I am a political scientist who works on development communication, gender and human rights. I currently work as the Executive Director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC). Prior to this I was the Executive Director of the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), a regional feminist network.
I have chosen the political identity of “feminist” because I believe in my own autonomy, choice and freedom—as well as those of all other women. African women continue to face the denial of autonomy, choice and freedom in all areas of life, alongside an enduring lack of access to and control of all kinds of opportunities and resources. All too often inequalities are justified on the basis of culture and/or religion. We continue to contend with an alarming scale of violence against women individually and collectively. In the spirit of feminist politics, I have chosen to work (both politically and professionally) on all of these issues.
To build African feminist activism, we need to insist on ethics, and accountability for breach of ethics, within the African feminist movement. We need to support the African feminist movement with resources of all kinds, including the voluntary offering of our own energies, intellect and time. We should also encourage constructive criticism and debate on our analysis and our strategies.
I think we all begin because we’re angry at what we see around us: the gulfs between women and men between the impoverished and the enriched between Africa, the underdeveloped world and the overdeveloped world. We find ways to name those gulfs and to understand them. “Feminism” is not just a political identity in that sense. It’s a way of naming and understanding those gulfs. And I have other political identities, ways of naming and understanding those gulfs that intersect with feminism- dependency theory, pan-Africanism and socialism. But anger without love, for the humanity and potential in all of us, isn’t enough.
And so we need inspiration. I am inspired by people in all fields who devote energy, intellect and time to honing their skills and excelling. I am inspired by African artistic work and culture, past and contemporary, and by African intellectual work and thought. I am motivated by collectivity and solidarity, and by love.
That love must also be- deeply and fundamentally- for ourselves. We become cynical and de-sensitised, we hurt and we tire. And so we must learn to take care of ourselves as well. I take care of myself now by returning to exercise. I used to be a competitive swimmer, but I now go to the gym. I’ve started tae kwon do again. I’ve done two sprint and two full Olympic triathlons. I try to eat well and sleep enough. By doing so, I’m also being an African feminist, one who loves myself enough to go beyond my own survival, and to be healthy enough to enjoy community in all its forms.
What I want for myself and for all African women, is autonomy, choice and freedom, health, and happiness.