This year, in recognition of 16 Days of Activism, the African Feminist Forum will be sharing a series of opinion pieces, letters, poems, prayers, and words of solidarity to our sisters struggling daily to defend the rights of African women. Over the next 16 days we will feature contributions from African feminists from across the continent who together have weaved a powerful web of words that show the many ways that we can love, protect and hold each other…the ways that we can stand with, and for each other…Together – In Solidarity!
I was moved to curate this collection because 2014 has been a difficult and painful year. Almost daily we have been bombarded with stories of our sisters being disappeared, imprisoned, and much worse. Almost everyday we have been confronted with immense violence perpetrated by a diverse range of actors from the State to our intimate partners. We know that 1 in 3 women have experienced violence from their partner and that “between 100 million and 140 million African girls and women have suffered FGM, with more than 3 million girls at risk every year.”  We have witnessed the rise of religious fundamentalisms, the brutal attacks on our LGBT colleagues, friends and sisters, and so much more.
Many of us have felt helpless, tired and sad. I decided to curate this collection because I believed it was important for us to speak back. I felt it was one thing that I could offer, that ‘we’ could offer to each other. This collection embodies of the kind of revolutionary love “that motivates us to give, share, risk and speak up in the name of our collective happiness.” What this collection represents is the coming-together of strong, fierce African women’s voices. The words shared here highlight our unrelenting commitment to our continent, our communities, our families, and ultimately to each other. The words contributed in this collection show an unwillingness to give up, an unwillingness to stay silent, an unwillingness to forget. They showcase the resilient spirits of African women.
The collection includes powerful pieces such as young Kenyan writer Alexis Teyie’s poem ‘Ways to Start Time’ where she forcefully declares: “If history won’t take us in, we’ll break the walls, the doors, the windows, and plant a garden where the shadow falls”, and Ugandan feminist Hope Chigudu’s beautiful prayer where she shares: “We come this day to renew ourselves, our commitment to the liberation of every sister on earth, and our love and support for women activists and all the women who struggle in various ways.” Ugandan writer Juliet Kushaba offers a gentle embrace to fierce freedom fighter Hope Turyasingura who left us earlier this year, and feminist sisters from South Africa, Kenya, Liberia and Egypt offer healing to sister’s Yara Sallam and Sanaa Seif imprisoned in Egypt. Today, (November 24th) marks Yara Sallam’s birthday, a day usually of much celebration will see Yara behind bars where she, Sanaa and several other comrades have been unconstitutionally held since June. Our words are an attempt to offer courage and to remind them that we have not and will not forget them. With that in mind, the staff and community of JASS Southern Africa remind us that in all the struggles we face, we do not stand alone. Namibian musician Shishani Vranckx shares her call for greater love, acceptance, and respect in her song ‘Minority’ and Poet Jessica Horn offers a healing meditation for sisters Freedom Nyamubaya, Pauline Dempers, Wangaari Mathaai, Aminetou Mint Moctar, Yara Salaam, and Sanaa Seif. “Know their names” Jessica implores us. “Learn the names of others like them. Place their names in your mouth. Teach them to us. Speak them with love.” Sisters Musimbi Kanyoro, Zandi Sherman and Bernadette Muthien also breathe life to the series with their poetic reflections. We close the series on December 10th with Sionne Neely’s poignant poem “Thousands Who Belong Under The Sun” where she powerfully reminds those who stand against us that:
“We are coming
We are not afraid
We are here
Prepared to meet the light of tomorrow with heavy hands
The joy for life is embedded in our beings
We will not be eradicated.”
In editing this collection, I have been moved to tears many times. But my tears represent the love I have for my sisters, comrades and friends who struggle for our collective freedoms on a daily basis, but also for my belief in possibility – that better is possible, that freedom is coming and that justice is ours.
In closing this introduction, I share with you the words of Zimbabwean feminist activist, and artist Rudo Chigudu. Her powerful words set the tone for next two weeks. May you find healing, solace, energy and more in her words and the words of all the sisters who have shared their words. During these 16 Days please join us by sharing the collection (Hashtages: #InSolidarity #Afrifem) and by offering your own silent meditation, prayer, words of support to those who stand for justice for our collective freedoms.
With deep love and gratitude,
Amina Doherty ♡
“War and struggle have bruised and battered our bodies
Patriarchy and his emissaries have tortured and traumatised our minds
Now your prisons threaten to break our spirits
Yet we rise in resistance
There is power in our silence and there is revolution in our every word and action
We sing from mountain tops to celebrate the bravery of our warrior sisters
We weep in our beds because of their enslavement
We strategise in our corners for their liberation
We chant, mediate and pray for their indestructible spirits to soar even higher
They stand there because they knew silence would not serve
They stand there because they knew there was no other way to survive but to fight
They stand there because they dared to show their power
Now we stand here because they are us and we are them
We stand not merely in solidarity but in the recognition of self in them
Even in darkness still we will rise, we will acquiesce no more”
~ By Rudo Chigudu