“I have never felt offended by being addressed as a feminist, but rather humbled and daunted at the responsibility it bestows on me. Feminism remains a positive, movement-based term, with which I am happy to be identified. It signals a refusal of oppression, and a commitment to struggling for women’s liberation from all forms of oppression—internal, external, psychological and emotional, socio-economic, political and philosophical. I like the word because it identifies me with a community of confident and radical women, many of whom I respect, both as individuals and for what they have contributed to the development of the world as we know it.”
— Professor Amina Mama
The Feminist Organisational Development Tool (OD Tool) has been developed in response to the identified need for a mechanism by which to operationalise The Feminist Charter. It is designed to be used as a tool for organisational development and learning, training, staff and board development, monitoring and evaluation, peer review and exchange, as well as a tool for self improvement and reflection. Whilst developed primarily for women’s rights organisations,the ODTool is a useful resource for all activists and those interested in extending their knowledge and understanding of feminist theory and practice in Africa.
Recognising that women’s rights organisations in Africa are at different levels of development in terms of capacity, staff size, budgets and so on, and also cognisant of the constantly shifting landscape and context in which African feminists work, the tool steers away from the ‘one size fits all’ approach of many OD tools. Rather its approach is to ask a series of questions designed to encourage joint dialogue and conscious thinking and analysis of the organisation’s commitment to the principles of The Feminist Charter. This tool seeks to enable organisations and individuals to develop their own priorities within the confines of their capacities, contexts and resources. As such there is no scoring mechanism for the answers given. Instead it is hoped that the information generated from the exercise will contribute to greater learning of the challenges and successes that organisations have had so far in carving out a feminist identity not just in their programme content, but in their organisational infrastructure (policies, systems, staff and so on) as well.
As with The Feminist Charter, the OD Tool seeks to engage on a number of levels. The first part of the exercise is geared towards strengthening our understanding, analysis and values, and aligning that to our practice at the individual and collective levels. A number of case studies have been included to provide additional examples of how a number of organisations operationalise their feminist principles. We welcome more such examples from your experiences. An Additional References section has been included at the end in order to direct the users to further reading material by African feminists on these issues addressed by this tool. It is not meant as an exhaustive list and all are encouraged to add, adapt and revise as needs be. This OD Tool is a work in progress. In its development, it has been shared, commented and improved on in a number of forums. Most notably:
- The African Feminist Forum Working Group Meeting, Dakar, Senegal; September 2009
- The Chief Executive Officers’ (CEO) Forum on Leadership and Management, Kampala, Uganda; September 2009 – Convened by The African Women’s Development Fund, the meeting sought to create space for board and senior management staff of regional and sub regional women’s rights organisations to address the challenges of leadership and management in women’s rights organisations.The tool was welcomed as having provided alternative perspectives and means by which strategies to address these challenges can be advanced.
- The African Women’s Leadership Institute Specialist Training for Senior Women Leaders at ActionAid International, August 2010 – Convened by Akina Mama wa Afrika and ActionAid International, Africa the meeting provided an opportunity to test the efficacy of the tool with senior women leaders in generic organisations.