Tag Archives: Malawi

Respect, to our warriors in Malawi!

11 Feb

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My three passions in life are Women, Africa, and the arts. A few weeks back we stood in solidarity with the warriors in Malawi, who decided to take a stand against gender-based violence. I reached out to the organizers to see how as a Pan African feminists we could show solidarity and try and help create awareness for the amazing work that they are doing.
I was led to a powerful young force, named Ulemu Hannah Kanyongolo. Ulemu, meaning ‘Respect’ is a 22-year-old feminist, she is the founder and president of the Young Feminists Network, a network which serves as a platform for young feminists to engage in dialogue and activism for social justice. The Network currently has 66 members with chapters in 3 cities; Blantyre, Lilongwe, and Zomba. With such a powerful name, she can only receive the respect she deserves as she works on being the change that is needed in the world.

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Ulemu Hannah Kanyongolo

Through our work as activists, we are all faced with many challenges, regarding our safety, which is governed by policies and laws, that have been set out according to patriarchal principles. In Malawi, the situation is no different, as feminists, particularly the young feminists, one of the major challenges they face is the misconceptions about feminism. As Ulemu stated, ‘a lot of people seem to misunderstand what feminism is and what it seeks to achieve, some because they lack access to information and others because they don’t agree with feminism and deliberately misrepresent it at any given chance. Such misconceptions include the fact that feminism is a movement that seeks to get rid of men or to make women more dominant than men. This ignores the basic premise of feminism which recognizes the oppression women have faced since time immemorial and seeks to deconstruct the patriarchy which upholds this marginalization of women’.

She went on to say that, ‘people believe feminism is unAfrikan. However, this is also a misconception. Although the theories and conceptualizations of feminism may have originated in the West, acts of resistance to the patriarchy have existed in Afrika for centuries. Therefore, it isn’t anything new. ‘

Within the activism space, whether you are based in Africa or the USA, funding is always an issue, and of course in Malawi, it is no different. A lot of funding opportunities apply to registered organizations only, which makes it hard for informal feminist movements to get funding for their operations.

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The Malawi women in March 2020.

On 1st February 2020, the Young Feminists Network in collaboration with PEPETA (an online community of young female SRHR activists from DRC, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) and over 20 other organizations and individuals organized the “Take It To The Streets” march against VAWG (violence against women) in Malawi. When we go up against the patriarchy, we are always met with resistance, in their case they were denied police protection from the relevant authorities and this was a major obstacle because this effectively meant the march couldn’t take place. Like, true warriors, they did not let this minor obstacle stop them from pushing ahead, they could not hold an official march so they were able to mobilize large numbers and in Blantyre they held a rally, in Lilongwe and Mzuzu they managed to march regardless.
Despite all the deliberate hiccups, in the end, they still managed to achieve their goal of raising awareness on the issues and calling for action from various stakeholders.

The PanAfrican warriors from Zambia, Kenya, and SA, showed solidarity with them through social media and various press. This also brought attention to a sexual assault case, in Blantyre. They were able to set up a time and visited a warrior, Vanessa Chilanga. Vanessa is a woman who was sexually assaulted by a gang of men in Blantyre. She was visited and they are currently creating platforms and strategies to help and support her and other survivors.

What can we do?
We need solidarity with our warriors from across the world, particularly on our continent. To assist the Young Feminists Network or the feminist movement in Malawi in general, please continue to follow their work and stand in solidarity with them and help amplify their voices by sharing what is happening.
As we know International women’s day is approaching so strategic collaboration would also be great and essential. Do you have any platforms, events or stages that we could collaborate on?
Let us get the conversation started. We can start small, with our feminists in the SADC region, we are all in the same time zones, so what is stopping us?

How to get in contact with The Young Feminist Network in Malawi-
Instagram @yfn265
Twitter @yfn265

Ulemu Hannah Kanyongolo- @ulemuhk

Rosie Motene @rosiemotene

In solidarity,​ we stand!!!!