DCAFProject › West Africa: Gender and SSR

West Africa: Gender and SSR


DCAF has actively supported democratic reform and governance of the security sector in West Africa since 2004. In response to local requests to integrate gender issues into transformation processes, the DCAF Gender and Security Programme initiated gender and SSR-related activities in the region in 2008. In West Africa, as in many parts of the world, the different security and justice needs of men, women, boys and girls remain largely unmet, with women often remaining excluded from key security and justice decision-making. Opportunities for integrating gender perspectives into security sector institutions and governance structures are many, and gender mainstreaming initiatives by security sector institutions and civil society actors are multiple. Some challenges remain, however:

  • Structures and resources that do not sufficiently respond to the different security and justice needs of men, women, girls and boys.
  • Discriminatory attitudes and human rights violations committed by some security sector personnel. 
  • Low numbers of female personnel, especially in senior positions, and lack of adequate mechanisms to support female recruitment, retention and advancement.
  • Insufficiently gender-sensitive policies and limited gender mainstreaming.
  • Weak internal and external oversight of security sector institutions.
  • Lack of funding for effective gender mainstreaming.
  • Limited information and baseline data on gender and security sector issues.

DCAF gender and SSR activities began in 2008, in Liberia and Sierra Leone. 2009 marked the publication in French of the Gender & Security Sector Reform Toolkit, which paved the way to initiating gender and SSR activities in Francophone West Africa with a focus on Senegal, Mali and Côte d’Ivoire.


1. To provide technical assistance and capacity building to security sector institutions and national security bodies to support efforts to develop gender-sensitive security structures, policies and practices.

2. To enhance the capacity of security sector oversight actors, including parliamentarians and civil society organisations, to exercise gender-sensitive oversight of the security sector. 

3. To document and disseminate good practices and lessons learned and to develop new tools to integrate gender in security sector reform and governance.


DCAF undertakes and supports in-depth assessments, in collaboration with local partners, to inform and define objectives, target institutions and activities.

Working in close collaboration with security sector institutions, ministries, parliamentarians, civil society actors, and international and regional organisations, DCAF supports locally-driven processes by providing: 

  • Technical expertise
  • Capacity-development and training
  • Practice-oriented research

Outputs and outcomes

DCAF contributes to gender-sensitive and inclusive SSR processes and democratic security sector governance in West Africa. The Centre’s activities also seek to facilitate and encourage dialogue and cooperation between the different security sector actors, including civil society.

An overview of some of DCAF’s Gender and SSR activities in West Africa can be found in the “events” page.