On the first day of the Young Women's Feminist Course organized by Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa and Africa University in Mutare Zimbabwe, I became aware of a few distinct things that would shape our journey as young women. One of them was our unique abilities shaped by our various backgrounds.
We came in as 36 distinct individuals from nine countries in Southern Africa, individuals with various concepts about feminism and what being a feminist entails. We are not a homogeneous group as we have experienced life differently thus we have different abilities, skills and gifts that set us apart, one from the other.
We engaged in heated debates, self reflection, and critical analysis of spheres of society that some of us were not comfortable to question. We did not always agree on certain issues yet, as we leave this course we each have a vision that involves seeing a balance in power relations between men and women, women as equal and effective contributors towards development in all spheres of society and each of us believes we need to be proactive and act collectively in order to effect the change we want to see.
We have been together for nine days learning and sharing each according to the elements that make them unique. We recognized that we were different yet we we found a common standing in the fact that even though we each experience it in different settings and varying degrees, we all experience injustice stemming from the system of patriarchy.
As we analyzed how patriarchy manifests and maintains its power over women most of us realized that in many instances, as women we aid the system to grow stronger when we, for whatever reason, choose to be silent when we should speak out or question injustice experienced personally or by other women, when we remain inactive when we should be moved to act against unfair and inhuman treatment of women, when we uphold and enforce social, religious and cultural values that perpetuate the oppression of women and when we discriminate against other women on the basis of their age, physical ability or status.
As we strive towards claiming our equal share of power we should take time to pause and undertake an honest evaluation of ourselves not only should we hold others accountable but we Should also hold ourselves accountable in order to ensure that we are not following patriarchal norms within our structures.
As we graduate from this course I feel a a common understanding among most of us, a commitment to take what we have learned, shape it according to our special talents and abilities and draw on each others strengths and experiences including the experience of our elder sisters to contribute collectively towards effecting change at community, country, regional, and global level.
By Wala Nalungwe!