For Rev. Dr Fifamé Fidèle Houssou-Gandonou, president of Deborah, and pastor and theologian of the Protestant Methodist Church of Benin, this workshop specifically aimed at improving the knowledge of girls and women by providing them with accurate and necessary information on the existing legal frameworks which will empower them to denounce cases of abuse, rape and violence, raise awareness on the rights to sexual and reproductive health, and underscore situations where girls and women might be vulnerable to HIV infection, in order to identify common and lasting solutions.

COVID-19 and its fallout have allowed gender inequalities that already existed due to HIV to triumph once again, and have exacerbated the already deplorable situation of the most disadvantaged social groups.

Participants discussed the common need to find solutions for the well-being of everyone. They developed action plans for promoting awareness in communities, and particularly at finding innovative ways to reduce stigmatization and discrimination and undertake advocacy wherever necessary, so that authorities in churches, mosques and communities help eradicate these scourges once and for all.

To this end, according to Ayoko Bahun-Wilson, West African regional coordinator of the WCC Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy programme, it is also urgent to take action aimed at men and boys, in order to elaborate models of positive and transformative masculinities, change socially inherited mindsets and typically masculine behaviors, and address the issues of masculinities and femininities in the fight against HIV and AIDS in a holistic manner. This is of particular importance in these times of COVID-19, if we wish to uproot a scourge that is rooted in socio-cultural realities,” said Bahun-Wilson.

Other topics included contextual Bible study of the rape of Tamar, as well as intergenerational discussions aimed at forging close bonds between young people and adults.

The president of the Women Fellowship of the Protestant Methodist Church of Benin, Eliane Kuadjo, one of the workshops moderators, underscored the importance of these sessions, which help girls and women to better understand the realities and serve as channels of information and education.