Culture

2018 – a year African women continued to reclaim their voices

In 2018, women in Africa continued to struggle against violence and discrimination but they also beat the odds, with women and members of the LGBTQ community in South Africa, creating their own exclusive party space, where they say they can be free of harassment and judgement.

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA (REUTERS) – 

Every year, African women fight to break down the barriers of entrenched gender and patriarchal biases.

In South Africa, the issue of women’s rights came at the forefront in 2018 when thousands of women came out to “shutdown” South Africa in protests against gender violence.

South Africa has one of the world’s highest rates of violent crime with women, girls and children being raped and murdered at an alarmingly high rate.

Demonstrations were staged in various locations in the country as part of a wider movement dubbed #TotalShutdown, which is pushing for change in how the country addresses the issue of violence against women using various methods including interrupting economic activity.

“We are tired, they are killing us, our kids, our kids are raped every single day. Today, it must end,” said one protester Fundiaswa Ndeyi.

South African women further amplified their voices with the introduction of safe spaces, where women and LGBTQ community can party without fear for their safety, harassment, or judgement.

Called ‘Pussy Party’, it’ an environment where people can let go – without facing some of the risks usually associated with going to conventional nightclubs.

For women, ‘Pussy Party’ is a safe haven – in a country with one of the highest rates of rape in the world.

South Africa is generally seen as supportive of LGBTQ people and is the only African country to have legalized gay marriage.

But being openly gay or having a sexual identity different from gender norms adds to personal risk.

“The women here celebrate who they are, the queers here celebrate who they are. I’m a non-gender, I identify as nothing, I’m non-binary essentially. In winter I transform into a man, in summer I’m a woman but my fears still remain the same,” said one party goer, Treyvone Moo.

“I think that we have reclaimed the space and so, the men who do come, are aware of the fact that, this space has been claimed by women for the night,” said another party goer, Nathalie Panegn.

In Nigeria, playwright Ifeoma Fafunwa introduced her latest play, “Hear Word!” – a Nigerian woman’s call for voices against gender discrimination.

The play, which means “listen” in Nigerian parlance, is a collection of monologues that portray African women challenging social, political and cultural stereotypes that Fafunwa says are designed to limit their potential.

Fafunwa says “Hear Word!” was as much a personal project as it was about women in all parts of the world.

Fafuwa added that “Hear Word!” is part of global movements like #MeToo and #TimeIsUp, and also joins local efforts like WIMBIZ (Women In Management and Business) that offers a platform for Nigerian women to speak up.

“My story is the unlimited potential story which is just a woman asking and telling the audience that if the audience invested and believed in her, where would she be by now. You know if she had not imbibed all those stories that ‘you as a woman, you cannot do this, you cannot do that, here is what you should do, here is how you should sit, here is how loud you should talk, here is how far you should go, here is how much you should… here is how far you should aspire,’ right? So she asked the question, ‘if I didn’t listen to all that, if you all believed in me and told me I could go far, where would I be now?” she added.

Attitudes concerning the role and place of women in African society were definitely challenged across the continent this year, and if any of the women fighting for equality have anything to do with it, will continue to be challenged in the years to come.

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