Archive | August, 2017

The African Feminist Forum: Aïssatou CisseCissé

31 Aug


Aïssatou CisseCissé was born in Niayes Thioker in Dakar in about 1971. Her mother suffered from rheumatism and during the birth Cissé’s hands and feet were dislocated by the people assisting the birth. This left Cissé with permanent disabilities. She was able to achieve a lot with the support of her parents.

Cissé has become a successful writer. She wrote her debut novel Zeina in 2002 and Linguère Fatim two years later. She won an award in Libya.
She wrote about the injustice of a Senegalese girl who was sent to jail for having an illegal abortion. This was despite the mitigation of the pregnancy having resulted from her being raped at the age of thirteen.
Cissé was appointed a special advisor to Senegal’s President, Macky Sall. She has worked with the Minister of Health and Social Action to improve the country’s sports facilities for people with disabilities. She assists with a Senagalese organisation called ASEDEME. ASEDEME is a self-help group started in 1989 to assist 50 children with learning difficulties to have an education.

According to her biography she wrote:
I have always fought to defend women’s rights. My activism started when I was very young, beginning of course by fighting for my own rights! I grew up with an education which had been imposed on Senegalese society by its Western colonisers, and entrenching the oppression of women (we tend to forget that women in the West have long been oppressed). I also grew up in a context where religion was used to confine women’s space and take away our voices. In the fight for women to reclaim their voices I have personally pledged to leave no stone unturned. People often call me a feminist, and I respond that if that is what being a feminist is, then I claim the name!
Throughout my life I have been inspired by Queen Pokou and Queen Djeumbeutt Mbodj. For me, they symbolise women’s empowerment because they demonstrated that a woman’s place is not only behind the stove. Each of them was able to lead kingdoms made up of men, women and children, and did so firmly and justly.
As a writer I focus my creative expression on the experiences of women and children. I fight against polygamy by writing novels, depicting the negative aspects of this practice. I also fight against early marriage, forced marriage and female genital mutilation through my writing and by mobilising people. I create awareness among women and girls on widowhood rites that force a woman to marry her deceased husband’s brother, which must be totally eradicated because it is a terrible form of violence against women in rural areas. I received an award for creativity from the Lebanese publishing house Namaan for my novella Linguère Fatim on the courage of the African woman. I am currently working on a manuscript entitled L’Avenir est Mien (The Future is Mine).
The manipulation of religious belief to serve men’s interest is a major concern for African women. We need to keep raising awareness about the fact that the laws and beliefs that entrench inequality are actually just man-made interpretations. Women still face discrimination against women at work, be it in the private or public sector. And we need to change the commonly held view of HIV and AIDS as being a “women’s concern” and transmitted by women to men. Most of the media campaigns we see show a man meeting a woman and having sex, and realising afterwards that he is HIV positive. In reality it is often the male partner infecting the woman!
I think that our duty to ourselves as feminists is to help children change their attitudes by making them understand that boys and girls should have equal opportunities- at home, by equally sharing house chores, at school by being admitted on the same conditions and in marriage by freely choosing his or her partner

The African Feminist Forum:Everjoice J. Win

31 Aug


Everjoice J. Win is from Zimbabwe and has been active in the women’s and social justice movements in Zimbabwe and the African continent for most of her working life. She has worked with the Women’s Action Group and the pan-African Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF). She served as a consultant to many local and international NGOs. For close to a decade, Everjoice was global head of Women’s rights at ActionAid, an international NGO, ( Ms. Win also previously served as a Commonwealth Technical Advisor to the Commission on Gender Equality of South Africa, and as Associate Country Director with Oxfam in Zimbabwe. She co-founded and served on the boards of several civil society and women’s rights organizations. These include; the pro-democracy National Constitutional Assembly of Zimbabwe (NCA); the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, the Women and AIDS Support Network, the Women in Politics Support Unit, the African Women’s Leadership Institute and the African Feminist Forum. A keen writer and blogger Everjoice Win also contributes to various print and online pubications, (see; and Everjoice currently works with an international NGO and is based in Johannesburg.

According to her biography she has written:

I am a Zimbabwean, and while I have worked in many countries I always regard Zimbabwe as my home. I have been an active member of the struggle for women’s rights and recognition in Zimbabwe, Southern Africa and beyond. In Zimbabwe I have worked with the Women’s Action Group and Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF). I have also helped found a number of other women’s organisations.
I currently work as the International Head of the Women’s Rights Theme at ActionAid International, based at their head office in Johannesburg, South Africa. In this role I oversee the broad strategic direction of the organisation’s programs and campaigns on women’s rights.
I call myself a feminist because, well, what else is there to call oneself? Let’s look at the options: a gender activist (what is that)? A development worker (sounds like something to do with banking)? A human rights activist (but which humans)? Feminist just says what needs to be said. It communicates the exact “attitude” that needs to be communicated and how far I am prepared to go on anything.
Many women in Africa fear naming themselves as feminists, which means, by extension, endless apologies and fear of being named. Another problem is the overwhelming tendency to tick boxes, deliver projects, hold events and activities rather than focusing on the long hard political work of transformation. We need to stay true to our vision, in spite of the seemingly intractable practical problems of HIV, conflict, or the food crisis.
I keep asking myself in whatever I do or say – will this change women’s lives in the long term? Will this alter power relations? I have been lucky to always work in organisations that enable me to do this. I am able to work with other feminists, take time out to just talk things through and re-strategise. Although I strive to think of the big picture it is important to ensure that the practical interventions remain strategic and speak to feminist values and behaviour.
As a movement we still need to grow our numbers numerically and to build more organisations that define themselves and work as feminists. Related to this is building individual feminist leaders and their leadership skills inside and outside our own organisational “safe zones”. And we must not be afraid to take up more “air time” in public spaces and claim our space in the mainstream.
My heart fills with joy when I see a young black woman break out of her shell like a fledgling: growing wings, flying up, up, and away. I laugh when I hear my 14 year old son say very loudly “my mum is a feminist and she is head of women’s rights! ”And he tries to explain to someone in great detail! I am inspired by very materially poor women that I often meet, but who have a great sense of self and are very clear about their rights. A beautiful heavy African summer downpour on Sunday night followed by intensely beautiful sunshine on Monday morning keeps me going all week!

African Feminist Forum part 4

30 Aug


Mariam Kirollos: Egypt
She is driven by the rhythm of music, she believes in a woman’s right to be treated as a human being and she likes chocolate.


Nancy Kachingwe:
Nancy Kachingwe works as a political advisor for ActionAid South Africa. She has rich history working for Civil Societies in Africa and International.


Dr Zeinabou Hadari: Niger
Zeinabou Hadari is the Permanent Secretary of the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) of Niger, under the Ministry of Public Health, which works in partnership with the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM). The GFATM is an international financing institution based in Geneva, Switzerland that donates money to countries to support large-scale prevention, treatment and care programs against the three diseases. The CCM of Niger is a public private partnership composed of key stakeholders operating at the country level to intensify the fight against the three diseases.
Ms. Hadai is an activist for women’s human rights and a co-founder of two NGOs in Niger working to advocate for women’s human rights and female leadership promotion in Niger and the African region: MAPADEV (African Link for Peace and Development) and REFEPA-Niger (Niger Women’s Network for Peace). She has extensively collaborated with local human rights associations, including the Niger Human Rights Association (ANDDH), by coordinating and presiding over its library scientific committee. She is also affiliated with ASNID (Niger Information Specialists Association) and the AURA Toastmasters Club of Niamey for leadership in oral communications development.


Korto Reeves Williams:

Korto Williams is a Liberian feminist and a strategic civil society leader in Liberia and the sub-region. A major contributor to shaping political discourse on women’s rights and feminism, she serves on the board of Urgent Action Fund (Africa) and is a member of the Liberia Feminist Forum and the African Feminist Forum.

I live in a country which The Economist magazine described in 2003 as “the worst place in the world to live”. Now we have made history by electing the first female president in Africa. These descriptions eliminate every other country except Liberia.
I work as the Women’s Rights Coordinator of ActionAid Liberia, meaning that I am the one who angers people, despite my smile, as I bring up taboo topics, demand women’s rights, and hold no apology for this stance. This responsibility entails working with community women on one day, and sitting in a room filled with old men who say “only a virgin can be raped” on another. I am a poetess too and have used poetry to heal my war wounds and exorcise stubborn demons out of my life.
Liberia is a deeply patriarchal society, male dominated and inequitable. Women suffer daily violations of their rights as if it were normal. I come from the background and belief that this anomaly should be deconstructed and challenged to move ahead. In doing this, women must have the ideological and spiritual drive to feel strong in their position. It is in feminism that I have found answers and clarity of purpose. It is in feminism that I have found the description and structure that certifies my feelings, thoughts and outrageous anger. I call myself a feminist because I have no other description for my beliefs.
While working, I also completed graduate school, and wrote a research paper whose premise focuses on the inherent need for feminism in women’s struggles. I will use this document to share information on Liberian society and how the mainstream perceives women contribution to social change. This analysis, I believe, will help both young and old women value feminist reasoning and positioning.
We have a way to go in understanding our united strength, deconstructing the myth of male supremacy and the practice of patriarchy. In Liberia, feminism is considered a derogatory ideology. How do we share the joys and values of this movement that breathes life into our being? Only by lifting the cover from our eyes-male and female- will we know that the world is different and changing.
To build the feminist movement in Africa, we need more women to identify openly as feminists. We need to support documentation of feminist literature. And we need to hold feminist forums nationally as a means of outreaching and being more visible as feminists. Whenever I encounter the intellect of a woman, ready to challenge falsehoods that violate our rights I am inspired. I am humbled when African sisters provide this intellectual ambience!

The African Feminist Forum: Dr. Amina Mama.

29 Aug

Amina Mama is a Nigerian-British writer, feminist and academic. Her main areas of focus have been post-colonial, militarist and gender issues. She has lived in Africa, Europe, and North America, and worked to build relationships between feminist intellectuals across the globe.


As per her biography she has written:
I am a researcher and university professor and teach courses on gender and the politics of development development, militarism, feminist theory and methodology and women’s movements. I hold a tenured professorship as the Chair in Gender Studies at the University of Cape Town, South Africa and am currently serving as the Barbara Lee Distinguished Chair in Women’s Leadership at Mills College in Oakland, California.
Most of my research work has been collaborative, involving teams of African researchers and activists working to develop and apply feminist principles and methods that aim to bring theory and activism together. I am currently developing a collaborative project on Gender, Militarism and Women’s Activism in the West African sub-region, and most recently completed research projects on African sexualities, and gender and institutional culture in African universities. As a full-time professor I use feminist pedagogies in the classroom, and contribute to developing political-intellectual communities of feminist thought and practice through projects like the Feminist Scholars Network, the Gender and Women’s Studies (GWS) listserv, the journal Feminist Africa, and by working with colleagues on the development of a feminist curriculum for teachers in public universities.
The greatest external threat to women (and by extension humanity) is the growth and acceptance of a misogynistic, authoritarian and violent culture of militarism, in all its manifestations within the various institutions of the global capitalist military industrial complex, as these are variously iterated around the world. I think that the survival and well-being of women in Africa today is continuously threatened by the historically- sediment accumulations of misogyny that take many forms. This sustains the injustices meted out to women of all ages, bearing fruit in the exploitation of their bodies, and the wastage of their talents. This places an historic responsibility on those of us who live and live well. We challenge history every day that we do so. We need to be aware of this, while not succumbing to the potentially paralysing sense of guilt, collective trauma, internalized misogyny, and humiliation. The challenge is instead to make good of whatever opportunities we have to live graceful, peaceful, happy, ethical and generous lives in community with others.
As a feminist, I am dedicated to the liberation of women all over the world, but especially in the African contexts with which I most closely identify. I regard my life as a continuous process of seeking and learning and I try to infuse this principle in my professional work as a teacher and researcher, in my personal life, relationships and child-rearing practices, and in my activism and support for others sharing this vision.

The African Feminist Forum: Jessica Horn.

29 Aug

Jessica Horn is an African feminist activist, writer, poet and technical advisor on women’s rights with roots in Uganda. Her work focuses on women’s rights, bodily autonomy and freedom from violence, and African feminist movement building. She was named as an African woman changemaker by ARISE Magazine and as one of Applause Africa’s 40 Africans Changemakers under 40. She joined the African Women’s Development Fund as director of programmes in October 2015.


As per her biography she has written:

I was not born a feminist, but became one pretty soon after I took my first breath and gazed on a world full of possibility but also pain for many girls and women that I encountered. As a feminist I share the belief that women’s oppression can no longer be the legitimate means of ordering our world. No society is healthy if its girls and women face violence for exercising the simple desire to be free. As a feminist I understand the necessity and beauty of women’s struggle for autonomy and choice, and the need to transform society for the benefit of all people. And I am re-born as a feminist every time I see a woman or girl resist social limitations and master the art of spreading her wings.
I grew up on university campuses in Southern Africa and later the South Pacific, surrounded by post-colonial and anti-apartheid debate. While this framed my early political consciousness, I found that feminism provided me with a much more embodied understanding of power.
The body, as the beginning place of rights, of self-expression, and of resistance, has always fascinated me. I found a home for this passion in the movement for women’s right to self-determination over our bodies. Since my teenage years I have joined with others in activism, and later study, training, research and funding around women’s sexual rights, freedom from violence, and making empowered choices in the era of HIV and AIDS. I have done this in many capacities including through volunteer work with HIV+ women’s groups, as Coordinator of Amanitare, the Pan-African network on sexual and reproductive rights, as a human rights funder, and now as a consultant to human rights groups, government bodies, and progressive donors. I was part of a fantastic team of activists that created Uhai, the East African Sexual Health and Rights Initiative, a pioneer in African philanthropy. And during the moments in between I take time to nurture my other great fascination- art as a medium for dissent. I have a published collection of poems Speaking in Tongues, and I’m currently working on forming a collective of African feminist artists.
I was raised by a woman that I have come to recognise as a revolutionary mother, who used the act of mothering as a process of education and affirmation for the minds and sensibilities of her children. From this upbringing I learned that the real catalyst for liberation is neither force nor discourse, but the revolutionary power of love. One of the biggest threats to Africa’s social fabric is the blasphemous theology of hatred that is being spread by religious fundamentalists. We as Africans need to be more vocal in saying that discrimination and violence against lesbians and gay people, unmarried women, sex workers, or HIV+ women is neither godly, nor just, nor African. Change begins here, today, between us. We need to recognise that the choice to love rather than despise each other is a political act. We need to keep expanding the feminist embrace

The African Feminist Forum: Kasha Nabagesera

28 Aug

To continue with my series of recognising African feminists​, today I would like to acknowledge Kasha Nabagesera.

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera (also known as Jacqueline Kasha) is a Ugandan LGBT rights activist. Kasha is the founder and executive director of the LGBT rights organisation Freedom & Roam Uganda (FARUG) and 2011 recipient of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.


Her biography according to Wikipedia states the following:

Kasha attended several schools, often being expelled because of her sexual orientation, or because she wrote love letters to other girls. She attended Gayaza Junior School, Maryhill High School, Mariam High School, and Namasagali College. Following High School, she enrolled at Nkumba University where she obtained an Accounting degree and her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. She then followed that with a Diploma in Information Technology and a Certificate in Marketing from the New Vision Group in Kampala in 2004. In 2005 she enrolled at Human Rights Education Associates, a global human rights education and training centre based in Massachusetts for distance learners. She obtained a certificate in 2006 from the Johannesburg Media School for Journalism so that she could learn how to deal with media in a hostile work environment. She later trained activists at this school for activism from many African countries including Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda and others. In 2008 she became a trainer of trainees, obtaining a certificate from Frontline Human Rights Defenders in Dublin, Ireland.
Known as “Bombastic” to her many friends, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera excelled in school in athletics and took home more than six awards for her achievements in the 100m, 200m and 400m relays as well as the high jump and long jump. She was also involved in drama classes and was often assigned boys parts while in High School.
In addition to suspensions and expulsions from schools for openly living as a lesbian, Kasha was also caned (beaten with a cane or rod) beginning at the age of seven, and repeated many times in school for expressing her love for other girls. She was also the attempted victim of something called corrective rape, by male students at her school, the attempted undressing by male students to ascertain if she was, in fact, a girl and not a boy pretending to be a girl, and she was forced to dress in “gender appropriate” girls clothes and report to the administration at University who forbid her to wear baseball caps and any other clothing deemed suitable for boys. And the punitive measures continued unabated. She was also humiliated by a poster pinned on walls at the University proclaiming her as WANTED, displaying her picture and treating her like a common criminal, because of her same-sex attraction.
To humiliate her even more, freshman orientation included a briefing on Kasha to warn incoming freshman from associating with her or they might face expulsion. She was forced to sign a memorandum of understanding with university officials that she would refrain from being within one hundred meters of the girl’s hostel and was forbidden housing within the university premises or dormitories. This barbaric and dehumanizing behaviour was justified by school officials as a precaution to prevent Kasha from influencing other young ladies and “turning them lesbian.”


Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera never “came out of the closet” because she was never “in a closet” in the first place. She always lived openly as a lesbian because she simply didn’t know it was illegal, and didn’t understand that it would, in her words, “later turn out to be a big deal.” “Every time I got picked on or punished for being a lesbian I thought they were just using it as an excuse to bully me. It’s only when I was suspended at (the) University that I took interest in finding out why my sexuality was a big deal for others and that’s when I found out that it was illegal to be gay. I did research and found out not only in Uganda, and other parts of Africa but all over the world, and that was my turning point.”
The threats and beatings were terrible and unrelenting. Kasha’s mother kept telling her she was just being stubborn and that she would outgrow it. When Kasha was nearly expelled from the University, Kasha’s mother told a meeting of staff and faculty that “Kasha was sick” and “her sickness didn’t have a cure so they should leave her to finish the final semester and they wouldn’t have to deal with her anymore.” It was hard to hear her mother say these things they both knew were untrue, but it got her through those final months and Kasha credits her mother’s action to defuse the tense situation, and in the process, saving her education.
When she was finally finished with the University, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera and some friends founded Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) in 2003 after witnessing and experiencing the harassment, discrimination and violence Ugandan women face because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. This pioneering organization became a first of its kind in Uganda to fight for LGBT sexual orientation and gender identity rights. Kasha led the organization for ten years, stepping down as Executive Director of Freedom and Roam Uganda the 4th of July, 2013 after ten years of leadership.
Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera is a community-builder who loves her work and being able to give some measure of redress to the many members of the LGBT community who feel lost, rejected and alone. She also likes to give hope to her many brothers and sisters in Uganda and elsewhere but acknowledges that it is hard right now. She loves to meet people and share common experiences that unite us, and learn from other unique lives. She speaks of her “lovely family from around the world” that she has been privileged to meet and learn from.
Kasha says that “it’s very important that we are who we are, especially looking back in history at how our race has been undermined, we need to stand up and be counted. Our black pride should never be allowed to be discounted again because of our skin colour. It is important that we work and achieve greatness for ourselves instead of waiting for others to do that for us. We cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand and feel sorry for ourselves, we need to stand with our heads high and proud for trying our best to make this world a better place for justice and equality, freedom and liberation.”
She is considered to be the ‘founding mother’ of the Ugandan LGBT civil rights movement. In 1999, when she was 19 years old, she publicly campaigned to end to homophobia in Uganda, a country where homosexuality is against the law.
In 2010, Ugandan newspaper Rolling Stone published names and photo of individuals it claimed to be gay, with the headline “Hang Them”. Among the names were Kasha and her colleague David Kato. The pair eventually sued the tabloid, and in doing so set a benchmark for human rights in Uganda. Nabagesera explains the precedence as an attempt to protect “privacy and the safety we all have against incitements to violence.”
Kato was later killed following the legal battle with the publication. Nabagasera has continued the fight for gay rights in Uganda. Under the auspice of FARUG, she has fought to decriminalise homosexuality in Uganda by circumventing the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill; a bill which mandates stiff sentences ranging from prison sentences to the death penalty. Furthermore, the bill mandates that citizens who do not expose gay and lesbians to the authorities, face up to 3 years in jail.

In 2010, Nabagesera opened the only Ugandan bar for LGBT people; named Sappho Islands, the bar was situated in a suburb of Kampala. It closed in 2011.
Not one to sit still, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera is now concentrating her efforts on advocacy and lobbying on behalf of Africa at the United Nations, the African Commission and European Union. She is currently working on the Project Planning, Administration, Advocacy and Leadership (PAL) project and a special program called Reclaiming the Media, to present the other side of the LGBT community to Ugandans and repeal Uganda’s recently enacted anti-homosexuality law.
Kasha receives hundreds of requests from Uganda’s LGBT citizens who are frightened and in hiding because of their government’s recent enactment of anti-homosexuality laws that criminalise their identity, impose harsh prison terms and even punish their friends, families and employers for failing to turn them into authorities. It has created an unbelievably oppressive crisis for Uganda’s LGBT community. Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera and her partner, JLW, make their home in Kampala, Uganda, and spend time together watching movies and playing board games. They have a pet German Shepherd named “Arzu Don Pedro” who will be three years old in June. They go out with friends to party when they can and Kasha tries to cook for friends on Sundays. She loves children and babysits her nieces and nephews when she can. She looks forward to one day starting her own family.
Kasha is the only founding member of the LGBT movement from the 90s still living in Uganda.

Kasha’s leadership in the face of extremist adversity has been recognized by many around the world including “Velvetpark Magazine,” the world’s leading queer women’s magazine, described her as a “Braveheart” and voted her the most inspiring queer woman in the world in 2010. In 2011, she was listed in celebration of 100 years of International Women’s Day. That same year she was a guest speaker at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. Kasha was also listed among the 50 most inspiring Feminist Women in Africa in 2011​ and received the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2011.
In November 2011 she was recognized​ with the Rafto Prize in Bergen, Norway, along with Sexual Minorities Uganda, an umbrella organization she co-founded in 2004. She was honoured with the Honorary Award of the “QX Magazine” in Stockholm, Sweden in February 2013, the James Joyce Award from the University College of Dublin in April 2013, the Sean McBride Award from Amnesty International Dublin, the Civil Courage Award from Berlin 2013, the International Activist of the Year Award for the GALAS (Gay and Lesbian Awards, organised by the National Lesbian and Gay Federation of Ireland), the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award 2013, Kasha has always referred to the Ugandan new anti-homosexuality Law as a Nuremberg law.
In May 2011, it was announced that Nabagesera would be awarded the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. She is the first gay rights activist to do so. According to Michelle Kagari of Amnesty International, the award “recognises [Nabagesera’s] tremendous courage in the face of discrimination and violence against LGBT people in Uganda. Her passion to promote equality and her tireless work to end a despicable climate of fear is an inspiration to LGBT activists the world over..”

African Feminist Forum, part 2: Ghana.

25 Aug

In my series of honouring the women who work with the African Feminist Forum, this blog is dedicated to three of our sisters from Ghana, Theo Sowa, Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah and Maame Afon Yelbert-Obeng.

1. Theo Sowa

Ghanaian feminist and child rights activist, philanthropic advisor and CEO of the African Women’s Development Fund based in Ghana.
She has extensive experience as an independent advisor on a wide range of international and social development issues.


Her work on women’s rights has a special focus on their promotion and protection in armed conflict situations, the strengthening of women-focused development programmes in Africa, and advocacy related to women and HIV and AIDS issues. She is a member of the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s African Advisory Board and the board of the Graça Machel Trust. She also serves on the board of the Museum of AIDS in Africa; is a Trustee of the UK’s Comic Relief and the Chair of its International Grant Committee; and is an Advisory Group member of the ‘Every Child a Reader’ literacy initiative. She holds a public appointment as a board member of the Charity Commission for England and Wales and was named as a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2010.

2. Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah

Nana is feminist, an African woman, a blogger, a sister, a daughter, a writer, a life coach and a trainer.
Nana is a programme Officer for Fundraising and Communications with the African Women’s Development Fund in Ghana. She believes that all women have the right to a joyful, fulfilling and rewarding existence free from the socio-cultural limitations often placed upon women. Her job allows her to work towards the realisation of this vision for all African women.


Taken from her biography, this is what she had to say:
In my life I have been inspired by the achievements of women from all across the globe including the African- American writer/lecturer/poet Maya Angelou, the Ghanaian professor/writer Ama Ata Aidoo and South African activist Pregs Govender. Through her writings Maya Angelou has taught me the importance of perseverance, bravery and creativity. Ama Ata Aidoo is an inspirational writer to many Ghanaians and in person is warm and generous of spirit. I admire Pregs for her “love and courage”. The qualities I admire in my heroines are those qualities that I continually aim to bring to all that I do in my life.
One of my current passions is documenting the lives of African women. I think more African women need to write and document their lives and herstories. Those of us who can read and write have the additional responsibilities of not only documenting our lives but the lives of our mothers, aunties and grandmothers who may not be able to capture their life stories. My grand aunt never had the opportunity to gain an education simply because she is a woman. However her brother, my grandfather, had the opportunity to gain an education, travel the world and write his story. One of my goals is to continue capturing my grand aunt’s herstory and to publish her biography.
Recently I have also been very interested in creating a repository of knowledge on the diverse sexualities of African women. Too little is known about women’s sexuality and even less is known about the diverse sexualities of African women. I think African women need safe spaces to learn and share knowledge about our diverse sexualities. I believe the anonymity of the internet may be able to provide one such space which is why I have started a blog on African women’s sexualities.

3. Maame Afon Yelbert-Obeng
Mama was born and raised in Ghana and has been living in the US for over 12 years. Over the past decade, She has supported initiatives that bring significant and meaningful changes to the lives of women and girls across Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). For five years she worked as Program Officer for SSA at the Global Fund for Women, making grants to support women’s groups. From early 2011 to June 2012, she worked with Women’s Earth Alliance as the Sub-Saharan Africa Program Director, partnering with Africa-based organizations to address climate change issues and promote environmental and economic security.


From her biography, this is what she had to say:

I am passionate about building women’s leadership, with a specific focus on facilitating transformative mentorship for young African women. Just as important in my life is music – I am an accomplished singer and released my debut album RISE globally in May 2012 in the U.S., kicking off an international tour. RISE is an expression of the multifaceted woman that I am, an embodiment of music and a message which transcends multiple genres, ranging from gospel and inspirational to music for social justice. RISE pays tribute to the richness of African music.
I call myself a feminist because I believe in the power of women and our collective ability to effect change. Growing up with a single mother and several aunties and female cousins, I saw how the women around me managed every aspect of life – career, love, children, and all other societal obligations – with strength, tenacity, versatility, a sense of humour and a forward-looking vision. Juggling motherhood, work and all the different aspects that come with being a woman, I am experiencing first-hand this beautiful story of being a whole woman. As whole women we are free to bring all of who we are – our fears, tears, triumphs, gifts, faith, talent etc., to all that we do, recognizing that what we do is just as important as how we do it.
The fragmentation that exists within the women’s movement has the potential to erode the gains that we have made. As we forge ahead, it is important to replenish where our gains and accomplishments have been compromised. It is also crucial to build, practice and invest in sisterhood at all levels to unlock and realise the bright and promising future of African Feminism. In addition, we have to build alliances with men and welcome them as ambassadors for women and girls in Africa.  
I am proactively addressing these issues by embodying sisterhood in all its forms and expression. I bring other parts of me such as my gifting and love for music, my crazy sense of humour and infectious energy to women’s gatherings, infusing them with fun, laughter, promise and hope. I believe that it is important for the  feminist movement in Africa to capture the richness of our culture and enjoy the vast plethora of Africa’s musical rhythms, sounds and stories.
I am inspired by the shoulders on which we stand today to reclaim and restore our spaces, and lifted by the stories of many women and girls who lead the way with courage, dignity, grace, wisdom and beauty.

For more information on AFF go to

The African Feminist Forum

24 Aug

The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.

African feminism is a type of feminism innovated by African women that specifically addresses the conditions and needs of continental African women (African women who reside on the African continent).

We are all aware of the struggles that women face on a day to day basis and we need to continue pushing those agendas but we should also should take time and give thanks and acknowledge some of the women who stand up to patriarchy, change legislation and stand up for the rights of women. I would like to dedicate a series of blogposts introducing you to some of Africa’s most bravest and phenomenal feminists.

I will be posting a series on stories from The African Feminist forum.
The AFF Working is made up of a  diverse constituency of African feminist activists, academics, researchers, and practitioners from across the Continent.

Today I honour Isabella Matambanadzo and this is her story.


I am a daughter of the African soil. My home is Zimbabwe. I live with my mother who is in her 60s. It is one of the daily delights of my present life to be able to enjoy a very close and loving relationship with my mother and to harmoniously share a home with her. My mother, through the magical space of her womb was my first home. I am priviledged that she is my present home. It has not always been that way, and I am grateful that we have been given this time together.
I am a writer, this comes from the many years in the public and private media. And, I am an feminist activist, this comes from being in civil society institutions that had a mission and vision that I shared. I have been very fortunate so far to have a career path that has given me a space and a platform from which to organise these talents and gifts into a sense of service that reads as a fairly reasonable professional resume, because it comes with the generosity of a title that the corporate bureaucracy can organise. For me, it has always been a place from where I can have some structure and resources to be of service to communities where there is work to be done. Maybe one day I can be courageous enough to just say if I have to roll up my sleeves and work, I get work done.
I learned feminism in our home and family from my mother and my grandmother. It just wasn’t called or named Feminism, be that with a capital F or just an f. My mother and my grandmother have, to me been the most beautiful women I have ever known. I saw them show solidarity and sisterhood to women within and outside of our family circles and this left me in awe. It gave me a sense of purpose.   All I am I owe to these women of my family and many other women who have been generous with experience and counsel in the three or so decades of my life. Women from near and far who have shared their wisdom and strength with me and for me, in ways that are expressed formally and in ways that have been unexpressed, but understood. I attribute any part of my character that is positive, that is lived in a way that demonstrates feminist thought, emotion and action to my mother and my grandmother and my community of sisters. It may sound trite to someone reading this in the 21st century, an age of constitutional equality, the world wide web and other forms of civil and political liberty, but for me to sit on the laps of black African women who stepped out of the devastating confines of the forms of racisms and sexisms that the very ugly infrastructure and legalized reality if colonization, combined with the oppressive components of our Africanness is nothing short of astounding.
For women in my world, that have in any way had our humanness undermine, we value what it means to be raised by educated, professionally skilled, wage earning and tax paying professionals who have their own bank accounts, in their own names, have their own minds and hearts, and control and ownership of their bodies. This is an extraordinary achievement.
I aspire to a time when I can present my feminism with the wisdom, grace an art that I witnessed in their kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, gardens, plough fields, places of worship and public life. When I can express this sense of resistance and liberation in and with a collective of others who believe that to be a full human being rather than a dog (no disrespect to animal rights activists). When I arrive at this point in my life, then I can say my precious matriarchal inheritances have been honoured, and then I can sit back and exhale. Anything in my character that resembles less than this ‘Queendom’ as the rap diva Latifah names it, is me, is my shortcoming.  So for now, I continue to learn, to error, to relearn and to commit to growing.

For more information contact:

The African Leadership Academy: Achieving African Global Excellence.

16 Aug

Achieving that African Global Excellence.

The term: African Global Excellence was introduced to me by an award winning proudly African producer, Scotness Smith from Coalstoves production house. It means that as Africans we need to excel in all that we do, so we stand out and rise above the set global standards. As I live and breathe the Pan African agenda, I believe that in order to achieve that dream, we need to step up and claim our space as queens and kings of the world. We shall reign supreme in all areas of life from career, love, business, tradition etc. In order for us the achieve this we need to equip our youth with the necessary tools that will provide them with African authenticity, pride and education but also give them the necessary resources to become sustainable entrepreneurs and leaders.

A few years back I was introduced to The African Leadership Academy through an NGO that I was doing videography work for. I was fascinated and excited at the fact that such an amazon institution was built on SA soil. I automatically went on to learn more about what they do and why. Just a few weeks back at the African Philanthropy Forum I was re-introduced to ALA, through Dr. Frank Aswani, the VP and ALA Director of Strategic Relations.

I have decided to dedicate this blog to the African Leadership Academy, so we can understand their vision and goals. I revisited the beautiful campus, in Johannesburg and also discovered that the academy is open to all Africans, South African included. So please read, share and let us start on achieving that African Global Excellence.


Their vision and mission is as follows:

African Leadership Academy seeks to transform Africa by developing a powerful network of over 6,000 leaders who will work together to address Africa’s greatest challenges, achieve extraordinary social impact, and accelerate the continent’s growth trajectory.

ALA identifies young leaders from across the continent with demonstrated leadership potential, a passion for Africa, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a track record of community service. After graduating, ALA continues to cultivate these leaders throughout their lives, in university and beyond, by providing on-going leadership training, supporting their growth through access to internships and careers and connecting them to high-impact networks of people and capital that will empower them to create transformative change.As discussed.

Over the past ten years, they have welcomed several thousand young leaders across the continent and around the world to a series of leadership programs including their two-year pre-university (A’level) program, their 10-day and 3-week international summer camps (Global Scholars Program) and their five-day international youth leadership conference (ALA Model African Union).
They work with school heads, educators and leaders of community organisations and youth networks to identify young people aged 15 to 18, who have demonstrated high leadership potential and passion for creating change in their communities. These might be school prefects, students with exceptional academic ability, top athletes, young entrepreneurs and inventors, future political and diplomatic leaders or social activists. Through a rigorous selection process, they are able to admit about 125 promising African leaders each year who join their growing network of change-makers to study at the Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa.
This year, they have extended their application window to run for six months. Young leaders may apply to the Academy between July 1st 2017 and January 12th, 2018 in three different application windows:

Early Decision 1: July 1st – August 31st, 2017

Early Decision 2: September 1st – October 30th, 2017

Regular Decision: November 1st 2017 – January 12th, 2018

Should you have any questions, you may contact our team through or +27 11 699 3038.


12 Aug

My life is driven by my three passions: Women, Africa and the arts. This week brought a number of beautiful and necessary realisations and experiences.
In South Africa, Women Day is celebrated on 9 August, as we reach this time suddenly media bombard us with messages of women empowerment, there is an overflow of pink high teas, pretty colours and events and awards honouring women. As much as we need to celebrate and honour ourselves and success, we must not move away from the fact that as women we still live our lives in fear and face the reality of abuse, rape, sexism and death every minute of the day. So when the mandatory invites and event posts come in, I have become rather critical and strategic in which ones I want to attend. The joy of reaching and passing forty years, brings some level of contentment and right to decide what you want to feed your brain and soul with and more importantly what you want in your space.
Upon receiving an invite to attend a dialogue session hosted by Advocate Thuli Madonsela, I automatically RSVP and quickly rally ups a few people that understand the importance and magnitude of such an invite.

The invite came from one of my warrior sisters, Samu Khumalo. Samu and myself met in 2012 when I was invited to Kenya by The V-day movement for the an African symposium on stopping violence against women on the continent. She is one of the V-girls who are working at raising awareness of abuse amongst girls. She started her Samu Sunday session at her home in Rockville. These sessions include her inviting girls from the community to come together and talk about their personal challenges. I have attend a few and hosted one in 2013.


The event took place at Constitutional Hill, In a room above from the old cells.
Constitution Hill is a living museum that tells the story of South Africa’s journey to democracy. The site is a former prison and military fort that bears testament to South Africa’s turbulent past and, today, is home to the country’s Constitutional Court, which endorses the rights of all citizens.
There is perhaps no other site of incarceration in South Africa that imprisoned the sheer number of world-renowned men and women as those held within the walls of the Old Fort, the Women’s Jail and Number Four. Nelson Mandela. Mahatma Gandhi. Joe Slovo. Albertina Sisulu. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Fatima Meer. They all served time here. But the precinct also confined tens of thousands of ordinary people during its 100-year history: men and women of all races, creeds, ages and political agendas; the indigenous and the immigrant; the everyman and the elite. In this way, the history of every South African lives here.

I asked my cousins Ipheleng and Lesego to accompany me, later my nephew, Kevin joined us. We were greeted with young powerful ladies handling the registration process. We had the opportunity to take a tour around the cells. Although this was not my first visit, being in that space opens up a different sense of emotions. Walking though the cells, observing the exhibitions and feeling the energy, one can feel the spirits and energy of the place.


We were then seated and the event was opened up by Karyn Vaughn from ENCA. Advocate Thuli Madonsela gave an opening remark and chilling testimony on the state of some of our female veterans who had been incarcerated in the exact prison and who fought for our democracy. Mme Thuli spoke about one particular lady, Mme Palesa, who had been a past prisoner and who now lives way below the poverty line and struggles to put food on her table. She reiterated that they lived a life far from being glamorous. Her aim is to move forward in a positive manner but ensure that a legacy is left behind, hence her starting the Thuli Madonsela Foundation.
The Thuli Madonsela Foundations is an agnostic, A-Political organisation. It I a think and action tank led by young people. That is why our registration was handled and received by young millennials. The aim of the foundation is to promote democracy and defend it, the goal is to create inclusive development and peace. She told us that Mme Palesa’s heart is now raw, how she gave up everything yet she lives like a pauper.
The fundamental principles of the foundation flow along the DART principle:
D- Democracy
A- Activism, assistance and advocacy
R- Research
T- Training

The panel included the following ladies: PJ Powers, SA singer and activist; Melinda Shaw, communications expert and trustee of the foundation; Mme Cecile Palmer, ex-prisoner and activist and Advocate Maduna, trustee of the foundation.

The dialogue was opened by Mme Cecile Palmer who was incarcerated in 1976, whilst she was pregnant, she was also accompanied by her mother. The fact that three generations had been incarcerated at once, sent chills running through my spine. She told us of how the then minister of justice, jimmy Kruger, believed that her and her mother were seen as instigators and influencing the youth, hence their incarceration. She hopes to see a South Africa where everyone is free, a South Africa where we live in a true democracy. She then felt the need to apologise as she felt that their efforts were done in vain as people still live in townships and in poverty. She stated that poverty in South Africa is now the new passbook.

Advocate Maduna, spoke on her her plan and vision is to impact communities in an effective and sustainable way.

PJ Powers, know for her outspoken activist during the apartheid years, said that Ubuntu originated way before the Christians 10 commandments. She reiterated the principle behind Ubuntu: That a person is a person through other people. She made a very profound statement that people who ignore people with less should be a punishable crime.

Melinda Shaw, spoke about how we have a democracy that is on paper but not in practice, that the solutions were in the room that we were siting in. Democracy is people governing themselves.

Karyn Vaughn, spoke about her white privilege and that although she is Type-A diabetic, she has access to the countries best health care. She shared a story about her sister who is a medical practitioner that works at Baragwaneth hospital, south of Johannesburg. She told us of a story of young female patient whom her sister (a medical practitioner) was attending to who suffered the same condition as Karyn, she shared with us of how her sister fought for a long period of time, trying to keep the young female patient alive but failed to. The reason for the story is that if the patient had access to adequate health care, she would have survived. She also challenged white South Africans to stand against racism and to stand up for the oppressed and marginalised.


The overall sentiment was that political power has not given us freedom, the question of how did democracy save us as they are lost.

Poet Puno Selesho recited a powerful poem about the strength of women at the end of 1st part of dialogue.

The second panel included Thando Hopa: lawyer and model, Unathi Msengana, TV personality and singer and two phenomenal millennials.

Unathi Msengana, gave a heart wrenching testimony on how her generation, Generation X have failed our veterans and our millennial. That we , the generation X, were supposed to be the bridge and we have not done our work.
Thando Hopa said: We’re in pain because we don’t have structural empathy in society”
Democracy stole out mothers, and we lost ourselves in the process. What did we get from democracy

The event then closed with Advocate Thuli Madonsela saying that the way forward would be to start a trust done under Mme Palesa’s name. Money was raised and a paying job was made available to her as a historian narrating her story and that of prisoners that were incarcerated during her time.

We were then treated to a sumptuous meal where we were strategically placed with women from all generations and work out a future strategy and a way forward.

I left the event feeling fulfilled and content not just by the days revelations but also that I was able to share it with my your g 21 year old cousin and nephew. Its not just about creating abetter life for myself. But we need to pave the way for he younger generation, female and male.

The following evening I was in conversation with Pumla Dineo Gqola as she launched her new book Reflecting Rogue: Inside the mind of a feminist.

A few months back Ashraf Garda interviewed me on his radio show, one of the questions he asked was who would I like to be in conversation with,My answer was feminist and author Professor Pumla Gqola. So when I received a request from Pumla requesting me to assist, I automatically agreed without a doubt. I met with her, received a copy of the book and began reading the masterpiece, a process I thorough enjoyed.

Reflecting Rosgue is a brilliant collection of experimental autobiographical essays on power.

The book launch took place at Lovebooks in Melville. As we anticipated there was an overflow of guests, activists, critical book lovers and supporters. The conversation was engaging and Pumla’s powerful and energetic character shone through the room.

We spoke about the truths behind being a feminist in South Africa from her relationships, that included her relationship with her body from a young age to womanhood, the relationship with her parents, children and partners. I asked how she handled love relationships as being a feminist is difficult as many men cannot handle us. She shared a funny story with us about how Lebo Mashile, one of my other favourites, referred to men who try and bring down feminists as ‘Feminators”. From the word, terminator, these men support feminism on paper, they pretend to be there and understanding but actually their game plan to to bring down your power and strength. I laughed so hard when I heard that, as I have recently come out of a relationship with a man, who claimed to support my drive, feminism and mission, only to find out that he was married and wanted to take me on as the new concubine as his first wife was mismatched and had not left his wife officially, I was therefore going to be his new link in his polygamous world. I automatically left feeling lost and angry but after hearing the testimony of the Feminator, I now know I’m not alone or mad.


During the conversation I wanted to ask so many question but only managed to tackle a few, we covered feminism versus lobelia; her love for other African feminists such as Alice Walker, Wambui Otieno; her career and life through three universities. Her parents were academics at Forte Hare university, she she grew up understanding and believing black power. Black power has been one of my many challenges growing up, as I was brought up in a white home during apartheid, the terminology of black power was always undermined. I only came to the undressing and impotence of it at a very late age, in fact in my late thirties. What I loved about this chapter of her book is that there were other black people who had grown up in normal homes, felt the same way.

We spoke about her time at UCT, University of the Free state and now Wits university. Pumla spoke honestly about the ongoing sexism, patriarchy and disgusting attitude of women that lives in our universities. She even spoke about how certain male professors have stapled condoms to students papers, how they have sent pictures of their penis to young students. I opened the conversation to the audience.

A hearty congratulations to Pumla as she goes back to Forte Hare to take up the position of the Dean.

What an amazing and powerful way to end my week and commemorate Women’s day. I am truly blessed to have been in the presence of women who are working at being the change in the world, women who are not scared to speak the truth and take up positions on the frontline in the name of activism and humanity.