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#YouthCorner

Q&A with Lasana Diakhate: Let’s talk about Senegal!

Youth Corner is a space to amplify the voices of young people and tell their stories of activism around the world. Lasana tells us about Senegal and its struggles for rights, environmental justice and women’s empowerment. 

Image credit: WILPF
Lasana Diakhate
8 December 2023

Q: How is activism in Senegal? 

Activists are increasingly recognised in Senegalese society, and this is being felt by people across the country. In this path, the state has partnered with activists to harness their power and create positive change. In Senegal, activists frequently form associations to launch development initiatives, youth activities, or public awareness and advocacy campaigns. These activist movements coalesce into networks that focus on various ideologies. With such a wide range of topics, activists are accustomed to working together, sharing information, and providing support to one another. Many activists are energetic young people driven to change and determined to defend the voiceless.

Q: What are the fields of interest of activists in Senegal? What are the main impacts?

Young activists in Senegal are humanists who work on various issues and defend our values. They are university students and graduates trained in community issues or passionate about civic engagement. The majority of them collaborate with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on the ground through awareness-raising programs in youth clubs, schools, educational campaigns, or caravans that travel around the country. They engage people in rural areas about gender-based violence (GBV), female genital mutilation, menstrual hygiene, the preservation of our religious, cultural, and moral values, environmental protection, constitutional observance, and other issues.

The themes targeted are generally: GBV, technology and innovation, women’s empowerment, women’s access to land, abandoning child marriages and harmful practices, and climate justice.

The battles waged by the young activists have had an impact on social change and political and legal influence, in particular, the constant commitment of young girls: the adoption of Law No. 2010-11 of 28 May 2010 instituting absolute parity in elective and semi-elective bodies, followed by the creation of the National Observatory for Parity, an independent monitoring and warning institution. An other example, the nationwide campaign to denounce violence against girls and women in Senegal resulted in the adoption of Law 2020 criminalising acts of rape and pedophilia.

Q: How are the activities of Young WILPF going in Senegal?

As part of the “JAMM AK NDAW YI” programme, young people from WILPF Senegal, in partnership with the Amicale des Étudiants et Élèves Stagiaires de l’École Supérieure d’Économie Appliquée, organised a conference on feminist peace. The meeting was attended by 100 young people. We aimed to strengthen the interest of young people in peace issues, and it was focused on WILPF missions and spotlight on peace, security, and feminism matters. 

Our mission was to involve young community development students in thinking about the innovative strategies for promoting feminist peace set out in the WILPF Senegal action plan. These young people learned about feminist peace and assisted in the creation of a digital communication campaign. A Community Manager’s services were utilised to spread prepared flyers and posts containing information on WILPF’s fundamental principles and main topics.

Following the conference, we received numerous membership applications. The conference was well received by the participants and had an impact on raising awareness of the importance of peace and security.

Q: Is it safe to be an activist in Senegal?

There is no specific regulation in Senegal governing youth activism, but the legal and institutional environment allows them to be fully engaged. It is worth noting that the guarantee of young activism is based on the articles of the 2001 constitution, which was updated in 2016. Article 10 provides the freedom to express oneself through “speech, pen, image, peaceful marching, and advocacy.” Furthermore, young activists collaborate with political actors and government representatives, allowing them to continue their actions in an appropriate context.

However, when it comes to raising awareness about the leadership of public affairs, young activists often have to stand face to face against the authorities. They are confronted with the force of the Government, yet nonetheless stay determined and brave enough to make their point, even if it means being repressed or incarcerated. Some go into exile, preferring the virtual places provided by social media.

Q: Which are the difficulties confronting Senegalese young activists? 

In general, the challenges encountered are socio-cultural, and they significantly impact female activists. The Senegalese family code encompasses measures that discriminate against girls and women, such as the power of men, which prohibits girls from having access to public services at times. 

There are also concerns about reprisal and socio-cultural reality. Intimidation, harassment, and a lack of access to justice and reparation for abuses of their rights are among the other issues raised by young activists.

To address these issues, we feel that it is vital to: 

  • Review legislation that discriminates against girls and women;
  • Increase community activism along with awareness of issues such as girls’ rights;
  • Promote the participation of young people in governance structures at both the central and decentralised levels;
  • Improve data consolidation, availability, and accessibility for more effective analysis and decision-making to properly structure gender in public policy design and implementation.           

Q: In your opinion, how can the work of youth in Senegal be improved?


“To effect change, young people must engage in more practical activities. From my perspective, when youths take action, activism makes sense. To change our communities, young people must work together. It is crucial that young people condemn, speak up, and express their opinions, but the most important thing is that they suggest solutions to each problem. Young activists must be solutions-oriented and prepared to assist communities.

Lasana Diakhate
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Lasana Diakhate

Lasana Diakhate, born in Kaolack, Senegal, is an economic planning engineer and management consultant at the École Supérieure d’Économie Appliquée. He is currently pursuing a Master 2 in Project Management at the same institute. He has made a name for himself through his commitment, dynamism, and sense of responsibility, which have earned him the position of President of the Amicale des Étudiants et Élève de l’ESEA between 2021-2022. He is currently the Young WILPF Group’s Outreach and partnerships coordinator for the 2023-2024 period.

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Melissa Torres

VICE-PRESIDENT

Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani

VICE-PRESIDENT

Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo

PRESIDENT

Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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Demilitarisation

WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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