Shamillah Wilson

Individual African feminists

I run my own enterprise Sowilo Leadership Solutions, as well as consult on women’s rights, HIV/AIDS and sexual rights. I am a feminist because I believe that human beings have the potential to be great – not based on anything but their humanity. Knowing that structural inequalities prevent women from accessing their basic rights, needs, […]

I run my own enterprise Sowilo Leadership Solutions, as well as consult on women’s rights, HIV/AIDS and sexual rights. I am a feminist because I believe that human beings have the potential to be great – not based on anything but their humanity. Knowing that structural inequalities prevent women from accessing their basic rights, needs, safety and security, all of which ultimately hamper their self-actualisation, is enough reason to participate in feminist activities. I am one of those busy feminists who believe that my activism transcends all spheres of activity within society. One of my major passions is entrepreneurship, as I believe this is an area that we as feminists still have not engaged in enough as a creative entry-point into economic empowerment. If we harness our creativity into creating alternative economic paradigms, I believe we would have the basis for funding our revolution. After all, we have to model the alternatives instead of staying with just critiquing the status quo.

To me, feminism is about how you live your life. It is not about the separation of personal and professional. In my personal life I constantly try to challenge my thinking, my actions and how I practice feminist principles. In my professional life I bring it into everything I do – relationships with colleagues, my own relationship to power and also the outcomes of the work.

Despite a considerable history of feminist thought and activism in Africa, feminism is still seen by many as “unAfrican”. Struggles for women’s liberation and emancipation are continuously undermined by fundamentalist agendas and misogynist attitudes. There is also the fact that feminists are a minority, not aided by the fact that many women still are not comfortable calling themselves feminists. We also face a lack of cohesion among feminist movements, amplified by fragmenting forces.

As we move forward, we need to work on popularising feminism among younger women and grassroots women, and to make feminist language accessible to them. We also need to become more visible and coordinated in response to issues and trends. There is a need to celebrate the achievement and honest engagements that we have made to date. And we need to ensure that we take care of ourselves at the physical level, the emotional, and the spiritual levels. All of these feminist values need to translate into real strategies for addressing the financial concern of ourselves and our feminist sisters that we have long neglected.

Despite all the challenges, I continue to be inspired by solidarity, innovation, and seeing people being able to change their own realities.


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