Sally Jean Shackleton

Individual African feminists

I live and work in Cape Town, South Africa, and I work in South Africa. My work has a focus on media, communications and using information and communication technologies as a tool to raise voices for change. I work with sex workers, transgender people, gender activists and feminists. I am currently working with the Sex […]

I live and work in Cape Town, South Africa, and I work in South Africa. My work has a focus on media, communications and using information and communication technologies as a tool to raise voices for change. I work with sex workers, transgender people, gender activists and feminists. I am currently working with the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task force (SWEAT), Women’s Net and Just Associates (JASS).

I call myself a feminist because feminism is fundamental to challenging oppression, and because doing so puts me in the company of a community of many powerful and thoughtful women.

There is a crisis in leadership in the feminist movement—I know so many women that kept working through their own crisis, through illness and who are tired and burnt out—we have to learn to nurture each other and provide relief for those of us working on the front line.

I also think we are not welcoming enough to young women, and accepting diversity.

We ourselves marginalise people—transgender people, lesbian women, sex workers in particular, have found feminists to be unwelcoming or closed to their concerns.

If we want to shift this reality, we need to start investing in young women and young women’s leadership, mentoring and empowerment. We need to live the commitment in all spaces to accept and welcome diversity in all its forms and engage with it honestly. Finally, to strengthen connections, we could build better communication and use of ICTs and a feminist practice of technologies—skilling women to write, make movies, amplify their voices.

I think we can popularise the African Feminist Charter for local messaging and adoption. I think it should be linked to local challenges—like the struggle for sex workers rights. I would also like to hear more stories of adoption of the charter, more stories of African feminists who use the charter, its application in real life and in organisations.

In my personal and professional life, I work with organisations like Gender DynamiX and SWEAT as well as the African Sex Workers Alliance, and I try to integrate the concerns of these groups in my feminist work. In the organisations I work with, these groups are specifically included, or are a focus.

Right now, my inspiration comes from the many impressive and powerful women and men I work with. I moved cities and now live close to the sea, and this inspires me too, and does spending time with the children in my life. I love working with girls, and Women’s Net’s daughter project, Girls’Net inspires me. Working with women on making media is an amazing experience—the magic of seeing and hearing ourselves reflected in media is a powerful tool for us to recognise ourselves and see our own struggles as important.

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