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

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