Feminist solidarity has been closely associated with Africa for countless generations. Throughout history, we have observed women and girls actively practicing feminism in ways that are tailored to their particular circumstances. For instance, the Superb CBO in Kenya organized an International Day of the Girl Child event where they facilitated team-building activities, letter writing, and art drawing to raise awareness about #SRHR among adolescent girls. Similarly, Somaliland Y-Peer arranged a celebration on March 8th for International Women's Day as part of their efforts to empower women through the technology-driven Siraad Initiative in Hargeisa. The Women Deliver conference in Africa was a groundbreaking event that brought together thousands of feminists from across the continent. This historic gathering provided a unique platform for African feminist solidarity, enabling participants to connect, engage, and exchange knowledge. The conference aimed to overcome previous barriers such as visa restrictions and make it accessible for feminists from the global South to participate actively both in person and online hence the decision to host it in an African country. These efforts highlight the commitment of African feminists to fostering unity and solidarity within the continent, as well as their dedication to addressing gender inequalities and promoting women's empowerment in diverse contexts.

Even though there have been instances of feminist solidarity in Africa, it is important to acknowledge that feminism has faced significant backlash and criticism. The word "feminism" has often been misunderstood or purposely misinterpreted, leading to negative connotations associated with it. Many young women today, especially those who are connected through the internet, have witnessed derogatory statements like "I am not a feminist but..." or humorous TikTok videos mocking the concept of feminism. As a result, the true essence of feminism as a movement for the liberation of all women from patriarchal oppression can be overshadowed and silenced. With the existence of hashtags like #WomenAgainstFeminsm which is a a social media campaign that claims it gives women the chance to voice out their displeasure of modern feminism and its toxic culture”, feminism has unfortunately become so easy to vilify and misrepresent with its real meaning being lost in a sea of vitriol, confusion, infighting and bitterness that’s playing out in digital spaces.

Still, this does not take away from the amazing work thousands of feminists are doing across Africa and this we can see in countries like Kenya where the High Court of Kenya in Malindi recently affirmed that abortion care is a fundamental right under the Constitution of Kenya. It ruled that arbitrary arrests and prosecution of patients and health care providers for seeking or offering abortion services are illegal and also went ahead and directed the Kenyan parliament to enact an abortion law and public policy framework that aligned with the Kenyan Constitution 2010, a ruling that came in PAK and Salim Mohammed v. Attorney General where the case involved the right of a minor to receive reproductive care, the right of a clinician to treat her, and the constitutional obligations of Kenya under its Constitution.

In Sudan, many women joined the 2019 Sudan revolution which saw President Omar Al Bashir being overthrown after 30 years in power. These women, who came to be known as “Kandakat” after powerful Nubian queens, have achieved critical acclaim for their protests in front of the Army Central Command were extraordinary in the face of the systematic 30 years of suppression of their human rights. The Public Order Law that al-Bashir passed in 1996 was not only detrimental to ethnic minorities, but also to women who became ultimate targets of gender-based violence, public flogging, imprisonment, harassment, and confiscation of the property of those who toiled to eke out a living in the market. Although what the world has found to be an astonishing feat—Sudanese women’s role in the revolution—is by no means new in the world of women’s rights activism, their revolutionary zeal has, indeed, a long gestation period deeply steeped in history. 

In Ghana, feminists are showing us that media, particularly social media, are avenues by which feminist causes can be mainstreamed, brought into the public arena to raise awareness to bring up for public discourse, to push for change, and to envision freer societies as a collective. Embodying the true spirit of feminist solidarity, Ghanaian feminists early this year came together to collectively mourn Shakia Asamoah who was popularly known on Twitter as YaaAsantewaaBa and was well known for her feminist work in Ghanaian, African, and Black feminist communities. Shakia Asamoah who sadly passed away at the age of 31 was a feminist educator, researcher, data engineer, and a Ph.D. student studying education in policy. Shakia’s death, which not only shocked the feminist and queer community both on and off social media but was a unifying factor for feminists across the world when hundreds of feminist activists organizers and campaigners all came together on social media to pay homage to a life well lived and while at it hold space for each other to grieve, a collective show of solidarity that was so beautiful to watch, one that highlighted the beauty of feminist sibling hood and solidarity. Under the hashtag #ShakiaForever, feminists from all over the world penned beautiful messages about Shakia and her life, paying tribute to her and the amazing work she had done in the feminist community in Africa. You can read more about Shakia’s work here.

In Zambia, women are pushing back against state policing which saw organizers of the #WomensMarchZambia: Ann Kazingha Holland, Gladys Mwangala Monde (Co-Founders of Sistah Sistah Foundation Zambia), and their colleague Chilombu Kabambi get arrested on 4 of March 2023. The annual Women’s March organized by Sistah Sistah Foundation alongside other feminist volunteers since 2019 has been used as an advocacy strategy to highlight the plight of women in Zambia who face inter-sectional systems of oppression such as patriarchy and homophobia, among other forms of violence like sexual, physical, and emotional violence. Statistically speaking, over 20 thousand cases of gender-based violence were reported countrywide in 2021 by the Zambian police, and nearly 80% of these were directed against women and girls. Following these arrests, the organizers of the Sistah Sistah Foundation faced endless backlash and became targets of online bullying for days with untrue stories about them being told both on social media and in the press. Despite this, they did not back down and instead went on to release a powerful statement condemning state policing of women’s bodies and calling for solidarity across Zambia and Africa.

Uganda on the other hand has been an example of what African feminist solidarity looks like through their Uganda feminist forum which has been a unifying entity for feminist activists across Uganda and part of East Africa for the last 15 years. The Uganda Feminist Forum (UFF) which first held its inaugural meeting in January 2008 at the Nile Resort Hotel in Jinja, Uganda has worked at ensuring the feminist movement is strengthened both at national and regional levels with its 2022 convening under the theme “Feminism as Practice” creating an independent space that brought together Ugandan feminists to reflect and deliberate on key issues of concern to their movement. Postponed a few times and finally being held in the middle of a pandemic, the convening provided a space to interrogate the ways in which feminists in Uganda live their politics as feminists with an aim of strengthening their movement in readiness for the difficult task of rebuilding and transforming their world into a just one.

DRC has also grappled with cases of sexual violence with over 50 women accusing The World Health Organization workers of alleged sexual exploitation and abuse during an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In September 2020, reports emerged of alleged sexual abuse during the Ebola response from 2018 to 2020 in DRC’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces and these included accusations against WHO personnel and contractors, among others with allegations further including officials exchanging sex for jobs, and then forcing abortions on those who became pregnant. This has seen women in the media in the Democratic Republic of Congo (148th) working with the UN to support victims of sexual exploitation and abuse and to inform communities as to how to report abuses with these community-based reporting networks using theatre, songs, quizzes, radio dramas, and cartoons to expand and spread awareness.

In conclusion, feminism in Africa is a robust and dynamic force, confronting emerging challenges encountered by women and girls. From Uganda's intersectional feminist community's advocacy for solidarity, to the DRC's response to sexual abuse allegations, the actions of feminist groups across Africa demonstrate the relentless pursuit of justice and equality in the face of adversity. This often takes the form of both reactive and proactive measures, which include advocating for victims' rights, initiating constructive dialogues, and fostering empowerment through education. The essence of African feminism transcends borders, reflecting a collective resilient spirit that refuses to bow to oppressive forces. While the circumstances may be unique in each country, the underlying principles of African feminism remain consistent: the fight against gender-based oppression, the demand for equality and autonomy, and the liberation from traditional oppressive structures with these 6 countries providing examples we need on how feminism in action reflects in our daily lives, work, and beliefs.

Author Biography

I am Afrika, a 27-year-old radical African lesbian feminist from Kisumu, Kenya. I am currently the Executive Director of Kisumu Feminists Society which is a young feminist organization that works with women, trans, and gnc persons and is based in Western Kenya. I am also a feminist writer, storyteller, organizer, movement builder, resource mobilizer, and facilitator with close to 8 years of experience actively working with young LBQ women and GNC persons particularly LBQT+ youth in Western Kenya.

Written and compiled by Nyar Afrika.