By Aluwani Ramarumo
Africa matters Initiative presented a women in leadership workshop to Code4CT, an organisation which empowers young women and girls through coding. The workshop concentrated on African feminism and uplifting other women. It was attend by young women in various spheres of life. From high school scholars, students and working women, who all came to engage on this important matter of decolonizing feminism and empowering each other. The workshop ran for a full day and was divided into two sessions.
The first session looked at defining African feminism and highlighted the fact that feminism is not new to Africa – it has been practiced for years by African women. Like any other subject it has just been given an English name and now it is not considered “African”. This session went on to speak about African feminists in history and those who represent African woman today. Attendees were asked to name African feminists they know and the likes of Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela were named among many others. This highlighted that young women are aware of the woman who speak for them and those women are rightfully African.
The second part of the workshop was about uplifting women in different spaces: work places, schools and communities. This session tackled how women are treated differently in the workspace and the intersectional challenges faced by women of colour. The session went on to discuss the double standards faced by women with one of the attendees reflecting on how her attempts at leading in the workplace were often characterised as bossiness or her being overbearing. Attendees also described how women police each other and how damaging that can be to the overall fight for gender equality. With that, the conversation led to women giving advice on how to empower each other in the work place, one being to encourage each other and be confident in all that you do.
The schools and community session spoke about how schools have a role to play in dismantling patriarchy. Schools often perpetuate patriarchy by policing women and silencing their voices while the male voice is allowed to thrive and dominate. Attendees were asked whether their schools are doing enough to dismantle patriarchy and it was found that most schools are not while some are trying. Communities also perpetuate patriarchy by expecting women to play certain roles – prioritising the achievements of men while women are expected only to aspire to marriage and mothering.
While these sessions demonstrated that there is still much work to be done on both micro and macro levels, it also presented the opportunity for those in the room to think through and discuss possible solutions. This allowed us to practice one of our core values: that the most important thing about critical thinking is that one should critique in order to do better; to offer solutions.
The highlight of the workshop was learning how impactful the workshop was to all the attendees and presenters. It was a learning and unlearning space for all who were in the room. Everyone had an opportunity to learn and understand that their feminism matters, although it may be different to that of someone next to you. Women ought to keep empowering each other and continue to fight the patriarchal system wherever they hold spheres of influence. As the day drew to a close, the affirmation the women experienced in the room was aptly summarised as: “Feminists feminist differently – and that’s okay!”