Every morning I wake up, pick up my phone, or turn on my computer, to catch up on the news. In these new normal times of COVID-19, I must say that the exercise has turned into an anxiety fraught one. On every single platform, including family WhatsApp groups, I discover recent news about growing numbers, increasing violence against women and girls, and little to no clarity on a cure, or when this pandemic will come to an end. I find hope in the feminist response, which has, as usual, been magical; in the words of Cameroonian feminist Françoise Kpeglo Moudouthe at EYALA, we have got this!
I wonder though, is this the only thing happening? I mean surely the world has not stopped turning and other things are happening amidst our various lockdowns and other emergency measures to halt the disease? This has inspired me to go hunting for this other, feminist, non-COVID related news (so-to-speak), and I found it!
This piece is for all the African feminists out there who are tired of reading, writing, speaking and breathing COVID-19. It is a (short and sweet) foray into some of the interesting content we may have missed out on because we have been too busy being heartbroken and compelled to respond to the exacerbation of all the patriarchal injustices we have been fighting. They are in no order but highlight some of the key tenets of African feminism in my opinion: sisterhood, disruption, and reflection. My hope is that this transmits some calm to all those dealing with COVID anxiety and hysteria on the daily and just needing to breathe.
- Sisterhood: Akosua Hanson, feminist extraordinaire from Ghana, weaves together thoughtful and inspiring reflections from the wide range of feminist participants at the AWDF’s Flourish retreat. We get to hear from writers, healers, designers, artists, and activists; all inspiring us to think about ourselves, our minds, and our bodies. What really struck me and resonated with me is the love and spirituality that frames African feminism, reminding us that well-being, love, and sisterhood are central to our practice. It was also a reminder that we do not need to fit in one box, African feminists are rich and diverse and can be and do many different things.
- Disruption: Africa is a country launched a series on African feminisms in dialogue, introduced here by Rama Salla Dieng, a Senegalese feminist working at the intersection of African Economic Development and Gender. This piece is especially exciting given the recent debates and back and forth relating to the theory that underpins the work of young feminists, especially those we encounter online. We have all seen those Twitter posts that build on personal experience, what have we all thought about them? What has stayed with me after reading this introduction is the reminder that disruption is central to African feminism, and that disruption is necessary even within our feminist spaces. This series will hopefully push us to open our minds and address the power dynamics that are present in our feminist African spaces. Are we often quick to judge fellow feminists online because they do not follow our theorizing of feminism, stan our feminist academic supersheroes, or because they appear to lack balance between their lived experiences, theory and/or the experiences of those who came before? What about the balance between online and offline organizing? I am not sure, but I do look forward to reading more of the upcoming articles, so far we have inspiring content on literary activism and digital platforms.
- Reflection: Talking about things to look forward to, and lived, embodied experiences, youth-led Through the Eyes of African Women’s Afro-feminist book club has chosen Mina Salami’s Sensuous Knowledge as their May reading; Mona Eltahawy reads to us from both Headscarves and Hymens (every Tuesday) and The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls (every Thursday), and AWID is producing a feminist realities magazine. What all these bodies of work remind me is that there are myriad spaces where African feminists continue to think, talk, and share. These include webinars and online events – for example, the Kenyan Initiative for Equality and Non-Discrimination is hosting an event to address online Gender-based violence, especially the experiences of the LGBTQ community. These are spaces of freedom that connect us across geographies so we can, together, create, reflect, and plot feminist futures.
This exercise has filled me with some tranquillity, and enabled me to remain connected to others, as we continue to challenge patriarchy in all its forms, global pandemic or not. I will stop here, as an invitation to whoever reads this to be deliberate about searching for feminist non-COVID related news; as a useful exercise to stem some of that anxiety and most importantly remain focused on plotting feminist futures. Aluta continua; a vitória é certa.
Nadia Ahidjo-Iya is a feminist, currently living in Senegal. Find her on Twitter @Asmaaouu