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Archive for August, 2012

“For every great feminist leader we can think of from anywhere in the world, past and present has one thing in common: she led by challenging and disturbing the status quo.”  Srilatha Batliwala,2012

Leadership from a feminist standpoint is informed by the power of the feminist lens, which enables the feminist leader to identify injustices and oppressions and inspires her to facilitate the development of more inclusive, holistic approaches. Feminist leaders are motivated by fairness, justice, and equity and strive to keep issues of gender, race, social class, sexual orientation, and ability at the forefront.

Feminist leadership is also commonly referred to transformational leadership which is concerned with causing social change; and achieving   gender justice. For any kind of feminist transformational leadership, leaders need to undergo a process of personal reflection, consciousness-raising, awakening and internalization of feminism.

This process in part of Isis-WICCE’s Exchange Programme Institute that brings together women from conflict and post conflict situations across the world to acquire  and share skills and knowledge  in peace building and conflict transformation so as to take lead addressing post conflict recovery and development issues in their communities.

This year the institute brought  together 34 women  leaders and activists from Asia and Africa who acquired knowledge and skills in skills in feminist approaches to conflict; sexual and reproductive health and rights; research methods and documentation of women’s realities and feminist peace building and leadership.

Participants demonstrating different ways of challenging social injustice during the training

Participants had an opportunity to reflect and share  their personal experiences of resisting and challenging  injustice and oppression in their communities and how they  managed to overcome and brought  about social change as  grounded in feminist leadership.

Wekoweu Tsuha from  India shared her reflection on how she led a group of activists and   utilised the access to information Act together  and   asked public authorities for a specific rural government programme worth several hundred thousand rupees in one village which was not getting funds that they were supposed to get . They filed a case under this Act and found out that a lot of money had been sent and was not reaching the actual beneficiaries. This information was shared with the common people and started raising questions on the expenditure. The people were able to demand for accountability and those who were involved were exposed and resigned.

Nadia  Carine from Central African Republic shared her experience on the  fact finding mission  she conducted on the situation of prison inmates  in her country.  in prison cells  she found out that  male and female inmates were sharing one cell  and female inmates  were sexually  abused by the male inmates especially rape. She wrote a report about the situation and presented to relevant authorities including the UNDP which took up the issue and as a result a  women’s cell was constructed.

Angele DRC intervened in the case of a woman who was wrongly accused of witch craft because her husband had found her with strange leaves in the bedroom. The woman had brought the leaves to treat her body from the injuries sustained as a result of domestic violence. Her husband went around telling  the village that his  wife was a sorcerer. The wife  was beaten and chased away from the village.  Angele intervened in her situation and took her case to a human rights organisation which  hired a lawyer to handle it. In the end justice was served and the husband apologised to her, gave her a piece of  land  to support her  raise her children.

Henda from  Tunisia her story  that  after her  studies her  family decided that she should not  work in public service as  journalist  instead she should get married. She  resisted and started writing on the internet and got support through  her  blog where she  met people  who encouraged her  and helped her to  get out of the isolation and this  gave her  courage to continue. Consequently her parents allowed her to work as a journalist and she started developing her career.

Therese from Zimbabwe was able to secure proper housing for over 80 orphans and other vulnerable children when the government was demolishing  houses which were not secure.  “I was afraid to approach the government so I started by engaging the media despite fearing being threatened”.  She engaged the media to bring the issues of orphans and vulnerable children to public attention and also contacted UNICEF which constructed the houses for the orphans and  also 100 families were offered proper housing by the government.

These are a few stories of women that illustrate feminist leadership in practice with a transformative agenda even without the formal power or authority do do so and with very marginal resources  and consequently bringing about social justice. The stories also show that feminist leadership requires agility and resilience because of the likelihood of backlash.

Interesting though is that many of these women did not see themselves as feminist leaders until the concept of feminist leadership was interrogated during the training. The training therefore cleared the conceptual cloud, illuminated the practice of feminist leadership and demonstration of social change.

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