Feminists Are Here And You Need To Listen To Them. By Okore Scheaffer @scheafferoo

I was honoured to be part of a group of African women who gathered in Maputo, Mozambique by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung to forge a pathway on modern day feminism. Today more women are publicly claiming feminism than before, and it was therefore necessary to go back to be able to understand why this ideology is here to stay. I realise that even the definition of feminism has been totally bungled leaving it with numerous negative undertones.

Feminism is the rejection of and struggle against Patriarchy (as a system and set of structures and ideologies that privilege men and allot them various forms of power in all societies) and is also the celebration of freedom for women everywhere.

As Stevi Jackson and Jackie Jones (1998) put it: “Feminist theory seeks to analyse the conditions which shape women’s lives and to explore cultural understandings of what it means to be a woman”. It was initially guided by the political aims of the Women’s Movement – the need to understand women’s subordination and our exclusion from, and marginalisation within, a variety of social arenas.

Many are misled by the notion that feminism means sidelining men or anti-men instead of the real feminist tenets and values like Equity, Choice, Opportunity, Protection by laws, Gender Justice, Inclusion, Non-Discrimination, Human Rights etc. it’s got nothing to do with the laughable argument that feminists are angry women who’ve failed in their personal lives honestly we cant be this inane.

Feminism to me is the fight to attain full humanization of the female person. And I mean literal humanization where you make a woman humane and grant her the right to belong to herself and the right to be enough. Women in societies past and present rarely belong to themselves. Feminists refuse to accept that inequalities between women and men are natural and inevitable and insist that they should be questioned.

Sierra Leonean scholar Filomena Steady defines African Feminism as humanistic feminism, which to me speaks on continuity of humanity but not recognition of humanistic nature of women. This traditional cultural view places women in the centre as custodians of societal order while upholding men as the guardians of women’s custodial rights. This is the genesis of the problematic issues that modern feminism has to deal with.

The use of African culture plus convenient religious texts to supress and condone inequalities of a system that devalues another gender requires re-thinking. African feminism embraces beauty, femininity and a complex power matrix that isn’t antithetical because traditional African feminism embraces and protects more masculinity than femininity and ferociously places the male gender at the peek of everything and ranks the female second.

The African context upholds femininity but not feminism and we must understand the difference. It’s the selective nature in which families raise a girl completely different from a boy that irritates. It’s the use of roles to define what gender should and shouldn’t be that worries me on how a man who cooks and cleans is labelled weak and a female who provides is seen as trying to be a man.

Attributes like intelligence; wisdom, leadership, discernment, defiance and many more that depict exceptionalism are never meant to be possessed by women WHY? Feminism annoys many because it demands for questioning of everything. It points a finger to each of us and highlights our role or lack of it making it uncomfortable. Feminism will demand that we question things that seem so harmless like why pink is viewed, as a feminine color while blue is masculine.

It’ll push us to interrogate why boys play with mind engaging toys whilst girls play with simplistic domesticated toys, why boys are raised to mask and disengage their emotions and girls are taught otherwise, why a man with “softer” phenotypically features are mocked, why women have to embrace and perform masculinity to be taken seriously in certain leadership positions.

Feminism is the discomfort you feel but refuse to talk about objectively because it holds us all culpable actors in enabling an unjust structure. Women are steadily unlearning patriarchy and its deeply uplifting I’d like more men to do the same. Unlearning patriarchy is having the ability to indulge yourself in a mental renaissance and being willing to be cognizant to the ways in which inequalities driven by patriarchy have benefitted men and marginalized women in equal measure.

To comprehend the existence of feminist theory requires that you check your biases, stereotypes and prejudices. Political and economical structures are dominated by the male gender this is modern day inequality supported by patriarchal structure. In Meitingen municipality in Augsburg there’s a wall in the mayor’s office with no women recognized purely because of patriarchy.

In Kenya most of the elected first female governors are a reflection of the farthing integrity of the male counterparts with equally dirty hands. Politics is a man’s game, you must be like them their game their rules. These rules are among the many that society has implored to sustain patriarchy.

Feminists want a society that respects the right of women to flourish without having to explain themselves, a society that doesn’t measure a woman’s worth using her civil status, a society that doesn’t collectively punish women for mistakes of one woman and allows women to fail granting them a chance to start over, a society that’s committed to the safety of women, a society that perceives leadership as a human trait and not a gender trait.

I challenge us during this time of the year to go back and talk candidly with women who raised us and ask them one question, if society was to see you as human-flaws et all-what would that mean, and would you be the same person you are today?

By Okore Scheaffer
Program Manager at Siasa Place

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Monthly report 2017

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Monthly Report September, October 2017
Monthly Report - Oct

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Campaign Conference on Shrinking Global Civic Space By Okore Scheaffer

CampaignCon is an annual global skill-sharing event where activists, technologists, organizations and social movements share ideas, co-create and explore modern campaigning theory and practice. At CampaignCon 2017, 125 participants came together from across the world to explore how to build a more responsive civil society.

The continent needs robust CSOs that can mobilise and campaign more effectively in the digital era, facing growing authoritarianism, shrinking civic space and other threats. Siasa Place was one of the partners who got to represent the very dicey environment that Kenya is engaging in as regards to civic participation.

There are states grappling with life long serving presidents like Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea (35 years), José Eduardo dos Santos of Angola (35 years), Paul Biya of Cameroon (32 years) among many others. Others are fighting for immediate regime change like Togo where thousands of Togolese are in the streets campaigning against the 50-year-rule of the Gnassingbe family, demanding the immediate resignation of President Faure Gnassingbe.

Then there are states like Kenya in the middle of a democratic transition and actualization of election credibility amidst many odds. Neighboring states like Rwanda that does not allow the questioning of the presidency neither does it condone any kind of contest of the presidential position. Uganda standing up against the law that seeks to change the age limit of the president, Burundi in the hands of a real time despot and South Sudan hanging on for dear life.

In these states and others unmentioned, the civic space is shrinking rapidly. Freedom of speech is heavily curtailed and respect for human rights remain extremely wanting. This is what many in civic space tried to find solutions to because what can’t be done is to allow the already existing silencing via state machinery and other external actors prevail.

Issues around supporting those in already existing civic space are vital because we must practice self-care as CSOs, activists and so on in order to be able to serve better. The networks we build ought to elevate the various works being done no mater how small. “It is obvious that many of us are going through a bad presidents moment” says Lerato, one of the participants from South Africa.

The reality we are facing is operating on hostile ground dealing with different kinds of censorship all the time. Any kind of dissent is criminalized and punished with unnecessary force as seen in various states. It emerged that the civic space itself wasn’t accommodating to everyone, it wasn’t being guided by the people’s agenda but by few individuals and that the struggles however similar the demographics in which they play out are different.

It requires that everyone in civic space right now be able to understand that the only way civic spaces became more inclusive and non-conforming to external agendas is by opening them up to new voices. The voices of these new activists, NGOs and CSOs need not be sidelined. Identifying the various tools being used to silence the marginalized is also a key element of understanding the spaces we operate in.

Poverty is one of the most effective tools being used by autocratic regimes to silence the masses. Anyone who feeds you controls you and so is the one who denies you the opportunity to feed yourself. Ignorance is yet another tool being used heavily to completely delude the masses from knowing what they can and cannot ask for. The lack of knowledge or how to use the knowledge is a gap intentionally created to mask bad leadership.

Persons in civic spaces have upon them the duty to educate, contextualize the various struggles and be able to connect these same struggle so as to create broader ownership amongst people. CSOs should move from boardrooms and be on the ground literally as that is where their impact and purpose is. Bassey a community mobilizer from Gambia said, “CSOs cannot claim to represent the community if they aren’t in communities.”

The mediums of engagement are also something we must all be thinking around when it comes to engaging in civic space. “The role played by technology is too important as we’ve witnessed in Tunisia where social media is leading in effective transfer of knowledge” says Mouna Ben from Civicus. Australian online satirical videos around political figures have been a great way of stirring consciousness amongst the people.

In Uganda as narrated by Scovia-a social justice champion- they built alliances with their progressive parliamentarians to stop the signing of the age limit bill. They got all their parliamentarians contacts, which they used to send them messages every two hours reminding them not to sign bill. This influx of messages from thousands of constituents got the parliamentarians worried that if they let the bill pass their constituents were watching meanwhile in the streets they wore red to symbolize solidarity.

“We are at a place where fighting for social justice is extremely challenging yet what got us here isn’t enough to take us to the next level” Michael Silberman moblab. The challenges we are facing now need new ways of response and those new ways are our challenge as social justice fighters. We must create links and a connectedness that is beyond borders, if our goal is singular.



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