I am a feminist activist, educator, creative writer and poet. For the past ten years, I have organised around HIV and AIDS. I was a member of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in South Africa, serving as the organisation’s National Deputy Chairperson, National Treatment Literacy Coordinator and subsequently General Secretary. I was also a Steering Committee member of the Pan-African Treatment Access Movement that helped develop movements for treatment access across Africa. In 2007 I was appointed to the national team tasked with designing and drafting the country’s five year Strategic Plan for HIV and AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections. I also sat on the South African National AIDS Council representing the women’s sector. I now work as an independent consultant and continue my feminist activism in a variety of locations, including as a board member of Women on Farms, and founding member of Feminist Alternatives (FemAl), a Southern Africa based feminist organisation. I am working on a novel and poetry anthology, as well as setting up a Women’s Writing Institute (a project of Feminist Alternatives), which will facilitate, resource and publish women’s writing.
I am a feminist because I am a woman living in a world where if I am not vigilant, I will be erased, exploited or dehumanised. I call myself a feminist because my being aches when I experience or witness injustice of any kind. I know that I am just one of billions of women who live under a social system of patriarchy which is structured, legislated and financed to advance the interests of some men and disempower women and others who do not fit into its boxes. I am a feminist because I want to live and have all human beings live free from exclusion and dehumanisation, with love, opportunity and wholeness. Feminism offers me tools and the possibility to imagine, live, and build such a future.
There are too few spaces where we can live our feminist identities without contestation and backlash, and too few resources to build our own progressive spaces. Many of us are economically poor and have to make survivalist choices. Some are forced to be a part of depoliticised spaces where feminism is considered too radical and therefore not welcome in the pot of activist ideologies. At a broader level, the resurgence of conservatism poses a huge problem. The success of the struggles we lodge against patriarchal oppression will be determined by how deeply we engage culture, tradition and social institutions, as these are powerful in their oppression of women. We have to constantly figure out ways to disturb these power dynamics including by writing and developing feminist-controlled media.
Change is not only possible but happening. I am inspired when I witness ordinary women’s extra-ordinary everyday resistance, even in contexts where patriarchy entrenches and reconfigures to outwit and overpower us