Since 1998 I had a lot of feelings of discomfort and a sense of unease within myself about the things around me; I was unable to articulate or classify it and therefore unable to analyse or deal with it. My understanding of gender concepts all these years was never linked to feminism or even a clear sense of patriarchy. I knew about the social construction of gender but had never deepened that understanding to link it with our day to day life. In the same year I attended a workshop titled “Gender and Sustainable Development in South Asia”. The workshop was conducted in Bangladesh with 30 activists and gender trainers from different countries in South Asia. As I went through the training the concepts started to fit together like the pie- ces of a jigsaw puzzle. It enabled me to find the language within me, which I had been unable to define; the language of concepts of patriarchy, gender and feminism. Slowly I began to see linkages and connections between my experiences and feminism theory.
This training was instrumental in shaping a new self, which was stronger, clearer and more committed to the kind of work I envisioned myself doing, as well as the kind of women/person I wanted to be. I went back home with a new vision, knowledge and my feminist identity. I knew that being a feminist would be very difficult, but I also went home with the satisfaction of knowing what I wanted and could not compromise. I live in Khartoum State, the capital of Sudan. I work as the Director of Salmmah Women’s Resource Centre, a feminist resource centre that advocates for human rights, legal reform and against violence against women, conducts action research work around sexuality, reproductive rights, and documentation of the Sudanese women’s movement. We work with young women and men, although our primary focus is women whether they are young or old.
I believe that every issue is a woman’s issue, and that the personal is political. So my political struggle against patriarchy includes addressing all issues that affect us. The struggle for equality for all is my personal life commitment as well as my work commitment. That is why I call myself a feminist.
We are all aware of the many interrelated challenges that undermine equality. Globalisation and the resulting feminisation of poverty, increasing violence against women across Africa, multiple discriminations and biased social norms, and fundamentalism all contribute to this. Unfortunately we also lack governments in Africa that are sensitive to women and women’s issues.
It is vital to keep organising spaces such as the African Feminist Forum where we can come together and bond with other feminists in Africa. It is so powerful.