Do Women Benefit from Revolution?

This is the question I’ve been asking myself while reading Thomas Sankara’sWomen’s Liberation and the African Struggle’.

The book has made me think about the powerful images of Alaa Salah from Sudan. It’s also made me think about the women in South Africa – of all races and backgrounds – who marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in 1956, and the female members of the Black Panther Party draped in leather and berets.

I thought of all the women around the world who have taken to the streets to demand their rights, and I thought about how women have always sacrificed their time and bodies in the name of a revolution – just as men have.

“You are our mothers and life companions, our comrades in struggle, and because of this fact you should by rights assert yourselves as equal partners in the joyful victory feasts of the revolution.” – Thomas Sankara, March 8 1987

Women have long been asserting ourselves as equal partners, but are we fully indulging in the feasts of revolution?

In my own country, South Africa, I would say that the answer is no. Women have been written out of history. When I learned the history of Apartheid in school, there was zero mention of any women. Not Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Not Albertina Sisulu. Not any of the other women who participated in the March of 1956. Not the women of the Black Consciousness Movement. I also remember learning about the Black Power Movement and hearing no mention of women like Angela Davis or Kathleen Cleaver.

Despite revolution, women still struggle for equality.

One current example is that the government in my country wants to expropriate land to the historic rightful owners. However, there is no clear plan as to how women should be included in this. We want ‘radical economic transformation’, but women are excluded from holding powerful positions. According to Africa Check, in South Africa women made up 72.5% of teachers and 37.3% of principals in public schools. The statistics in other fields are just as depressing.

Historically, the women’s rights movement has also been exclusive to middle-class white women.

This was shown by leaders of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the United States through the exclusion of black women. Why would you exclude a group of people who undergo even more oppression than you do?

Personally, I still think the #MeToo movement has mostly benefited white women in Hollywood and middle-class white women in the West. What has changed for girls and women in countries like mine because of #MeToo? To me, it seems like nothing at all.

In some countries it is still legal to mutilate a girl’s genitalia, despite widespread acknowledgement that female genital mutilation has absolutely no health benefits for girls and women. It is a way to ‘prepare’ girls for childbearing and marriage. With this in mind, where is this ‘sexual revolution’ the Western world speaks of?

These are sad truths, but I want to call on all my sisters worldwide to take a stance together.

Let us take a stance against oppression in all forms, so that society can reap the rewards of equality. Maya Angelou said, “Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women.” Let us be those kinds of women.

Why Our Digital Sisterhood Matters

“For me Girls’ Globe has been a space to raise my voice and speak for those who can’t do that in my country. Girls’ Globe means freedom of speech, connection with other girls around the world and digital sisterhood. Girls’ Globe has taught me the hunger we have as women to speak up and to put our stories on the table and realize we are united for change.”

Lorena Monroy, Girls’ Globe Blogger, Mexico

“Girls’ Globe is an alive community of globally minded women. It’s a mentorship program and a launching pad for its members. I can’t say enough about how something seemingly so straightforward can have such a long lasting impact on the people involved in it.”

Farahnaz Mohammed, Girls’ Globe Blogger Jamaica

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Girls’ Globe has helped me become a better storyteller, and most importantly, a better person and advocate for girls and women worldwide.”

Gabrielle Rocha Rios, Girls’ Globe Blogger Brazil/USA

“Girls’ Globe means sorority, empowerment, a platform that has allowed me and other women to share our stories and to remind us that what we have to say matters. It has also given me a chance to meet women from many different countries who I deeply admire. Needless to say, I am incredibly grateful to be part of this community.”

Mariana Lizárraga, Girls’ Globe blogger, Mexico

Illustration by Laiza Onofre

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Laiza Onofre, illustrator, Mexico

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Sanne Thijssen, Girls’ Globe blogger, The Netherlands


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4 Ways to Create Opportunities for the Next Generation

Celebrating International Women’s Day 2019 at the inaugural Girls Festival – organized by Reach A Hand Uganda (RAHU), Global Livingston Institute, Women Deliver and partners – got me in my feelings. 

 The Festival theme was ‘Gains from Equality’. It had me thinking about all the women who came before me and the opportunities they created for me to succeed in school, as well as in my personal and professional life. It reminded me of my mother’s stories of a time when the world refused to see girls and women as anything other than wives and mothers.

Creating opportunities for the next generation at the 2019 Girls Fest organised by Reach a Hand Uganda. 3 young women hold up a sign and smile.
2019 Girls Festival

Let us toast the movements that paved the way for women to do powerful things. 

We must honour the women who marched for us to vote, to get into the workforce and the political space. And not forgetting the women who made it possible for us to eat chicken and eggs. Yes, shocking I know, but there are several tribes in Uganda where not too long ago women were forbidden from eating chicken or eggs.

Despite numerous obstacles, the contributions of women in the past have eased the path for girls and women today.

We owe it to ourselves to create equal opportunities for the next generation of men and women. We owe our children true equality. I love lists, so here are 4 ways to create opportunities for the next generation of women and men.

1)     Reinvent Feminism

There are numerous misconceptions about what feminism is. Some people are reluctant to label themselves as feminist. I am often asked if I am a feminist. It scares me to respond to this question, because I may be viewed as a ‘bitter man hater’.

We should remind girls and women that feminism is not a bad word. Girls and women should know that feminism is about having choices. Carly Fiorina, the first woman to head a fortune 500 company, described a feminist as a woman who lives the life she chooses. “A woman may choose to have 5 children and home school them, she may choose to be CEO or run for president.”

Let us rework feminism by getting more men involved. Feminism is for everyone. Working with men and boys is key to achieving equality. They should be encouraged to stand alongside women to support gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Men and boys need to abandon all toxic masculinity. Harmful stereotypes should be thrown out to embrace respectful, mutually beneficial and healthy relationships.

2)     Create Safe Spaces for Girls and Women

The Girls Festival was such a safe space for girls and women to receive sexual and reproductive health services. It was a space for girls to be girls. We need to create rooms full of role models for girls to aspire to be like. We need to create worlds where everyone can feel safe, accepted, loved, challenged and encouraged.

3)     Mentorship and Positive Role Models

My biggest struggle over the years has been to find a great female role model who is also a young adult. I look up to former Vice President Specioza Kazibwe, however, I wish I had a female young adult to look up to. I’d love to have someone like me who is doing powerful things. We need to introduce the next generation to remarkable role models who are powerhouses and forces to be reckoned with. I particularly loved how the Girls Festival 2019 introduced us to role models like self-taught makeup artist Monalisa Umutoni.

4)     Invest in Women

The inaugural Girls Festival was a satellite event leading up to the Women Deliver 2019 Conference in Vancouver. Women Deliver’s mantra is that investing in women creates a ripple effect that yields multiple benefits, not only for individual women, but also for families and communities. Investments in women and girls are not mere acts of charity. They should be looked at as investments that can generate high returns for humanity.

These are just 4 ways we can create opportunities for the next generation. I know it won’t be easy, but every little action matter. Marie Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, famously said that the way to progress is neither swift nor easy.

Let us do whatever is in our power to pave the way for future generations to enjoy the gains from equality. I look forward to the opportunities we can create for the next generation.

Doreen Kihembo is a Communications Officer at Reach A Hand Uganda.

The Girls’ Globe Reading List

The Girl’s Globe Reading List is an introduction to some of the most important and pressing issues affecting society today. These are the voices, perspectives, ideas and opinions of women and girls from all over the world. Read, learn and feel inspired to take action!

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)

1. Campaigning for Care & Compassion in Ireland

“In the final weeks leading up to the referendum, the most important conversations were happening at the school gates or at kitchen tables over cups of tea.”

by Áine Kavanagh for International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)

2. The Victory of Imelda Cortez in El Salvador

“This is an amazing victory in a country widely considered to have the most extreme abortion ban in the world. But Imelda’s story is a reminder of the misogynistic justice systems we live in.”

by Lorena Monroy

3. Teenage Girls in Argentina Deserve Better

“Adolescent maternity rates are higher in communities living in poverty, where girls are also less likely to go to school or have access to healthcare and contraceptives.”

by Maria Rendo

4. Women in Rural Zimbabwe are Being Left Behind

“The fact that young women and adolescents in rural and remote communities are still struggling to access modern family planning methods – or even comprehensive sex education – is overlooked.”

by Yunah Bvumbwe

5. Breaking the Silence on Vulval Pain

“For years I thought painful was how sex was supposed to feel. Other women must experience this pain and just get on with it, right?”

by Sophie Bryson

Mental Health

1. These Tools are Helping me Handle Depression

“None of this is easy, I know. I am still trying and learning myself, but here are a few tools and tips I would like to share.”

by Chloé Sénéchal

2. My Not-So-Easy Mental Health Recovery Journey

“I don’t regret getting help for my mental health, but I do wish someone had told me how long and difficult the journey of treatment and recovery could be.”

by Gabrielle Rocha Rios

3. Tips for Supporting Someone Experiencing Depression

“Try not to make assumptions about your friends, some people are really positive and enthusiastic, but it doesn’t mean they are at peace within themselves. Some of us have become masters at hiding pain.”

by Chloé Sénéchal

4. Are You at Risk of Burnout Syndrome?

“Burnout syndrome is a form of chronic stress. It is an alarm clock to a more serious problem and needs to be addressed as early as possible.”

by Tariro Mantsebo

5. Postpartum Depression: the Danger of ‘Bad Mother’ Syndrome

“As I conversed with more mothers who had suffered from postpartum mood disorders, each one of their experiences cut deeper than the last. Every woman mentioned having to bottle up her emotions and recalled blaming her own self.”

by Chaarushi Ahuja

Menstruation

1. Nepalese Women are Dying in the Name of Tradition

“After hearing each news report on the death of a woman or girl in a menstrual shed, I ask myself: how many more women must die before social mindsets and attitudes change?”

by Pragya Lamsal

2. Why Sanitary Products Should be Free for Girls

“I believe that it’s imperative to provide free sanitary wear for disadvantaged girls in order to help secure a brighter future for all.”

by Yunah Bvumbwe

3. Menstrual Pain is a Public Health Matter

“I believe many other doctors, both male and female, have harboured similar thoughts. As a result, women to wait longer for medical attention and sometimes receive inadequate pain management.”

by Tariro Mantsebo

4. Menstrual Cups: Breaking the Bloody Taboo

“The menstrual cup has gained a lot of traction over the past year. By some it is seen as an eco-friendly hipster trend, but for women across the world it provides a cost-effective, safe way to manage periods.”

by Terri Harris

5. Taking Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder Seriously

“But PMS can turn into a debilitating and even life-threatening disorder that is unfortunately not nearly as well-known as it should be – premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

by Gabrielle Rocha Rios

The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and are not medical advice. If you are interested in raising your voice with Girls’ Globe, you can apply to join us!