Spaces for Change | S4C is delighted to announce the expansion of its programs to Ghana, West Africa, as part of the organization’s strategic plan to promote an enabling environment for a vibrant civil society and democratic culture in West Africa. The official opening of the Ghana office was held in Accra on November 8, 2023. In attendance were the Board and staff members of S4C Nigeria and Ghana offices, officials from government agencies, representatives of civil society organizations (CSOs), religious associations, community groups, the media, and well-wishers.
In her opening remarks, the Executive Director of Spaces for Change narrated the organization’s decade-long involvement in social and economic justice advocacy in Ghana. “Long before the opening of the Ghana office, S4C has worked with numerous organizations and government agencies in Ghana for almost a decade. S4C’s physical presence in Ghana will not only consolidate the gains of cross-border collaboration that has been in place for many years, but also offer new levers for maximizing impact and taking good work to scale. Opening the Ghana office reflects a commitment to cultivate and strengthen relationships with key stakeholders and communities to directly deliver programs and resources for enhancing popular participation and functioning of civil society in the country”, she said.
Corroborating the statements of S4C’s Director, the executive director of the Africa Center of Energy Policy (ACEP)—Ghana’s leading energy policy advocacy group—recounted many years of collaboration between S4C and ACEP to organize critical regional convenings on issues around transparency and accountability. Both organizations have also collaborated to conduct policy research on energy reform and just transitions. In his words, “S4C’s physical presence in Ghana is a beautiful thing. The space is big for everyone. As CSOs, we need to support the ecosystem of civil society to expand and grow.”
General discussions among the attendees at the launch highlighted numerous societal challenges that require urgent intervention in Ghana. Issues around shrinking civic space in West Africa, housing and urban governance challenges especially the criminalization of urban squatters, reform of housing policies, rights of women and minorities, dominated the conversations. Stakeholders called on S4C to leverage advocacy tools such as research, public interest litigation, and policy analysis to address these issues in Ghana.
Officials from government agencies also joined in welcoming Spaces for Change to Ghana. The representative of the Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) emphasized the importance of using institutionalized complaint mechanisms to protect human rights defenders (HRD) as well as the civic space. She encouraged S4C to submit more complaints to CHRAJ to facilitate administrative action and redress for human rights violations in Ghana.
Welcoming the litany of recommendations from stakeholders, S4C promised to take on some of these issues, in addition to other scheduled interventions. In the coming months, S4C will implement two major projects in Ghana, specifically the Civic Space Resource Hub for West Africa Project (CSR-Hub Project) and the West Africa Security Advocacy Project (WASAP). Under these two projects, the organization will conduct major research studies focusing on regional security, deliver technical assistance to targeted government agencies, and conduct regulatory compliance and digital security clinics designed to equip civil society organizations, community-based organizations (CBOs), and international non-governmental organizations with the requisite knowledge needed to boost their compliance culture, strengthen their governance structures and safeguard their digital operations. The launch concluded with an action plan outlining S4C’s commitments in Ghana, drawing insights from participants’ experiences and recommendations.
The launch ended with a loud chorus of AKWAABA! which literally means WELCOME! The warm reception S4C received in Ghana refueled the organization’s inspiration to contribute to advancing human rights in the region. The suggestions and feedback from stakeholders at the launch will surely inform the content and direction of the proposed initiatives.