers to access markets and other resources.
- Advocate for policies that support women farmers.
SRHR – Women’s and girls’ rights
- Provide access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) services, including contraception, safe abortion, and maternal healthcare.
- Educate women and girls about their SRHR rights.
- Advocate for policies that promote and protect SRHR rights.
Peace and security
- Support women’s participation in peacebuilding and conflict resolution processes.
- Help women to recover from the impact of conflict and violence.
- Advocate for policies that protect women from conflict-related violence.
Human rights and civic space
- Support human rights organizations that are working to promote and protect women’s rights.
- Advocate for civic space so that women can freely organize and advocate for their rights.
- Support programs that address the root causes of gender inequality, such as poverty, discrimination, and harmful gender norms.
- Advocate for policies that promote social justice for all women and girls.
- Support women’s leadership in climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts.
- Advocate for policies that address the gendered impacts of climate change.
- Support programs that help women to access economic opportunities, such as job training and microfinance.
- Advocate for policies that promote economic equality for women.
I am confident that RFLD would use unrestricted funding wisely to support these important areas of work. I encourage you to continue to support RFLD’s mission to promote women’s rights and empowerment in West and Central Africa.
Agueh Dossi Sekonnou Gloria is the president of the RFLD. She can be reached at AGUEH.DOSSI@RFLGD.ORG.
The secretariat is responsible for administrative tasks such as managing correspondence, scheduling meetings, and providing administrative support to the RFLD’s staff and programs. The secretariat can be reached at ADMIN@RFLGD.ORG.
- Finance Department
The finance department is responsible for the RFLD’s financial management, including budgeting, accounting, and fundraising. The finance department can be reached at FINANCE@RFLGD.ORG.
- Program Department
The program department is responsible for developing and implementing the RFLD’s programs, which focus on women’s rights, gender equality, and sustainable development. The program department can be reached at PROGRAMS@RFLGD.ORG.
RFLD’s Impact in Videos
- 🎥 Did you know our partners can access over 100 videos showcasing RFLD’s impactful work in Sub-Saharan Africa, focusing on empowering women and girls?
- Explore the comprehensive collection via the link : youtube.com/@rfldorg