What does it mean to be an African and a feminist? The answer is complex and varies from region to region and even from individual to individual. Some have argued that feminism, as a whole is “unAfrican,” I would argue that although the term is indeed western, feminism in the African continent has existed for generations.
As an African woman, I have struggled to find what feminism means to me without the influence of the western world. I was born and raised in Botswana, a landlocked country of about 2 million people. At 15 years old, I went to the United States where I am still finishing my studies. Consequently, one can imagine that much of the knowledge I gained was heavily influenced by American culture, luckily though I have travelled to more than 18 countries including my own every year. Travelling the world has allowed me to expand my perspective beyond what I thought was possible. While my sociology courses helped me gain general knowledge on the concepts of feminism, it was learning about different cultures around the world that lead me towards an answer.
I have had multiple online discussions with African American feminists who failed to understand the importance of separating African feminism from other strands. I found that African feminism is deeply rooted in dismantling patriarchy in culture. During and after colonialism, African countries had a very short time to develop and be on par with western standards and to a large extent most of our cultures are still in tact. To be African and a feminist means that you have to tackle challenges that women with the same race, class and sexual orientation etc. in other parts of the world do not face. It is similar to intersectional feminism in that it recognizes that the avenues of oppression can intersect. Feminism is meant to liberate and establish equal rights for women and besides being the givers and nurturers of life; women have continually proven their extraordinary strength and leadership since the dawn of time. Although we still face many challenges to our rights as human beings, we have prevailed time and time again over the misogynistic oppression that continues to terrorize us into silence.
As a feminist, I feel it is my duty to acknowledge the recent efforts of women in my country who were not coerced into that silence, who were brave enough to challenge social norms and push towards the betterment of humanity.
Botswana is not very big, but we do have women doing phenomenal things to further our development as a country. To start off with an example, Bonolo Mpabanga, a female Aerospace engineer with her own blog on showcasing hardworking women in Botswana. Motswana writer Siyanda Mohutsiwa, just did a TED talk “How young Africans found a voice on Twitter”. Another great demonstration of liberation is by Theo Khumo and Marea Otlaadisa, the founders of the Mma Mosadi Movement where the focus is to empower women and teach them to support themselves. Lastly, my mother Bakhwi Kragh, the founder of Touch a Life Wazha and the first person in the country to create a campaign on stroke awareness.
These examples are only a few small pieces of inspiration, which serve as a reminder that we write our own history, and with that in mind how can one deny that the future is undoubtedly female.
Article: Taffiny Kablay
Photography: Van Oh