Awino Okech

Individual African feminists

My feminist politics evolved from childhood as I was raised in a family of strong women. I began my engagement with community development work right after high school, through an apprenticeship with a local organisation Kenya Female Advisory Organisation (KEFEADO) based in Kisumu. I had an opportunity to work alongside educationalists on a programme around […]

My feminist politics evolved from childhood as I was raised in a family of strong women. I began my engagement with community development work right after high school, through an apprenticeship with a local organisation Kenya Female Advisory Organisation (KEFEADO) based in Kisumu. I had an opportunity to work alongside educationalists on a programme around enrolment, retention and completion of school by girls. My interest in women’s rights began during this work. I subsequently pursued a Bachelors in Political Science at the University of Nairobi. Over the same period I worked and later became one of the lead trainers with Amani Peoples Theatre, a civil society organisation established by young Kenyans in response to the first politically motivated ethnic/ land clashes in the 1990s. My team developed gender and peace building community training modules that we implemented across Kenya. This work later led me to conduct workshops with other theatre and development practitioners in Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

I embarked on a Masters degree in Gender Studies in 2005. It was refreshing to engage with the theory and praxis of African feminists, alongside mentors at the University of Cape Town’s African Gender Institute (AGI). During my studies, I joined one of the few feminist theatre collectives in South Africa – The Mothertongue Project. At Mothertongue I helped develop an applied theatre programme. We worked in partnership with a Kenyan organisation exploring contemporary rites of passage for young women. The project looked at the ways that femininity is constructed in the traditions of inner city settlements. We also piloted a project on the intersections between violence against women and HIV/AIDS in one of South Africa’s largest black townships, Khayelitsha. A third project focused on women refugees in Cape Town, exploring xenophobia, trafficking and integration. All of these processes culminated in full theatre productions and were used as advocacy tools by the organisations that we collaborated with.

I am now pursuing Doctoral studies at the AGI and received a Steve Biko Leadership Fellowship to support this. My current research focuses on the practice of “wife inheritance” amongst the Luo in Kenya. I am fascinated by the binaries of culture, tradition, modernity and the constructions of femininity in Africa today. I continue to be involved in civil society activism on women’s rights and believe in fusing academic research and “practical” activism. I am inspired by consistency and I strive to be consistent in what I do, what I say, and how I live my life. Feminism is a continuous journey for me.


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