Day of The African Child, Dandelion Kenya's I Choose, my Life participant speaks against child marriage

AFRICAN WOMEN DAY; CHECKING IN WITH YOUNG AFRICAN FEMINISTS

Today being an African woman and especially a feminist means confronting dynamic realities. Africa like the rest of the world is at the verge of exciting discoveries in technologies, new frontiers in governance, democratization and economic growth.  The world is slowly becoming globalized and an even smaller village thanks to the internet, technology and social media.  Question begs, with the changing world, where do African women find themselves?? Other than the positioning what do African women get out of these new developments?

Young African women are growing up and being socialized with a much broader world view more than the media especially international media showcases. We are a breed of intelligent and revolutionary young women who understand and are comfortable with where we fit in the society. Despite this fitting, we strive for more and refuse to be defined by narrow minded stereotypes. Young African feminists are comfortable in their skin, their bodies and have worked hard to show the world what young Africans have to offer. We constantly embrace the struggles of our sisters before us and define our path in a fast, moving world.

African women and especially young feminists today find themselves confronted and having to deal with body politics. From the  corrective rape in South Africa, indecent dressing act in Uganda,  stripping in Kenya, global repression on women’s reproductive rights  and victim blaming of rape survivors to name a few. But we do not relent, young African feminist have to continuously find their space in a world that highly sexualizes and objectifies women and girls. The problems are further aggravated by the politicization of practices that infringe on women and girls bodily autonomy such as Female Genital Mutilation and Early child marriage. For some reason African women have to bear it all and this does not include the burden of food insecurity, disproportionate levels of poverty compared to their male counterparts and the adverse effects of climate change.

With the premise of internet, technology and social media, this means that we have a platform to build upon the work of previous African feminists on whose shoulders we stand.  Being a young African feminist means there are new ways of organizing, social media campaigns, blogging, and quick messaging services. It surely is an exciting time to be a feminist on the African continent. As an African woman and feminists, it is important to me that women and girls bodily autonomy is held in high regard. The articulation of women’s bodily autonomy in respect of their choices should be a priority.

Instrumentalizing women’s participation in economic growth or investing in women and girls because it is smart economics is a rhetoric that African governments must do away with.  Investing in women because they are half of our populations whose human rights must be respected and whose contribution in society must be valued is the only way to go. This inculcates into the public that women and girls bodies should be their own and provides a platform to approach gender equality and women empowerment from various fronts.  It is important that African adolescents especially girls access information and knowledge that will enable them make informed decisions about their bodies, future and where they fit in society. African girls are predisposed to sexual violence, HIV, stand higher chances at dying from maternal mortality, Female genital mutilation and child marriage to name but a few. This kind of information is lifesaving and equips girls with skills and  mmunition to deal with  preventable calamities and illnesses.

African women are phenomenal, strong, dynamic and intelligent, belonging to a continent that is the cradle of the mankind. Celebrating African women means recognizing their challenges and bestowing on them the power to articulate their issues. There are current common realities in terms of achieving gender equality with the African regions especially related to Sexual Reproductive Health and deeply-rooted harmful practices such as FGM and Child Marriage, abortion, Sexual orientation and gender identity. Around these issues we have seen emergence of waves of cultural and religious fundamentalism that risks to erode gains made for and by African women and girls. Elevating the voices of young African feminists, increase their visibility and acknowledging the importance of their work enables them contribute effectively on these issues that affect their lives.

I write this article wishing all my fellow young African feminists an awesome African women’s day, I celebrate you. I also ask all feminists across the continent and across the globe to join us on twitter during the monthly Young African Feminist Dialogues #YAFDialogues platform, an online platform to address various issues affecting young African feminists. The online platform is one of the permanent mobilizing platforms borne out of a Young African Feminists Dialogue convening in 2015 in Accra  .

 

 

Catherine is a Mandela Fellow 2016, Women Deliver Young Leader and member of Youth RISE International working group. Catherine is a passionate young African feminist activist with over 7 years of experience in advancing gender equality, youth development and sexual and reproductive health and rights in the context of sustainable development through movement building, digital and social media, policy advocacy and capacity building for young women and adolescents girls. Catherine is currently Deputy Director at Dandelion Kenya, and sits on the SDGs Kenya Forum coordination committee. Catherine has engaged with various global and regional policy processes such as ICPD Beyond 2014 review, Beijing +20 and the post 2015 development agenda. She co-authored the article ‘Leave No One Behind; Will African Women be left behind in the post 2015 development agenda ,an article published on the East African Business Monthly in February 2015. Catherine launched the #SRHRDialogues, an online advocacy and awareness raising platform on SRHR and #YAFDialogues, an online platform anticipated to be a permanent mobilizing platforms borne out of an African feminist dialogue 2015 in Accra. Follow her on Twitter: @catherinenyamb1