On 22nd July 2012 two members of the African Feminist Forum (AFF)- Theo Sowa and Jessica Horn – participated in the “Women, inspiration, leadership” panel, programmed at London’s leading arts space the Southbank Centre, as part of the Africa Utopia series. The panel featured Beninoise singer and activist Angelique Kidjo; South African poet and TV presenter Lebo Mashile, Nigerian blogger Minna Salami, and Theo Sowa, CEO of the African Women’s Development Fund. It was moderated by Jessica Horn, women’s right consultant and poet. The panel featured a slideshow of images and quotes by AFF members from Voice, Power and Soul: Portraits of African Feminists. Hannah Pool, Eritrean-born journalist and Africa Utopia co-curator introduced the panel.
Unapologetically feminist in their analysis, each panellist spoke through poetry, song and narrative to their vision of a continent where women and girls were active, engaged and leading in all areas of life. Panellists also called to engage the realities of misogyny – expressed through persistent violence against women and exclusion from political spaces, as well as the imperative to continue to support women’s rights activism and African feminist futures. Angelique Kidjo narrated stories from her own upbringing and both the women and men in her life that questioned tradition and supported her to be an artist and as outspoken as she is on social and political issues.
The audience response was tremendous! Despite it being a Sunday morning the panel pulled a large crowd, who engaged and interacted, clapping loudly and asking deep personal as well as political questions about women’s rights and about activism. Senegalese performer and Africa Utopia co-curator Baaba Maal also took the microphone at the end to express his full support for women’s rights. After the panel both women and men from the audience came up to the panellists to say that the discussion was thoroughly inspiring and the fact that they wished that they could hear these kinds of voices more often!