By: Edna Ninsiima
The Transformative Feminist Leadership breakaway session at the East African Community headquarters today was nothing less of passion and heated arguments. First, may we just recognize that the room had more Uganda youth that those from other countries. Does that mean that those youth have embraced feminism? For purpose of clarity on what feminism is, allow me quote black feminist scholar Bell Hooks: Feminism is the fight against sexism and sexist exploitation and oppression.” So why does feminism matter?
Now, great African Revolutionary, Thomas Sankara when he lived made it clear that the revolution and any kind of full development cannot happen without the liberation of women. The youths today had their own contributions to why feminism is important. “To end the suffering of women.” “Because there’s an imbalance.” Someone referenced Justin Trudeau, 23rd Prime Minister of Canada’s reason for being feminist. That he has a son and daughter who he wants to have equal opportunities and treatment in the world. So does one have to have children first to recognize the importance of feminism? We’ll get back to that in a minute.
One thing is for sure; there is no embracing of feminism that happens without consciousness, opening our eyes and minds to the gender inequality happening around us. Whether through direct or indirect experiences. So when the conversation moderator invited the youth to share their experiences of inequality and later the way forward or what we termed as “the next step.” These are some of the stories and next steps of those that shared:
Lugome Abdilah from Tanzania once sat on a hiring panel for truck drivers at an Indian-owned company where the bosses had resolved to hire two men who could not drive trucks saying; “They’ll learn on the job.” Two women had been earlier rejected for the same reason that they couldn’t drive trucks. Abdilah contested the decision asking why the women were rejected. Finally, they brought them back in and they 2 weeks in, they were doing well.
Angelina Lual from South Sudan notices that in her country, women divorcees are often shamed even by their own families. Yet men who leave their wives and even marry many other women all at once are celebrated. Angelina also noted that women are castigated when a couple cannot conceive while the men with whom they try are unbothered by society.
Azza Osam Abdelmajid from South Sudan told a scenario of her university back at home which just appointed a woman for the Dean of Studies position. Azza often hears both male and woman students dismissing her saying that a woman cannot achieve anything for the University because “women are not meant to lead.” On whether she’s doing a good job so far, Azza agrees.
After speaking about her workplace and how women who wear trousers are deemed immoral, Oyugi Vivian Achieng from Kenya suggests that institutions must let women wear what they feel comfortable in and still respect their contributions.
More next steps including raising children without imposing gender roles on them, educating and countering sexist views, inclusiveness in the feminist movement of all women regardless of physical ability or sexual orientation, teaching young boys their responsibility in achieving equality and unlearning patriarchal views were discussed.
So when does one recognize the need for feminism? Not when they have children or when something affects their mothers and sisters. Not when they are a woman or when they become Prime Minister. But as long as they see the inequality between genders in the world. Starting from their home units, school communities and workplaces. Remember, there cannot be a revolution without the liberation of women.