A milestone for global feminism

Reposting my latest article for The Guardian, which was titled “Feminism needs global voices – here are eight books we should all be reading”. In the piece l argue that Sweden handing out copies of We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to all sixteen year olds is a milestone for global feminism – as well as make recommendations of other books we should all be reading.

If there was one country in the world that was going to be the first to make a feminist text compulsory reading for its teenagers, it was always going to be Sweden. The first country to break the 10% ceiling for female political representation in the 1950s, Sweden has since accumulated many other firsts when it comes to gender equality.

But that Swedes selected the work of a Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, as the book of choice for every 16 year-old, is a milestone not just for Swedish feminism but for global feminism.

Throughout the 20th century, from the first International Feminist Congress in Buenos Aires in 1910 to the conventions in Mexico, Nairobi and Beijing, feminism always sought to connect women’s voices from around the world. Today, that no longer seems true. Feminism today is marked by a crippling village mentality, an unwillingness to see beyond the issues that affect one’s own community.

I’m not suggesting that having a global view is easy. The barriers presented by race, sexual orientation and class are not sometimes difficult to grasp, as micro-aggressions far outnumber outright discrimination. Nor am I saying that feminism can’t have regional differences, after all, I write an “African” feminist blog. But although there are nuances to my struggle which are important to me as a woman of African heritage, I find the diminishing interest in feminist movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America unfortunate, especially because the systems that affect women are increasingly global.

Whether it is reproductive rights, the growth of religious fundamentalism, child labour, poverty or climate change, many of the issues that have a negative impact on women’s rights can only wholly be understood when situated within a global perspective. This is why distributing Adichie’s book We Should All Be Feministsto high school students is truly something to rejoice. It’s a book about sexism in Nigeria, but it’s relatable even in “feminist” Sweden.

We should all be reading Adichie’s book as well as countless other feminist books from around the globe that expand and consequently strengthen the feminist movement. As the late self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet”Audre Lorde said: “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognise, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

Lorde’s book Sister Outsider is an essential read. As a collection of essays exploring race, sexism and homophobia, it can help the budding feminist transcend the deafening noise that surrounds these topics on social media. There is a calmness to Lorde’s righteous anger, a deep wisdom and a commitment to global feminism however frustrating achieving it may be.

Another feminist book that everyone should read is Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi. Although fictional, it is based on a true account of a woman who is awaiting execution in a Cairo prison. It tells a harrowing story of growing up poor and female in Egypt, of being raped, undergoing FGM, and being married off to a 65-year-old as a teenager. This is the book that teaches its reader about the vicious nature of unhinged patriarchy but also, about feminist awakening.

And there is more out there for the globally-minded feminist. Karima Bennoune’sYour Fatwa Does Not Apply Here, is an important book for our times, tackling how women and men in the Middle East, north Africa and south Asia are fighting religious fundamentalism often risking their own lives. In a similar vein, Mona Eltahawy’s Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution is a must-read for understanding how gender fits not only into the Arab revolutions but protest generally.

Chandra Talpade Mohanty’s Under Western Eyes as well as the complementary Under Western Eyes – Revisited, are possibly the most illuminating essays about the challenges and opportunities of global feminism.

Broadening the focus on feminism from social justice to environmental justice, the recently published Why Women Will Save the Planet includes writing by leading global feminists on the urgent need to link the environmental and feminist movements. It demonstrates that achieving gender equality is vital if we are to protect the environment upon which we all depend.

These are all necessary global feminist reads but for the most part they’re intellectual arguments. To affect change the arts, poetry and mythology must be seen as just as important as academic theory, and so I must add a book of poems to our global feminist reads, one I return to over and over: Gabriela Mistral’s Madwomen. Go read it.

Image is a self-portrait by  Anindita Chakraborty.

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Writing resolutions


First of all, Happy New Year!

The last two years were difficult years for me. In 2014, my mother was diagnosed with advanced cancer. In 2015, the cancer took her life. I’m grateful for the new year.

When my mother was diagnosed, I didn’t write for several months. Instead, during those months, I spent my days researching terminology such as oncology, histology, dilatation, strictures, cytology, adenocarcinoma, resections, laparoscopes, neoplasms, bilirubin, remission, cytostatics, tumour markers and dysplasia. My mother accused me of being insane for doing that, but she also understood it was in my nature to try to become an “expert” in cancer terminology in order to deal. Yet she would beg me to please, please write. But truth is, I did not know how to unite the me who was illiterate in cancer language with the me who speaks it proficiently.

By contrast, to cope with the loss, it has been essential to write. I’ve filled a lot of the past seven months with words.

Much of that writing – about life, love, death, growth, hope and faith – does not feel ready to share yet. But no doubt it influences the commentary about Africa, feminism, social criticism, philosophy and popular culture, which I look forward to continuing with this year.

There are few things that I love as much as sitting down in front of my computer to write a new blogpost. To share something exciting that I have researched, to provoke, to advocate a cause, to entertain, to envision, to learn, to teach, these are all zeniths of my existence. I have a clear sense of ‘me’ when I blog. 

So my 2016 resolution is to keep expressing myself – for my dear mother, and everyone who visits this blog. My thanks to you.

I wish you all good things for 2016.

Image is Caspar David Friedrich – Woman before the Rising Sun (Woman before the Setting Sun)

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Major new funding boost for small British charities – GOV.UK Press releases

New UK Aid Direct fund will make the most of smaller charities’ ability to work at a grassroots level

UK Aid Direct Fund Launch:

GOV.UKBritish charities will receive a multi-million pound boost with the launch of a new fund to help small and medium-sized organisations make an even bigger difference in the developing world, International Development Secretary Justine Greening has announced.

The UK Aid Direct fund will run over five years, with a total of £30 million in new grants available to small and medium charities in the first year. The programme aims to make the most of smaller charities’ grassroots knowledge, local contacts and specialist expertise.

Justine Greening launched UK Aid Direct in Cardiff at the first in a series of nationwide ‘DFID Direct’ roadshows aimed at encouraging smaller charities to make the most of funding from the Department for International Development (DFID).

The International Development Secretary was joined in Cardiff by 2 small Welsh charities who already receive DFID funding. Interburns is reducing deaths from burn injuries in Bangladesh and Nepal, and PONT is helping children and pregnant women access emergency healthcare in Uganda.

Launching the new UK Aid Direct fund, Justine Greening said:

I am proud that Britain already supports hundreds of small and medium-sized UK charities whose vital work is improving lives across the world.

British expertise is getting children into school, fighting deadly diseases and helping people earn a living in some of the world’s poorest places.

The launch of UK Aid Direct means we can work hand in hand with fantastic smaller charities that have a unique ability to identify needs, build relationships and tackle specific issues at a grassroots level.

As part of its drive to help smaller charities access DFID funding, the UK Aid Direct application process is designed to support small Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), with tailored advice and guidance available to those applying for DFID funding for the first time.

DFID has also launched a new online ‘funding finder’ tool that will make it even easier for organisations to identify funding opportunities.

UK Aid Direct builds on the success and momentum of DFID’s Global Poverty Action Fund (GPAF), which has awarded more than 160 grants over the last 4 years to small and medium British charities working in the developing world.

The new UK Aid Direct fund was launched by International Development Secretary Justine Greening at the first DFID Direct roadshow in Cardiff to an audience of Welsh civil society organisations. The event was held at the Welsh Centre for International Affairs in the Temple of Peace on Thursday 11 September from 5:30pm to 7:00pm.

The audience also heard from Tom Potokar, Founder of Swansea-based Interburns, and Geoff Lloyd and Jenny Allen from PONT, from Pontypridd, 2 small Welsh charities that have received DFID funding from the Global Poverty Action Fund. Interburns is reducing deaths from burn injuries in Bangladesh and Nepal and PONT is helping children and pregnant women access emergency healthcare in Uganda.

More information about UK Aid Direct

In addition to the new UK Aid Direct scheme, other DFID funding opportunities for small and medium sized charities include:

  • Common Ground Initiative (CGI): Co-funded by DFID and run by Comic Relief, CGI strengthens small and diaspora organisations in the UK so they can support poor and disadvantaged communities in Africa. Funding is available to UK-registered charities with an annual turnover under £1 million
  • UK Aid Match: The scheme gives the public a say in how a portion of the international aid budget is spent, by matching pound for pound public donations to appeals run by UK NGOs. In each funding round, £1 million is ring-fenced for small organisations

DFID’s new funding finder tool is now live and can help small and medium-sized charities identify the best funding opportunity for them.

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Guest blog: 5 Steps to Spotting a Feminist Man

Andrew Gonzales %22The Sacred Marriage%22
This is a guest post by Stephanie Kimou aka The Angry African. Stephanie’s guest posts tend to provoke thought and generate discussion on my blog and elsewhere. No doubt this one will do the same. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

I knew that my partner was a feminist before he did. From the moment we met, he proved to be a man who defied traditional gender roles (he cooks way more than I do) and ensured that his interactions with the women around him were not only non-invasive, but nurturing as well. From the way he speaks about women, to the way to checks men, I could spot his feminist ways early on. There were five clear signs that my perfect man was a feminist; so read this, take notes, and keep an eye out for these traits on your next date:

1. He doesn’t disrespect you with his preferences: When a man says “I only like light skin women,” or that he only dates women with big asses, he is stripping the value of millions of women because they don’t have the right skin tone or physique. A feminist man will be able to see that the words he uses to publically express what he does and does not like about women are extremely sexist, and leaves women vulnerable and uneasy in their own skin. This does not mean do not have a preference, it means that continuously expressing that preference is an act that physiologically breaks down the self-esteem of the women around you. To put one set of women on a pedestal, while systematically degrading another set because they are too dark or too skinny, is a clear way to say you do not respect, or value women.

2. He doesn’t call other men pussies: When a man calls another man a pussy, he is disrespecting the physiology of a woman by attaching negative qualities like jealously and weakness to women and not men. He is essentially saying the female organ that births children is to be used to degrade a man, and make him feel inadequate. A man should find it disgusting that one of the lowest forms of insulting another man is to compare him to a vagina, and insinuate that women are indeed the weaker and more problematic gender. As we know, men can be weak, they gossip, they can engage in very jealous behavior; because these are HUMAN traits and not just female traits. This also applies to “you hit like a girl,” “act like a man not a little bitch,” and all variations that make women the butt of an insult.

3. He’s not the guy asking for hugs: When a man sees that bus driver, security guard, or co-worker who is sharing unwanted comments with women about their bodies, or giving unsolicited hugs and shoulder rubs, it is EVERYONE’S (not just women’s) responsibility to school him on sexual harassment. I understand a man can not physically stop every friend, family member, or fool on the street from being that “gimme a hug” guy, but he can speak up against it. It is not ok to stand there and watch your friend grabbing asses on the street, and it is not enough to say “but I don’t do that.” It takes a man conscious of the female experience to be able to identify sexual harassment; he should see and feel the discomfort of any woman when her personal space and peace are being disrupted because she has breasts.

4. He doesn’t need a personal assistant: He wakes himself up, can remember his mother’s birthday, and cooks his meals. He was an independent man before you, and if you do choose to help him in his day to day tasks, it is a treat and not expected for the rest of your life. It is no folk tale that many men desire a women that will take care of his needs. In a relationship the support should be constant and genuine, but what is unrealistic is a man who feels entitled to being catered to hand and foot, 365 days a year just like his mother used to do. A feminist man is not only self-sufficient, but he is just as concerned with what you need daily as he is with his own needs.

5. He lets women speak: We have all been on a date, or in a bar, or in a meeting at work when the man you’re supposed to be conversing with, actually won’t let you speak. He will ask you a question and then conveniently spends the next 30 minutes speaking over you. Not only is he arrogant, he has no sense of his privilege as a male. The fact that a typical man can fully express himself at work without being interrupted or undermined is a privilege that can translate into a boyfriend or husband that has no idea how to let his woman communicate her needs and opinions. A feminist man not only limits his control of conversations, but he ensures that other men around him are giving women the space to speak as well.

Image is “The Sacred Marriage” by Andrew Gonzales.

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