Four months ago, amidst lockdown and trying to avert suicide attempts situations in my volunteerism work, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This diagnosis happened by chance; I was at the time waiting for a young queer Motswana getting support at Princes Marina Hospital’s Psychiatry Department after having tried to take their own life. The previous day I had received the most chilling call from an unknown number: that one of the young queers I had taken in my home, had made the attempt two nights before. I was shaken to the core. This was right next door to me, in my own house; where I thought we were all safe.
I was even more shaken at the thought of how I could not sleep that night. The usual two-four-hour slumber I fight for every night never occurred. I was wide awake, unusually unproductive and bothered. Without knowing, I woke everyone up at the light of day that following morning and started spring cleaning. I had a bad bout of situation-ships and thought the house needed cleansing. Little did I know, something else was the cause of my lack of sleep.
I spent most of July in and out of consultation rooms, with a dispensary next to my bed and living off pain meds. My body felt battered but my mind steadfastly running. Another young queer person in the north of the country was sexually violated for over a month whilst we managed to get others alternative shelter, counselling and much-needed income.
My body ached and pained as my peers and those who came after us cry carrying the same struggles as those who did before us. Cyclical triggers of past harms and consistently jumping hoops to find funding for supporting our livelihoods during a pandemic. This is the life I have come to know and had no choice in. One that can be deeply lonely, confusing, and taxing in all ways possible. Giving in to the demands of the body at times of rest, anguish, or another’s pain. There is no separation of the personal and professional.
I am conscious of my ancestors and chosen family woven into my existence as a resistance.
A chosen family has always been my refuge. Whether in moments of crisis or intellectual power. Those who are able to not just articulate, but understand what I think and how I feel even when I cannot frame it well. I need not explain myself or feel misunderstood. This is the beauty of belonging and becoming. An intentional, caring and chosen collective of minds that are steadfast and feminist. The radical kindness that pours in moments of dissonance against normative capitalism and solutions. I had the privilege of creating a space for these minds to showcase what feminist excellence and creativity looks like in a world filled by violence and uncertainty. FeministA brought together a chosen family of generosity. Young feminists who contributed essays that unpack different facets of policy, informal economy, care work, and COVID-19.
FeministA is a generous contribution to the universe – understanding that our audience is not the intellectual, enabler or policymaker. That it is not for the white gaze of credibility, rapport and acceptance. It provides a space for others out there who might doubt their own power, agency, or sense of belonging. FeministA embarks on an alternative pathway towards inclusion and feminist thinking in a world dominated by pandemic precautions and supremacist systems of isolation.
It starts a conversation on moving away from being isolated or excluded in law, public participation, expression and our own surroundings. This includes our work, experiences and autonomy that have been controlled by those we depend on, those who govern us, employ us, fund us, or even love us. Where gaslighting often turns into ‘imposter’s syndrome’; hate speech into self-stigma; and intergenerational trauma into toxicity.
FeministA is a first for Botswana and hosted by Success Capital; a grassroots unapologetically queer, unequivocally African and feminist youth organisation. It is a collation of essays that are intentionally political and equitable. Each essay unpacks our collectivism, centered in Ubuntu and anchored on gendered aspirations. It is an agenda reflective of intellectual prowess, African power, and feminist sanctity that can be healing, angering, intriguing and curious. It is life as it can be amidst a crisis: glimmers of hope that come in the laughter of connecting with each other again, remembering the good times in spite of the exploitation, racism and violence that surrounds us.
The moments of rest are not enough for me. I am restored by the words of conversation and people I admire. The young that defy the intersecting struggles of existence.
Those that breathe life into the words and legacies of those that came before us when the world was much worse off before they graced it. These young dynamic leaders have created a space for ideation. For thinking and imagining beyond ourselves, log frames and bottom-line performance metrics. They have opened a space to unravel and relearn. A new community that knows to trust and forgive. That binds no condition to kindness or sharing knowledge.
As an activist and convenor, I am only lucky for the privilege to get this power out there. As a vessel in struggle, I acknowledge my role and where it possibly ends. That it only lies in the process, the transformation and the collectivism. That you, as a reader, take up the prowess of shaping conversations and creating change. That I would never really grasp the outcome or result of the change we made in bringing this to digital form.
FeministA is a call to action beyond just downloading and reading through. It is a body of work that canvases the structures of society, care and Africanness. I hope that this edition, a first of many, can spark something in you. Something that might have already been there, or that just only came to you while reading. That it can flare up the minds of others and stimulate dialogue. That it can fill conversations at dinner tables, in pillow talk, church group sessions or in public transport.
The conversations where change needs to occur to dismantle harmful norms, toxic masculinity, misgendering, unsolicited advice, erasure, mansplaining, ambiguity, ableist programming, and other nuances of injustice that most policies, laws, and theories never reach. Thank you for taking in our generosity and the call to action for more ‘love work’. The kind of work that extends equitable solidarity and intentional holding of space. The kind of work that sets a horizon of humanity in our existence: in defiance and in love.
Dumi (they, them, their) is proudly Pan African and unequivocally non-binary queer feminist working on eliminating the barriers between grassroots experiences and global policymaking. Linking human rights and sustainable development in decolonising knowledge production whilst safeguarding and strengthening youth agency (voice, visibility) in HIV, SRHR, UHC, and LGBTIQ+.