[Accra – 9 March 2023] – Civic space in Ghana is rated as Narrowed by CIVICUS Monitor. However, the past few years have seen the sub-Saharan state struggle with major civic space threats such as arbitrary arrest of journalists, excessive use of force against protesters and civic actors among others.
Civic actors have an important responsibility to protect the space from further attacks- Otherwise, the country is at high risk.
Under the Civic Space Resource Hub for West Africa, the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), on 9 March 2023, completed a three-day workshop on civic space protection for ten (10) Ghanaian civil society organisations (CSOs) who are part of 25 CSOs constituting the first cohort under the project in Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal.
The training, which commenced on 7 March in Accra, equipped the participants with rich skills for influencing state policies and reclaiming the shrinking civic space.
The civic actors gained knowledge and skills in areas such as civic space dimensions, open government reforms, fundamental freedoms, taxation, and cyber laws.
The ten CSOs were West Africa Drug Policy Network, Norsaac; Centre for Public Interest Law, Centre for Democratic Development – Ghana, Nyankonton Aid Foundation and WERENGO-Ghan.
The others were Parliamentary Network Africa -Ghana, GenCED Ghana, Human Rights Reporters Ghana and CSIF-Ghana.
Oyebisi Babatunde Oluseyi, Executive Director of Nigeria Network of NGOs, who facilitated the training, walked the participants through a step-by-step approach to engaging government and state institutions in the work of CSOs.
He challenged the participants to be knowledgeable of the environment in which they operate, emphasising the importance of understanding the legal, political and social factors that affect their work.
“The work we do as civic actors requires that we are able to associate and influence structures or factors that affect our work. We can only do this by deepening our knowledge and being able to take our rights and freedoms,” Oyebisi said.
Omolara Balogun, Head of the Policy Influencing and Advocacy Unit, WACSI, noted that more than ever, civic actors need to broaden the scope of their knowledge to be able to effectively contribute towards expanding civic space and promote open societies – the workshop was thus essential.
“This training is very important to CSOs because it seeks to enhance their institutional and operational capacity so that they can effectively work on civic space, human rights, freedom of expression and regulatory compliance,” she said.
Omolara added that the training also offered the participants additional skills, knowledge, and information on how they can strengthen the financial and digital resilience of their organisations.
The civic actors expressed satisfaction having passed through the training which falls under the Civic Space Protection pillar of the project.
Matilda Yineboma Ayamba, National Programme Coordinator, Norsaac, was impressed at the knowledge shared.
“I have gained the necessary skills and knowledge that will help me in my work as a civic actor. In particular, the skills will help me to effectively engage partners at the regional, national, and sub-national levels when needed,” she said.
“The real case scenarios and experiences the facilitator used were very helpful,” she added.
Nathaniel Essilfie-Conduah, Programmes Officer at the Centre for Public Interest Law, believes the workshop has sharpened his advocacy skills which will help him better advocate for the promotion of human rights and support the work of his organisation.
“I have enhanced my advocacy skills. I have as well learnt about the right tools for effective advocacy,” he said.
The CSR-Hub for West Africa seeks to strengthen the capacity of CSOs working to expand civic space and promote open societies in West Africa.
The civic space protection workshop will also be organised for the other ten and five CSOs in Nigeria and Senegal respectively who are part of the first cohort of beneficiaries.