Charter of Feminist Principles for African Feminists

Women in Action, April 2007 | Go to article overview

Charter of Feminist Principles for African Feminists


NAMING OURSELVES AS FEMINISTS

We define and name ourselves publicly as Feminists because we celebrate our feminist identifies and politics. We recognise at the work of fighting for women's rights is deeply political, and the process of naming ourselves is political as well. Choosing to name ourselves Feminists places us in a clear ideological position.

By naming ourselves Feminists, we politicise the struggle for women's rights, we question the legitimacy of the structures that keep women subjugated, and we develop tools for transformatory analysis and action.

We have multiple and varied identities as African Feminists. We are African women--we live in Africa and even when we live elsewhere, our focus is on the lives of African women on the continent. Our feminist identity is not qualified with "Ifs," "Buts," or "Howevers." We are Feminists. Full stop.

OUR UNDERSTANDING OF FEMINISM AND PATRIARCHY

As African feminists, our understanding of feminism places patriarchal structures and social relations systems which are bedded in other oppressive and exploitative structures at the centre of our analysis. Patriarchy is a system of male authority which legitimises the oppression of women through political, social, economic, legal, cultural, religious and military institutions. Men's access to, and control over resources and rewards within the private and public spheres derive legitimacy from the ideology of male dominance.

Patriarchy varies in time and space; it changes over time, and is inflected by class, race, ethnic, religious and global-imperial relationships. In the current conjunctures, patriarchy does not simply change according to these factors, but is inter-related with and informs relationships of class, race, ethnic, religious, and global-imperialism. Thus, to challenge patriarchy effectively also requires challenging other systems of oppression, which frequently mutually support one another.

Our understanding of patriarchy is crucial because it provides us as feminists, a framework within which to express the totality of exploitative relations which affect African women. Patriarchal ideology enables and legitimises the structuring of every aspect of our lives by establishing the framework within which society defines and views human beings and constructs male supremacy. Our ideological task is to understand this system and our political task is to end it. Our focus is on fighting patriarchy as a system rather than on fighting individuals. Therefore, as feminists, we define our work as investing individual and institutional energies in the struggle against all forms of patriarchal oppression and exploitation.

OUR IDENTITY AS AFRICAN FEMINISTS

As feminists who come from, work, and live in Africa, we claim the right and the space to be both Feminist and African. We recognise that we do not have a homogenous identity as feminists--we acknowledge and celebrate our diversities and our shared commitment to a transformatory agenda for African societies and African women, in particular. This is what gives us our common feminist identity.

Our current struggles as African Feminists are inextricably linked to our past as a continent--our diverse pre-colonial contexts, the burden of slavery, colonisation, subsequent and heroic liberation struggles, neo-colonialism, and globalisation. Modern African states were built on the backs of African Feminists who fought alongside men for the liberation of the continent. As we craft new African states in this new millennium, we also craft new identities for African women, as full citizens, free from patriarchal oppression, with rights of access, ownership and control over resources and our own bodies. We utilise positive aspects of our cultures in liberating and nurturing ways. We also recognise that our pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial histories and herstories require special measures to be taken in favour of particular African women living in different contexts. …

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