We thought this splendid definition of “African feminisms” by Jessica Horn would be a great way to rejuvenate this space, after a brief unexpected break.
This definition is from a panel discussion titled “What is new in African feminisms, pop, people and politics?” that was moderated by Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah of African Women’s Development Fund. Meklit Hadero, Rita Ray and Pontso Mafete were also on the panel. [Read more from AWDF]
Nana asked Jessica Horn “What is African feminism?”
And this- with very minor edits- was Jessica’s response:
The first thing that African feminism is, is plural. Right? Africans. As Africans, we are incredibly diverse, on all levels. And as African feminists, we are also diverse. So we talk about African feminisms.
But I think, as a uniting idea, I would define African feminisms as a set of collective thoughts, a set of collective dreams and a set of collective actions which are, as Africans, which are trying to engage, trying to understand and ultimately, trying to change patriarchal power relations. “Patriarchal power relations” meaning the structuring of our world in the collective interests of men. So not about individuals but about the collective power interests of men; and transforming that.
So to me, African feminisms is Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti -we know her son, Fela; the mama was fierce; who reportedly was the first Nigerian woman to drive a car, and go to China, but she also mobilized en masse women to mobilise for their rights in Nigeria.
African feminism is the march of 20,000 South African women in 1956 to protest against racist and sexist passed laws. With the slogan “You have struck the woman, you have struck a rock. You will be crushed.”
African feminism is the mobilisation of sex workers in Uganda to demand an end to police brutality and also for recognition of their work as work, and not as a crime.
African feminism is the solidarity and support by Malian women for Malian women musicians in Northern Mali who were facing threats. The people were going to cut off their tongues, if they continued to sing in the fundamentalist insurgence.
African feminism is the tremendous solidarity that has been given to the struggle for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in the African region by African feminists; some of whom identified in that way, some of whom are not, who understand the critical importance of supporting more inclusive societies.
African feminism is the explosion of tremendous, incredible, creative expression and talent that explores and engages our lives as we live it, with a vision of change. And Meklit is one of the people that does that and reaches another person that champions that.
And, African feminism is the brave public activism of women who are self-identified feminists in the so-called Arab Spring. Those sisters were North African: from Tunisia, from Egypt, from Libya. They were North African women who went into the streets as women- many who self-identified as feminists- to say they wanted change in their political framework.
So that, to me, is the beginning of African feminism.
Listen to the rest of the discussion on YouTube:
Read more of Jessica’s work (and brilliance) at her “working home”, Akiiki Consulting.