Maria Magezi

Individual African feminists

I live in Uganda and work with Akina Mama wa Afrika a pan-African feminist organisation as a Program Officer. This means that I get to work in several areas of Africa. I am involved in building coalitions, leadership training for Young African women to actively influence policies. Engage in National and regional advocacy to improve […]

I live in Uganda and work with Akina Mama wa Afrika a pan-African feminist organisation as a Program Officer. This means that I get to work in several areas of Africa. I am involved in building coalitions, leadership training for Young African women to actively influence policies. Engage in National and regional advocacy to improve the status of women.

I identify myself as a feminist because I am aware of the myriad forms of discrimination that women face in different spaces; and as a result I actively seek to change that situation. It is not enough for me to just see the situation and look away.

I believe feminists in Africa as a collective are faced with a lack of consistent and vibrant organising on issues that often happens in reaction to events rather than proactively, At individual level, even while we claim that feminists support all women, the commitment to practically do this is not evident when ‘controversial’ topics such as lesbianism and sex workers come to the table. This affects the collective in terms of cohesion, commitment and probably explains the poor mobilisation and vibrancy for certain issues. Feminists live and work in an environment that is pre-dominantly male dominated and this is seen through the institutions. Sometimes it feels like the feminist cry is a lone voice that is worsened by negative stereotypes. Feminists have a task to prove to dissenting voices that feminism is indeed real, African and not a western concept or an elitist club. It has to become real and relevant so that the ordinary woman can feel the connection.

To address these challenges, the movement has to build the bridges between the ‘elite’ and ‘ordinary’ women. It cannot continue to be viewed as club for urban, elite or career women The feminist movement has to be innovative about creating or generating funds for its constituencies. We cannot continue to be donor funded. We also need to keep the fire burning consistently and act proactively in order to be effective.

In my personal and professional life, I have addressed women in diverse places to make them aware of patriarchal norms that have been weaved into society as norms and beliefs and brainstormed on possible solutions. Personally I have supported other women in “sisterhood” in all kinds of small but meaningful ways that reassure my support. I have chosen to live by example. I have also engaged in advocacy campaigns against negative stereotypes of women and feminists. At a professional level, have ensured that projects are all inclusive of all women without discrimination ‘no ifs no buts”. This has also included advocacy campaigns for all women. Finally, I have volunteered time as a Member of the Uganda Feminist Forum Working Group and offered technical assistance to community based women’s organisations.

I am inspired by two words that are interchangeable: change and growth. I am passionate about creating change in the lives of women so that they can become self reliant, make personal decisions with availability of choice and making their lives better. This explains my interest in empowering women economically, receiving and continuing education and above all believing in themselves that they have the potential to make their lives better.

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