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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Femme Special: The essence of being an African Feminist

Welcome to Femme Special. Femme Special is a space where we as women "let our hair down" and share our real stories of issues that we feel passionate about, whenever however.  This month's femme special is dedicated to Feminism.

The word feminist has never meant so much to me than on this day this year at this moment. The reason why is simple. I am living my dreams as an African woman. This truly would not have happened if it wasn't for how I embraced the essence of feminism. The topic I  want to write about is actually one that I find very dear to my heart. When I decided to make the move to work in West Africa it was something I knew I always wanted to do. I would always say prayers to God about my specific ask. In the past I had worked for international non for profits that did women's rights work, but I always felt like something was missing, the women weren't African women and didn't full understand the issues of African women. Whenever i tell people what I do with my 9-5 which is currently an international women's organization founded by African women feminists working with African women and girls in Africa, I get some pretty awesome remarks. I either get a "wow that's amazing" the good remarks or a "hmm so you must a feminist or something?". My answer is always simple "yes I am a feminist" with a smile. To me feminism was never shoved down my throat, or spoon fed to me. I embraced feminism from the day I was born. My definition of feminism is simple; women doing what they want, when they want in order to better themselves and men who believe in this concept ascribe to feminism. Yes I know I left out the usual stereotypes of  lesbians, man hating, single and lonely woman, bra burner... I will stop there.

Some of the mentioned images existed when yes women had to fight for our rights and still are, yes women had to burn their bras in certain parts of the world to not get raped walking down the street at night, or to demand equal labor opportunities at work all for us as young women to enjoy the freedom and liberty that exists today. If it wasn't for these women myself and other women would not have the opportunities we  have now. If that makes you a radical person then everyone might as well be radical because at some point in all of our lives we have had to advocate for what we needed.

Now back to explaining why Feminism is amazing. Not only is my 9-5 exactly what I love doing but my 5-whenever (WomenChangeAfrica) is aligned with what I truly believe is God's purpose for my life. There are many of my female companions that I have met who truly have spat on the word feminism, and males who have called feminists women who hate men or lesbians. This is simply not true. Now don't get me wrong I am not saying lesbians can't be feminist and vise versa. All I am saying is the word feminist is multifaceted in itself as are identities that people possess and each respectfully should be appreciated as such, especially for us as African women.

The women who I consider true feminists who have graced my life are none of those stereotypes. They have many facets of who they are and in my opinion feminist is one of them.  In the African feminist movement I find myself in now with amazing women who fought and are still fighting to demand our equality. Women who grace this movement inspire me! Women who started movements to create change for women to gain peace in their countries in Africa, woman who have started up to 3 successful organizations to date and those women who continue to empower young women as myself to push our thinking in making change for African women. These women are women who have paved the way for young feminists as myself.  I will never forget the day I heard one of the women I admired walked into a room filled with women I was in at a training and she began the conversation with " I am an African feminist"; the chills that ran up my spine are indescribable. These moments inspire me. In my family I have been graced with amazingly strong women;  women such as my grandmother who was part of starting up the Sierra Leone women's movement which advocated for social and economic opportunities for women, and women like my mother who studied abroad came back and gave back to her community and always empowered her girl child to get an education and live her dreams.  None of these women are man haters, or man hater turned lesbians, or un religious women who turned that way because they hated men.  They are women who wanted what they wanted for themselves to become better in society. Whether it is a taxi you are driving, owning your own pr company, working as a school nurse, if you are in the position you are in because you chose to you are a feminist!

So as we celebrate International Women's day, lets rethink this concept of feminism. We must acknowledge those who fought for us as women to get the spaces of freedom we have now. We must embrace our entire feminine identity and fully embrace our fullest potential. I hope this post begins to help you in doing so or at-least considering it.

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