Why I am a feminist/humanist
My first encounter with feminism was at a “Breaking barriers empowering young women to participate in democratic politics” workshop organised by the Young Women African Leaders Movement in partnership with the British Council Movers and Shakers. The facilitator was Nemata Majeks-Walker, Founder and the first president of 50/50 Group of Sierra Leone a non-partisan organisation, advocating and campaigning for increased political participation and equal representation of women in decision-making processes and initiatives at all levels in Sierra
At the workshop we sang a song with the words side by side, no longer men in front and the women at the back but women and men side by side. What we were simply advocating for is creating a political environment that allows at least 50% female participation by breaking barriers created by the predominantly patriarchal political environment. Though I was a participant at the workshop I did not understand what feminism was all about and propagated the stereotypes surrounding that identity. I believed in equality of women but was not convicted to advocate for it nor did I see the need.
Fast forward a couple of years later I was privileged to be part of the African Dream Leadership Forum. There were only two male participants surrounded by intelligent, innovative and inspirational young women leaders. Interactions with them opened up a new perspective of the untapped potential of young Zimbabwean and African women. I imagined how much impact they will have in our society if they were not to be discriminated on the basis of their gender. I then got into an interesting discussion with one critical thinker who is now a lawyer about the negative connotation surrounding the term feminism. She then asked me one simple question which concluded the whole argument and made me realise my ignorance. She asked if I thought women were equal and deserve equal opportunities. I hesitantly said yes and then she labelled me a feminist. At that moment I felt a bit insulted because of my perception of that identity and my association of it with women. I then questioned my reaction and if it meant that I viewed women as inferior and used the term in a derogatory way. That was the beginning of a journey in trying to understand the privilege I have as a male and why there was the so called feminist movement.
Early this year I joined fellow health students and professionals from across the globe in Gulu, Northern Uganda. We spent a month looking beyond the biological basis of disease in a Social Medicine Course run by SocMed Global. I got to get an international perspective of women rights, gender equality and equity which cemented my belief that women deserved more. I realised how gender related discrimination and violence were risk factors to poor health outcomes and influenced health seeking behaviour of women. I then decided to reflect the impact of gender inequality in my life and community.
As a brother I am a feminist because I believe my sisters are amazing intelligent women who deserve to realize their potential. I see great leaders in them and women of great influence. I believe most of them are even more superior than I am in intellect and the sky is the limit if we were to dismantle the barriers they face in our communities.
As an uncle and future parent I am a feminist because I want to help create a safe and secure environment for my nieces and future daughters. I do not want them to live in fear of being sexually harassed or abused. I want them to be able to express themselves and exercise their freedoms without being limited by their gender. I want them to compete with my nephews and sons in an environment where being of a female gender will not be considered as a disadvantage.
As a health professional I am a feminist because I believe empowerment of women is essential in realizing a healthy and prosperous nation. If women are more informed and have power concerning their health especially reproductive health we will definitely see a decline in maternal mortality rates. I am firmly against child marriages because it is a form of social captivity and gender based abuse for the child and gross violation of their rights as children. Child marriages stem from a patriarchal belief system of viewing young girls as inferior and their sole purpose being to eventually be married and bear children. Hence the need to change mind-sets and perception of women and pushing for gender equity that will help speed up their empowerment and help overcome the barriers they face.
As a male I am a feminist because in partnership with women, I have responsible in helping create an environment safe them. I should stand up to my fellow men and discourage sexism. This sounds extremely chauvinist and might get all knives out but the truth is we need to work together as man and women to create a generation which will end problems relating to gender discrimination. I am not a woman and will never fully empathize with them actually that’s almost impossible. I might know of their struggles but will not fully understand them because of the privilege I currently have as a male. I therefore am at risk of underplaying their struggles. Women know what is ideal for them and the least I can do is be supportive instead of being a hindrance. According to my dictionary a Feminist is a person who supports the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. I support Chimamanda Ngozie’s suggestion that We should all be feminist.