The Gender Centre for Empowering Development is a not-for-profit organization with the mission to empower through education, evidence-based research, advocacy, training, community service, and information sharing, to boost the capacity of the youth and women in the democratic governance process with support from the National Endowment for Democracy organized a two-day workshop on the theme “The Role of Women in Stemming the Tide of Democratic Backsliding in West Africa”. The workshop was part of its West Africa Young Women in Politics annual forum.

The West African Young Women in Politics (WAYWiP) forum is an annual event that brings together young women in politics, Civil Society Organizations, Politicians, Media, and Gender Advocates across West Africa to deliberate on issues that impede women and young women’s participation in decision-making, elections, governance, and democracy.

This year, the forum was hosted at the Sunlodge Hotel, Tesano in Accra on 18th and 19th April 2023. In attendance were key players from the West Africa region including Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, Togo, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, and The Gambia. Participants included Civil Society Organisations, development partners, aspirants, political parties, government actors and the media.


In recent times, Gender, democratic governance, and political participation have become central concerns worldwide especially in West Africa since good democratic governance is considered a prerequisite for sustainable development. 

In the last two decades, the West African sub-region has experienced democratic backsliding. Two International reports, The Global State of Democracy 2021 of International IDEA, and the Freedom House ‘Freedom in the World Report 2021’, respectively state that the world has become more authoritarian, and the number of countries moving in an authoritarian direction outnumbers those going in a democratic direction out of 12 countries with the most significant decline in democracy year-on-year, five are in West Africa; Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, and Nigeria.

In her welcoming address, Ms Esther Tawiah, the Executive Director of GenCED, called upon governments to address the issues that affect women and also hinder their participation in politics and governance. Madam Tawiah also expressed her sincere gratitude to the National Endowment Fund (NED) for its continuous support in championing the issues of women and young women in the sub-region.

Ryota Jonen, the Director of World Movement touched on the fact that this was the 17th year of democracy decline in the world as indicated in a report released by Freedom House. He advised it is about time some leaders of Civil Society Organizations cross over into governments to push for further reforms that would help promote transparency and democracy. 

The Acting Head of Democracy, Good Governance, and Human Rights at the Directorate of Political Affairs of the Economic Commission of West Africa State, ECOWAS, Mr. Serigne Ka acknowledged the role women play in democracy and encouraged women to use their voices to champion human rights issues and engage with civil society organizations to enhance awareness on the tenets of democracy and the threats against it.


The panel discussion featured gender experts and activists including Cynthia Mbamadu and Juliet Isi Ikhayere from Nigeria, Joan Mmonbeydo Nadine from Liberia, Marcella Samba-Sessey from Sierra Leone and Farida Bemba from Togo. Their discussion centered on democratic backsliding and its impact on regional democracy and integration, gender equality, internal political party democracy, as well as the role of feminists in ending backsliding in politically hostile countries, with the last panel discussion being on how women can build sustainable partnerships and networks with active voices leading the change.


The forum ended with a group presentation by participants, who developed practical action plans that can be considered to advance democracy and women’s political participation. Actions such as funding for women programs and female candidates and networking and strengthening of women groups alongside the capacity building and training and advocacy on women’s ability and contribution to development.

The contributions from participants of the forum served as valuable data to the research report on an ASSESSMENT OF DEMOCRACY BACKSLIDING AND THE GENDER IMPACT IN WEST AFRICA led by GenCED.


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