The Coalition of African Lesbians [CAL] is a formation of more than 30 organisations in 19 countries in Africa committed to advancing justice for lesbian and bisexual women and transdiverse people.
We are passionate feminists, activists and human rights defenders.
The Coalition is committed to raising consciousness amongst and strengthening activism and leadership of lesbian and bisexual women and transdiverse people. We believe in the power of collective action. We view ourselves as a part of social movements, including the women’s movement, the sexual and reproductive rights movement, the broader lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex movement and the economic justice movement.
Whilst our direct constituency is lesbian and bisexual women and transdiverse people, we are politically located within the women’s and LGBTI communities and as such, we engage in an ongoing way with the broader struggles and in some of our work, work in a direct way with LGBTI people and with women more broadly.
WHAT WE BELIEVE
The Coalition of African Lesbians is mindful of how oppressive forms of power keep us unfree and unequal and rob us of our dignity. We understand that the oppression we live and experience as lesbian and bisexual women and transdiverse people is created and sustained by patriarchy in the first instance.
Patriarchy, the system of male domination is responsible for the oppression of all women. It also oppresses men who do not conform to patriarchal ideas of what a man is and should be. Patriarchy then contributes in a major way to the deep fear of those of us who do not comply with or fit into the norms that it creates about what it means to be a woman a and what it means to be a man. Homophobia and transphobia result from this process.
We believe that our multiple identities intersect and are linked. Our race, class, gender, sexual orientation, [dis]ability, geographic location and other identities are connected in a web of oppression.
We also believe that even as we are violated and oppressed, we also have individual and collective power as actors and activists with agency and capability to change the way the world works. We work to strengthen this power amongst ourselves as a movement and together with other movements. It is this that gives us the hope to push for the kind of change we want to see in the world.
WHERE DO WE COME FROM
The Coalition of African lesbians was established in 2003 at a meeting of 50 women sexual rights activists attending the Sex and Secrecy Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. We were concerned, from the outset, about the fact that as women and lesbian women in particular, we were often marginalized from decision making and leadership processes and our voices were seldom heard and respected.
We embarked on a program of mobilizing lesbian women and organizations in the feminist, women’s rights, sexual reproductive health and from what was then the gay and lesbian community. This was part of our commitment to organize ourselves and get ready for collective action and the building of solidarity to advance and defend our rights on the continent.
We grew rapidly and our work and membership increased to the point that we set up a Secretariat with staff to support the process of mobilising and organizing ourselves on the continent. In this time transgender identities were foregrounded in the movement. Our constituency was expanded so that it now includes lesbian and bisexual women and transdiverse [LBT] people.
We have been through major struggles to keep growing and keeping up with external pressures and internal movement building challenges. We have also fought hard to, against all odds, keep our doors open and have emerged stronger and more focused.
WHAT WE WANT
The Coalition of African Lesbians [CAL] works to transform Africa into a place where all lesbian and bisexual women and transdiverse people enjoy the full range of human rights, secure in the knowledge that we are recognized as full citizens, with rich and diverse cultures, and a significant and respected presence in all spheres of life, including social, political and economic and through personal and organizational growth.
WHAT DO WE DO
CAL is an activist organization. We engage in direct action to demonstrate our resistance and rage against those who oppress us; we mobilise our communities and others to take action against patriarchy, homophobia and other forms of oppression; we lobby those in power to make decisions that advance our rights; we constantly develop our own analysis and thinking based on our personal and lived experiences and realities and learning from others. In this process we produce and create knowledge; in our media and consciousness raising work we engage in influencing the ideas, beliefs and understanding of broader society about justice for LBT people.
We work on three issues, separate but linked:
1. Sexuality, gender, women’s rights
2. Sexual orientation and gender identity
3. Human Rights Defenders
We work to ensure that both the social, economic and cultural rights AND the civil and political rights are articulated and addressed.