I live in Tongaat, a small town to the north of the city of Durban, and work at a civil society institution, the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) that aims to influence political developments by bringing conflict resolution, dialogue and institutional development to the forefront as an alternative to armed violence and protracted conflict. I head ACCORD’s Operations Division and lead the initiatives that support the inclusion of women as a strategic constituency in preventing, managing, and transforming conflict.
Understanding the injustices that we as women bear and the victories that we have gained in terms of our rights has developed my consciousness about the plight of women. My conscience forces me to ask “Where are the women? Why are the women absent? How can women become involved? Why are women not involved? What are the needs of women? Who is deciding what women’s needs are?”. Asking these questions is accompanied by a search for solutions to bring about positive change.
I am a firm believer in the idea that change must start where we are. I have begun identifying younger women in my family, at a community level and within my institution, and encouraging them to take ownership and leadership of their destiny. I have shared the networks that I have access to with other women as a way to facilitate mentoring and developing a feminist consciousness.
The greatest challenge that we as feminists face in this decade is the reversal of the gains the movement has made in advocating for a feminist policy agenda. As Africans we face the impact of a world in economic crisis, the preference for military solutions over dialogue to resolve conflicts, and the effects of climate change. The feminist agenda is relevant in all of these developments, however we need to express that clearly if we are to develop a critical mass of feminists. We are also contending with the fashionable inclusion of “gender sensitive/ gender equality” in political, economic and social development as a means for dealing with patriarchy, which tends to obscure whether enough is being done towards women’s rights and their emancipation.
I enjoy living in these interesting times of change and having the opportunity to contribute to the change. I am aware that I need to create and re-create myself in response to evolving needs, and I take pleasure in doing so. Working in the peace and conflict field allows me to witness the small victories in conflict-affected societies. It is wonderful both to belong to a family and to have the opportunity to create my own family, sharing the responsibility to socialise them with values of equality, respect, and justice