Our Lived Realities: A young Gambian feminist reflects on solidarity, feminism and claiming our rights
| By Mariatou Newlands
From the moment we (#YAFDialogues) started structuring our session “Our Lived Realities: Voice of Young African Feminists”, my excitement for both the 13th AWID International Forum and the Black Feminisms Forum (BFF) started to grow. It kept growing taller with the funding I received from the AWID Access Fund, and it grew even bigger on the day I landed in Bahia, Brazil at Costa do Sauípe!
I was so excited
because I knew I would be in the midst of over 1000 feminists from across the globe, and I would be interacting with like-minded individuals, forging relationships, sharing ideas, and most importantly collectively pushing the feminist agenda forward! I can gladly say that this excitement was not wasted but indeed turned out to be an expectation met!
The BFF was exceptional! It made me realize that feminism is not about declaring yourself a feminist, but actually working to advance the feminist agenda without ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’. It confirmed my belief that feminism need not only be portrayed orally, it can also be expressed through various forms of art! The BFF made me acknowledge that we, young feminists, are needed to push and strengthen the feminist agenda, and as a result, we should be included in decision-making regarding feminist futures. The generation gap between the older and younger feminists should be bridged.
Even though I am a self-declared feminist for five years now, the AWID Forum was indeed an eye opener! Throughout my feminist journey, this is the first time I have attended sessions focused purely on the realities of violation of the rights of lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LBT) women. It was an experience that gave me the opportunity to comprehend the extent of discrimination faced by LBT women and the importance of understanding that they are women with rights, and these rights should be respected regardless of where they find themselves.
I am also thrilled
to share my observation about the solidarity shown throughout the AWID Forum and the BFF. The solidarity from feminists during those seven days was one I have never experienced in any feminist gathering I have attended before. The fact that there was solidarity made me feel powerful as a feminist! It gave me the confidence to participate in the sessions I attended, it gave the confidence to share my lived realities from my country during our session “Our Lived Realities: Voice of Young African Feminists” and most of all, it made me more confident to once again declare “I am a feminist!”. Solidarity is an act that should be widely replicated in our various communities. If individuals or organizations working with the same objectives show solidarity to one another, the targeted audience will acknowledge that what is being advocated for is not an individual concern but a collective one that shall not be overlooked. This can express power, influence and resistance, leading to what the advocates want to achieve.
one important message I took away from the Forum during “Our Lived Realities: Voice of Young African Feminists” is that one must care about all other women’s rights issues, not only those of one’s expertise or only those that fall within one’s field of knowledge. As a feminist, courage is essential because it enables us to talk about neglected women’s rights issues that, in our societies, are often referred to as “contentious”. My opinion is that there is nothing “contentious” in claiming my right because it is my entitlement. So, why should it be referred to as “contentious” to the extent that I will not talk about it or claim it?
As a feminist, I believe that all rights of women are important and there is nothing “contentious” about any of those rights. This is a belief all feminists must have!
About the author
Mariatou Newlands, an AWID member, is a 23 year old “feminist, youth activist and human rights advocate” from Gambia and part of Think Young Women (TYW) – The Gambia, a young women led non‐profit organization.
This article is part of the “AWID Members Reflect on the 13th AWID International Forum” series.