The feminist agenda has really not changed over the years. I also tend to believe patriarchy found its way into blinding us with their campaigns of gender equality and it makes our liberation more harder to achieve. We fight against systems both men and women uphold, sustain and continue without shame to crucify one category so the other can get lesser.
Bell Hooks in her book feminism is for everybody wrote, “As we seek to rekindle the flames of mass based feminist movement reproductive rights will remain a central feminist agenda. If women do not have the right to choose what happens to our bodies, we risk relinquishing rights in all other areas of our lives ”
We are in the middle of a crisis. My heart weeps as I type this; teen pregnancies have raged war against the future of the African continent. According to an article published in the https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/highest-teen-pregnancy-rates-worldwide.html, on 100 teenage women, 203 births happen. During my work with women refugees in Mahama Camp, I learned about the high rate of teen pregnancies in the camp, about 80% of young women in the rage of 16 to 25 have become young-mothers. Where do we stand as a continent? Why are young girls dropping from schools to be mothers? Where do we stand, if the systems in place keep women uneducated, raising kids while they are also kids? Where do we stand as a continent truly? What’s our future if these young women are being left behind alone to figure out life on their own?
Last year, I met Bella, (allow me to use this name). Bella is an 18 year old, vibrant woman. I saw myself in her intensely. She is a mother of twins, two beautiful girls. Bella got pregnant by her boyfriend who is now studying in China. The boy is living an amazing life, working towards a great future. Bella, on the other hand, left her last year of high school to raise her daughters. Bella was going through postpartum depression when I met her. She didn’t want to see her kids. She was devastated, scared and so anxious on how she was going to raise these two human beings. She felt unready, not equipped enough but mostly not ready to give up on herself by giving a life to two other beautiful creatures. She wished that she had aborted, she shared how her friend had a safe and private abortion because her family had money and she could afford it. I wept and I felt a pain I would never find words to describe because I am not free as long as another woman is unfree even when her shackles are different from mine.
We have to protect women at all costs and as I am writing this, trust me I have no solution. All I know is that we have no control over our bodies. We live in a world that see us as sexual tools for men’s sexual needs but never hold men accountable when it comes to outcomes of unprotected sex. I am talking about the number of women who are in prison because of abortion while the owners of sperms, go on with their lives. In all the 54 countries of Africa only 5 countries have given back to women their full reproductive rights, 49 countries haven’t yet. In these countries, women are imprisoned for making a decision about their bodies. In these countries, creating institutions that promote sex education is still work they left for NGOs and I am here to ask again what kind of future do we have if kids are giving birth to kids?
Motherhood is a sacred thing to me. Over the past few weeks on twitter, I saw conversations around it. One common point kept rising : capitalist patriarchy does not make it easier for women to be mothers. In fact, if we listen to lived experiences of most women but mostly looks closely into our mothers lives, we realize they sacrificed their own lives for us. Raising a kid is already an assigned full time job to the mother while the father just does the bare minimum and gets praised by patriarchy. Systems in place do not really favor the African woman to be a mother and not lose herself. Even the most settled African woman, will tell you that she lost a part of herself when she became a mother, and this goes way deeper to patriarchy, exhausting our existence through performing free emotional labor but more on the unstoppable oppression we face just because we are women and patriarchy thinks we exist to serve men and deliver their kids. So, cursed is the woman who doesn’t want kids, she is repeatedly stoned for a decision about her own body. When are we going to have a say on our bodies? When are going to be able to make a choice that doesn’t carry internalized misogyny? When will patriarchy let us have the last word over our bodies?
I attended the CSW62 at the UN headquarters in New York. I sat in a room where I experienced how patriarchy is also using women to keep us enslaved. These women stood in a podium to school on us on how abortion is a form of mental colonization brought to Africa by donors. I was so angry, uncomfortable and mostly was reminded that the world hates women. Furthermore, the UN represents this messed up world. If abortion bothers them so much, why can’t they realize the fact that they are in a crisis of unwanted pregnancies? Do people truly think that women enjoy deciding on or even going through abortion? Imagine if they invested the same energy and zeal into campaigns of safe-sex education? Imagine if they make condoms, birth controls and contraceptives in general, affordable and available to anyone? Imagine if we stop with the culture of silence around sex and we start to truly talk about it? But patriarchy is busy making rules over our bodies and capitalizing about it. Lorde, I cannot stand this system anymore.
I am worried, I am scared, and my heart bleeds on behalf of the African woman of today and tomorrow. I represent not even 1% of women. My kinds are privileged, classed, a little bit emancipated. Other 99% are enslaved and oppressed so much that my own privileges can sometimes keep me blind from seeing it. I crave for superpowers to help me assist another African, teenage woman from not getting pregnant. I wish I could make abortion accessible to any woman and leave them the choice. At most, I deeply wish African teens had access to sex education, where sex is not demonized. I wish contraceptives were so affordable and accessible to anyone.
But this is where our fight comes in as feminists; we have a lot to do. The fight for full reproductive rights must of course remain the central feminist agenda. If we do not own our bodies, we do not own ourselves.