Installation of the Benin Chapter of the Network of Local Elected Women of Africa 

The official installation ceremony of the Benin chapter of the Network of Local Elected Women of Africa (REFELA) took place on March 1st, 2023, in Azalai Hotel-Cotonou (Benin). 

The meeting was organized by the National Association of Municipalities of Benin (ANCB), the Network of Elected Women Councillors of Benin (REFEC), UCLG Africa, REFELA, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and the Union of Flemish Cities and Municipalities (VVSG). 

In her speech, Mrs Lucie Ablawa Sessinou, Mayor of Kétou and President of the Network of Elected Women Councillors of Benin (REFEC), thanked the partners for their support in the organisation of this assembly. She then emphasized the role of REFELA in the accompaniment of women at the political level by stressing that “REFELA is real cement that unites the national associations of elected women in a sustainable way and that also represents a platform for research and co-construction of the overall development for women engaged in politics”.   

She then asked for the support and accompaniment of the president of REFELA to succeed in this new challenge and enable the Benin chapter to take an active part in REFELA. It should be noted that the Network of Elected Women Councillors benefits from a grant, as it is in line with the decentralisation policy of the President of the Republic of Benin. 

Mrs. Jounou Nadège, Representative of the PMI-FPL/ FCM Project Director, gave a presentation on the PMI-FPL project, showing how it contributes to helping women and girls. The PMI-FPL is a project that was set up by the GCF with the financial support of World Affairs Canada, in partnership with the ANCB. The project aims to contribute to a better respect of the rights of girls, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds in Benin, Cambodia, Ghana, Sri Lanka and Zambia. The project aims to: 

– Increase women’s capacity in becoming involved in politics by participating in local governance; 

– Increase the capacity of local governments to provide inclusive and gender sensitive services  

The project consortium focuses on different aspects of support, the first objective is structured in three components: the first component concerns women who are candidates in elections; the second component concerns the administration of communes; the third component concerns the networks of elected women. It is within the framework of the third component that the FCM is accompanying the REFEC in its evolution towards the REFELA. A proof of this commitment was the support given by FCM to the members of REFELA-Benin for their participation in the 2022 Africities Summit. 

Ms. Jounou assured that PMI will work with REFELA-Benin to increase women’s political participation which will accelerate gender equality not only in Benin but also internationally in line with the ODD5. 

The FCM representative said she was happy to support the expansion of REFELA to other African countries and strengthen women’s voice in local governance. 

The intervention of Mrs. Rohey Malick Lowe, Mayor of Banjul and President of REFELA was preceded by the national anthem of Benin. The REFELA President conveyed the greetings of the President of UCLG Africa and its Secretary General to the Network of Elected Women Councillors of Benin. According to the President of REFELA, the creation of REFELA-Benin finalizes their official attachment to the big REFELA family. 

The President then presented UCLG Africa, its history, mission and vision. She completed this presentation with that of REFELA, its history, mission, vision, its three campaigns and the Charter. Finally, she informed the women that REFELA is, since 2016, the Standing Committee on Gender Equality of UCLG Africa. 

According to Mr. Bio SARAKO, 1st Vice-President of ANCB, Representative of the Mayor of Cotonou, President of ANCB, Benin has recorded some progress in the representation of women in elective positions. However, the rate of 5.19% of women mayors elected during the last elections shows that there is still work to be done. 

To this end, the President of the Republic, His Excellency Patrice Talon, has set the tone by re-expressing his commitment to the cause of women by choosing a woman as his running mate for the position of Vice-President of the Republic of Benin.  

The commitment of the Beninese government to the political integration of women is also expressed through the creation of the National Institute for Women and the presence of 29 women in parliament, compared to 5 in the previous mandate.  

After the official speeches, a projection about REFELA and its strategic action plan for the 2022-2025 mandate was presented. 

Following the presentation, the Director of the West Africa Regional Office of UCLG Africa, Ms. Juliet Sale Mekone, made a presentation on resource and partner mobilization techniques. 

During their exchanges, the women expressed their joy concerning the passage of REFEC to REFELA-Benin. However, REFEC will keep its partners and REFELA-Benin will open more doors to women in terms of partnership and also through the training offered by UCLG Africa, the women of REFELA-Benin will be able to benefit from all these advantages.