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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Feminism & Sisterhood By Maryam Darwich, Sierra Leone

What Does Feminism and Sisterhood mean to you?

Feminism to me is an ideology of living- one of inspiration, of opportunity, access, respect and an intricate pillar to my religion as a Muslim woman. Sisterhood is an example of the manifestation of that in everyday interaction. It is the binding relationship between women of all nationalities, colour, ages, backgrounds which overcomes all barriers of class, age, education, etc. It is the links based on common experiences and common goals. It is both backward looking and forward looking; one that enshrines principles as well as supports progress.

In what ways can women work together to bring change in their various communities?

Women need to be the biggest advocates of each other in their community. They need to support each other through offering listening ears as well as actively support each other in the achievement of bigger causes. Women have to decide in their respective communities what is their preferred way of achieving change and what is their desired change. These can only be achieved through an appreciation of commonality in cause, an understanding of the value of diversity in progress and in humility and perseverance in action.

How has Feminism and Sisterhood Impacted your Life?

 Feminism is an intricate lens which I use to see and live my religion through. I believe that power hungry people have hijacked the religion for their own interests subjugating women in the process, undermining all the beautiful things that were put in place to protect and help us grow. Only sisterhood can help us regain our religion and spread an understanding of it which reflects its beauty rather than the ugliness of the minority.

                             Maryam Darwich. Lead Consultant and MD at Afriqia HR Solutions, Sierra Leone.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Feminism & Sisterhood, Jemila Abdulai

What Does Feminism and Sisterhood mean to you?

Feminism means paying attention to human rights issues, particularly those affecting girls and women. Sisterhood means compassion, support, encouragement, truth; friendship and relationships that emanate from the simple fact that women have shared experiences and sometimes need a mirror to see clearly. 

In what ways can women work together to bring change in their various communities?

First, by being compassionate towards one another and recognizing that we're all in this together. Secondly, by supporting one another. Too often a woman's efforts are thwarted by another just out of mere spite. Where necessary, tell another woman the truth, but tell it gently. Finally, believing in ourselves and celebrating each other - we need to own our unique voices and have the courage to not only speak up, but also to show up.

How has Feminism and Sisterhood Impacted your Life?

I am so thankful for the many sisters I have. There are many things that the men in life - quite simply - cannot understand. I have often turned to my sisters to let my hair down, to share my vulnerabilities, to feel empowered, to ask questions, seek answers, to own my femininity, to be myself. They inspire me daily. 

Jemila Abdulai,  Tunis, Tunisia
Writer, Development and Media Professional

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Event Alert: #WomenSocEntAfrica

As part of Women's History Month, we are pleased to be hosting the following Twitter Chat on March 26th with Afroelle Magazine. We look forward to having you! 

Feminism & Sisterhood by Tamara

What Does Feminism and Sisterhood mean to you?

Feminism means reaching a point where women are held to the same standards as men, no more, and certainly no less and as result can reap the same benefits for their hard work as men. Sisterhood means a sense of belonging with like-minded women.

In what ways can women work together to bring change in their various communities?
I believe women do work together do work together but one of the biggest ways we can do so more effectively is by celebrating our individual choices and not undermining each other. 

How has Feminism and Sisterhood Impacted your Life?

I was raised by a feminist who taught me to be strong and to believe in myself. Throughout my life I have been protected by the sisterhoods I've joined - they have served as my pillar of strength and have been my most dedicated fans on this journey called life.
Tamara Legal Officer


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Feminism & Sisterhood by Ajara Bomah, Sierra Leone

What Does Feminism and Sisterhood mean to you?

  Feminism means equality and support for Women’s rights. Feminism is a way for us as women to advocate for fairness in the workplace, society, politics, economic empowerment, and a way for us to define ourselves as women. Sisterhood is supporting other women regardless of race, color, class, educational background, someone to laugh with and a shoulder to cry on, someone to agree and disagree with, the mentor, the friend, the one to direct you when you’re going wrong, a Sister.

In what ways can women work together to bring change in their various communities?

As women we need to support each other even when we don’t like each other. We need to put aside our difference and work together There is strength in unity and men know how to bring discord amongst us so we don’t achieve the bigger goals. We also need to be role models and mentors to younger women within our community. Lead by example and they shall follow.

How has Feminism and Sisterhood Impacted your Life?

I am a member of two major women organizations a sorority and Masonry. I have met sisters of all shades, colors, class and from all around the world. We do not always get along, but we all work towards achieving the same goals, supporting other women to reach greater heights of attainment.  By having a network of sisters that I can look up to, I have been able to reach higher heights and I still push to reach excellence. When I  fall, someone is there to encourage me to get up and try again. When I want to quiet, they remind me of the bigger picture, by following these examples and seeing women of color like myself  achieve greatness in life, I know that I too am a role models for the younger generation of women

Ajara Bomah, Events & Project Management Consultant 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Feminism & Sisterhood By Marianne Bevan New Zealand

What Does Feminism and Sisterhood mean to you?

To me, feminism is about asking questions; it's about seeking to understand how different people, relationships, institutions, ways of thinking and doing, are privileged over others because of their links with masculinity, and what this means for society. Feminism and sisterhood is a way of working together to make space for voices and ways of thinking that have been marginalized and devalued because they're seen as 'feminine', to be heard and lead in creating more just, inclusive, peaceful and creative communities.

In what ways can women work together to bring change in their various communities?

I've seen many women (and men) who genuinely want gender equality, but who go about trying to get it by critiquing what they see as deficiencies in other women ("they're not assertive enough, they're not motivated enough..."). But to create change, we always need to look deeper and see these things as products of the sexism, racism, homophobia etc that exists in all of our communities, and work from there. We can work together by recognizing difference, being empathetic, by arguing and challenging each other respectfully, by forgiving each other, by mentoring each other, and by recognizing that we're all imperfect but can be courageous in our own ways. 

How has Feminism and Sisterhood Impacted your Life?

 I was always shy and unsure of my opinions, often scared to speak up for fear of being wrong. Overtime, feminism has allowed me to see this less as a personal deficiency and more (or at least in part) as a symptom of the way I was socialized and brought up as a girl. This knowledge, along with the support and encouragement of female mentors and friends, has helped me to trust in my thoughts and opinions, and find ways to speak up in my own voice. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Feminism and Sisterhood Matters: Does African Sisterhood Exist?

She stared at me, with her lips pouted into a soft smile,  pulled her glasses down her in front of face as if she was about to make a strong point, her red colored warm earrings and her afro puff on her head and she says  " What inspires you? What motivates you as an African Feminist? Whatever it is do just that!" I was so taken aback by the question, it was  supposed to be a happy moment, but I was sad, sad because I could not articulate an answer to her questions.  This was the first time I had been asked this working on the continent. What i had experienced a long time within this particular work space was women staring me down whenever I walked into a meeting not nicely, being asked how I got the position and what my qualifications were, or older women treating me as if I was too young to understand anything, and some even doing everything in their authority to stop me from speaking when in public spaces. The same women would later befriend me or talk to me after "studying" me. This wasn't just something I experienced many of my young woman friends experienced similar.  I was always confused by this, wasn't this supposed to be about us as women working together to make things happen for other women?  It wasn't until I met this woman that my hope reignited again and I realized that  there were women, real feminists still out there who believed in uplifting women, and fighting for the cause. At the end of the meeting she later thanked me for sharing my ideas, and expressed to everyone in a later meeting about how wonderful my ideas were.

As feminists and women activists sometimes we think what we are fighting for women is out there somewhere in some village, but at times what we are fighting against is right next to us. We are fighting jealousy, bad mindedness, intimidation, lack of sisterhood all which gets in the way of doing the real work.  We fail to realize that the feminism, the real sense of feminism is the relationships that we encounter everyday and what we bring to them. If we can't embrace those everyday female relationships in a positive manner, what makes us think that what we are trying to do out int he world is making any impact? The change begins with that woman you sat next to on the poda poda, tro-tro, the woman  you work with and your little sisters etc. In the obvious situations, feminism and activism become more "needed" when we meet that young girl whose close friend committed suicide to avoid marriage at an early age,  or the young girl who gets sexually harassed by her teacher everyday, or the widow who after losing her husband losses all his property to his brothers family. I would argue that feminism is needed where women are fighting against each other, and tearing each other down.

I have always seen a common thread between feminism and sisterhood. Even when one looks historically, at women's movements most mass protests and policy changes happened because women worked together and believed in the feminist ideologies.  Therefore it is my  belief that women should do more to work together to tackle the various issues we are fighting for or bringing to life. Some of the toughest forms of discrimination I have experienced in my life have come from other women; surprising but true. As sisters we should be aware of what some of these values of feminism and sisterhood are and what we are advocating for. It is not about competition, or stepping on top of other women's shoulders to advance ourselves.

Since that encounter with this woman, I looked towards more women who would continue mentoring me, and extended that mentorship and sisterhood out to my peers,  and young girls.  lf I were to see her again, I would say what motivates me as an African feminist are women like her who cultivate sisterhood, and encourage women to speak up, and join forces to work towards the greater good for all women. I will forever cherish her and the moment and what it taught me along with the many other women who I know who exemplify what it means to be true feminists and sisters. So to the question does African Sisterhood exist I would say yes but we need more of it, and we need to develop more authentic synergies and structures to work together to advance our goals.

 For this month we will showcase the voices and perspectives of different women on their take on feminism and sisterhood. We hope you enjoy our Feminism and Sisterhood Series! 

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