Feminism, though misunderstood is being used to develop the world
Although feminism is a global belief, worldwide feminists have different experiences that are shaped by specific socio-cultural contexts, religion and patriarchal mind-sets.
Though some societies have embraced feminists, majority still question their intentions. This has resulted to most of their activities being treated with suspicion and a lot of questions raised.
According to Wikipedia, Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define and advance political, economic, personal, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment.
Feminist movements have campaigned and continue to campaign for women’s rights, including the right to vote, hold public office, work, earn fair wages or equal pay, own property, receive education, enter contracts, have equal rights within marriage as well as have maternity leave.
Feminists have also worked to promote bodily autonomy and integrity and to protect women and girls from rape, sexual harassment and domestic violence.
Unfortunately, feminists have been misunderstood for so long. There is even a common myth that feminism is women hating men.
Graca Samo, a feminist from Mozambique, while addressing participants at a Gender Forum in Nairobi explained that feminism is about standing up against gender discrimination, domination of capitalism and patriarchal forces.
Yildiz Temurturkan, a feminist from Turkey opposed the notion that feminists are enemies of men. She noted that feminism is the biggest global movement and future of the world. “We cannot progress while leaving one gender, who happen to be the majority behind. The moment both genders have equal opportunities then we can relax and say that we have advanced.”
Feminists also join the movement for different reasons. For example, Soaud Mahmoud Tunisia grew up in a country dominated by Arab culture and Islamic laws. In such countries, women’s rights are in the hands of men. They are not allowed to make decisions without consulting their husbands, fathers or a male guardian.
“My struggles against gender discrimination started in school when we refused to sit behind boys. I found that to be totally wrong because some of the girls were even brighter than the boys.”
But how do feminists plan to achieve the equal opportunities? According to Ana Marie, from Philippines, if women in leadership do not propagate laws that help other women, the fight is futile.
“We must push for laws that can help women. Laws that stand against rape, domestic violence and unequal gender representation in both public and private sector,” she explained.
Marie also advised women to stop discriminating against themselves. “Women are oppressed as women but there is an element of class discrimination which demoralizes women who would like to climb career ladder.”
Noting that class divides plays a big role in oppressing others within feminism, Marie noted: “We must understand the intersectionality of class and how it plays to oppress others within feminism.”
She reiterated that the fight is not against poverty or men but against patriarchal structures that are unfair to women.
Wahu Kaara from Kenya also emphasized that women have to capture the historical moment and transform the world and put value to their lives. She further explained that unless one shows the world their worth, no one will appreciate your impact.
She linked this to ‘ubuntu’, an ancient African word meaning ‘humanity to others’. It also means ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’ which means ‘you are because I am’.
Kaara said that the world can only be better if we give each other fair chances.
According to Samo, women must reach out to each other to liberate themselves from oppression, both historic and ongoing.
A participant from the forum also shared that fighting patriarchy starts with women understanding why they are subjects of oppression. This, she said, gives women a clear strategy as to how to fight challenges as they come.
Another participant said that women have power to not only critique patriarchy but offer alternatives, resisting and building alternatives for a better world.
The five panellists at the forum organized by Heinrich Böll Stiftung were from Brazil, England, the Philippines, Tunisia and Mozambique and were visiting Kenya as part of the 19 Member International Committee of the World March of Women.