Programme : Human rights

Increasing terrorism (in Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso) and responses to terrorism (repression and tight security, and the growth of exclusive and intolerant religious fundamentalism in most Sahelian countries); unresolved conflicts in Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and elsewhere; new as well as older dynamics at work in the West Africa region – all these bring grave human rights violations in their wake, and threaten more. Governments invoke public security or supposedly traditional values, but some are hardly able to maintain the rule of law, if at all.


Some social groups are particularly vulnerable to human rights violations:


LGBT people are the (legal) victims of growing moral conservatism, and scapegoats for political or socio-economic crises. They have no voice because media reflect dominant prejudices, in defiance of their professional duty.

Young people are the majority, more than 60% of the population, yet they are marginalised. The consolidation of nepotism, in state institutions but also in many civil society organisations, deprives young people of any power to influence decisions, or even to express themselves – including through the media.

Ethnic and religious minorities are the first victims of conflicts, unless they are granted justice through specific ‘transitional justice’ processes. At best they often suffer rampant discrimination, at worst they are victims of popular revenge in reaction to political conflict or social tensions (for instance, in Guinea, Togo and Niger).

Local communities lose their rights over land, as vast tracts of West Africa are acquired – legally – by globalised businesses.



PIWA is committed to promoting universal and indivisible human rights, and ensuring they are enjoyed by minorities. 


PIWA’s activities towards this goal include:


  • Supporting mainstream and local media to produce ethical information which contributes to denouncing prejudice and amplifies the voices of groups denied their rights
  • Strengthening the communication capacities of organisations which represent these groups or defend their rights
  • Facilitating the inclusion of these groups in public debate, and organising inter-community dialogues.



Voices and means to fight homophobia in Senegal, Ivory Coast and Cameroon

Homosexuality is still taboo in several West African countries, notably Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon and Senegal, and its very existence may be denied. Public opinion considers homosexuality to be a voluntary choice reflecting sexual perversion motivated by economic calculations. Homophobia is increasing and widely shared, causing many instances of violence against LGBTI people – such as arbitrary arrest, exclusion from education, denial of health care, expulsion from homes and unfair dismissal. National institutions and civil society organisations for the defence, promotion and protection of human rights are silent in the face of these abuses, thus legitimising the excesses suffered by the LGBTI community.


In Cote d’Ivoire’s Penal Code the punishment of homosexuality is implicit, but in Cameroon and Senegal homosexuality is an offence punishable by up to five years in prison. In Cameroon, 35 people were arrested for homosexuality in 2017. In 2016, a 24-year-old man was threatened with a five-year jail term for exchanging messages with another young man on his mobile phone. In Senegal, 15 people were tried and convicted for homosexuality. In 2015 alone, 27 people were victims of physical or verbal violence, and 14 others were refused care in centres for people living with HIV. In Cote d’Ivoire, where the climate seemed more benign, the first conviction for homosexuality came in November 2016, when the lower court of Sassandra pronounced sentence on two young people.


The media amplify this rising tide of homophobia. Instead of explaining or clarifying the subject, they present it in emotional terms. Journalists use words and expressions that reflect the condemnations, exclusion, even the calls to violence and social eradication, that fan popular sentiment. It is a kind of trial of LGBTI people, in which neither they nor those who defend them can speak. They do not have the communication skills or tools needed to create and disseminate relevant and good quality multimedia outputs, to effectively respond to the abuses transmitted by the media.


This is why PIWA has collaborated with various local partners engaged in defending LGBTI rights, to develop a project to counter the discourse of hate and the prejudices which nurture homophobia. The aim is to foster tolerance of homosexuals and respect for their rights as human beings.


The project Voices and means to fight homophobia is funded by the European Union for three years, 2015-17. It is carried out in Senegal, Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire, in partnership with local human rights defence organisations such as the Network of media, arts and sports professionals fighting against AIDS and other pandemics, Côte d’Ivoire (REPMASCI); the Association for the defence of homosexuals’ rights, Cameroon (ADEFHO); Africa Consultants International (ACI-Boabab); Cote d’Ivoire Alternatives and Cameroon Alternatives. The aim is to strengthen the relevance, effectiveness and influence of communication by defenders of homosexuals’ rights, to promote these rights and fight prejudices against them.

  • Skills-building workshops in use of social media, for organisations defending the rights of LGBTI people
  • Awareness-raising workshops for journalists
  • Training and financial support for producing media content
  • Information resources such as briefing papers on the human rights of LGBTI people, made available to journalists and civil society organisations
  • Support for organisations to produce situation reports and alerts
  • Exchange of experiences through visits and participation in conferences
  • Institutional support for partner organisations


1. To strengthen the capacities of human rights defence organisations in communication – internal, among themselves, and with other communities
  • Organisations defending the human rights of LGBTI people will have better command of communication tools, to address the public and raise awareness of prejudice
  • Human rights defence organisations will be able to produce their own media content and support expression by LGBTI people
  • Human rights defence organisations will be able to identify and carry out awareness-raising and socially relevant communication activities, in a hostile cultural environment. They will collaborate better together, and be better able to defend the interests of their LGBTI target groups in regional human rights institutions.
2. To disseminate ethical and properly substantiated media content, to challenge prejudices against homosexuals
  • Alternative and more secure media dissemination channels will allow circulation and sharing of more open information on the rights of LGBTI people
  • LGBTI people will have tools and other support for raising awareness, informing and mobilising the public and regional human rights defence institutions
3. To foster objective perceptions among journalists, and promote more ethical and professional media coverage of homosexuality
  • Journalists will be sensitised to cover homosexuality and LGBTI issues in a more responsible way
  • Journalists will be better informed about homosexuality. They will have greater capacity to produce balanced and well substantiated information  
  • Examples of good practice and experiences of producing information on LGBTI will be shared and exchanged among journalist networks


Contributing to peace-making and intercommunity dialogue in Mali through bridging a content divide between the North and South, and by building capacity of journalists in conflict sensitive journalism & ethical content production and –sharing
Période : Mars-Oct 2013
Bailleur : [Union Européénne ]

Cultural and media actors in Africa: Go!
Période : Mars 2017 – Fév 2017
Bailleur : [Union Européénne ]

Break the silence, challenge taboos: more information on gender-based violence in Africa
Période : Nov 2013 – Fév 2017
Bailleur : [Union Européénne ]

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