Intersectional Feminism: Breaking Barriers, Building Communities & Reimagining Futures.

“Old yam has to rot in order that new yam can grow. Where is the earth? Who is going to do the planting?” From Aidoo’s 1969 short fiction collection, “No Sweetness Here”.

Feminism is a nebulous concept in that, there are as many feminisms as there are women. At its core, feminism; the radical notion that women are people, has strived for more than just equality. Intersectional feminism, an analytical framework that acknowledges, theories and explains the interconnectedness of various forms of oppression, takes it a step further.

As bell hooks rightly put it, “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression.”

The complexity of oppression based on race, gender, class, capitalism, colonialism, and many other aspects has necessitated an approach to feminism from an intersectional standpoint. By definition, intersectional feminism pushes us to examine the nuances and unique experiences created by different intersecting forms of oppression and, through theorising and community engagement, denounce and abolish these systems of oppression.

At Development Dynamics, we are committed to expanding our knowledge of intersectional feminism, engaging with it in different media and forums and practising it in our work and way of being. We acknowledge that to effect change within the social impact sector, we need to approach this from a learner’s perspective and work with other stakeholders to abolish these systems of oppression.

In line with systems thinking as one of our approaches to work, and as a signatory to the African Feminists Charter, we are motivated to do the planting, as others before us have, with intentionality, grit and hope for a brighter future. 

This paper has dissected different themes that examine the state of intersectional feminist leadership in Africa. Notably, a lot of work done by individuals and communities alike continues to shape the future of leadership. It has created a collective consciousness of intersectional feminism as a concept and practice. By looking at its contributions, emerging trends, and ongoing challenges and efforts, this paper offers a bird’ s-eye perspective specifically tailored for the social impact sector, with full knowledge that the benefits of intersectional feminism are far-reaching beyond the social impact sector.

Contributions of Intersectional Feminism

In this series, we will be looking at each of these themes, with this first one addressing the contributions of intersectional feminism. IF has transformed the social impact sector by questioning and broadening definitions to accommodate issues surrounding LGBTQIA rights or queerness in Africa, disability rights, and climate justice, all while recognising their interconnectedness. While these definitions exist in many forms, they are not well articulated and curated for African womxn. Reclaiming and rewording some of these concepts to house each individual with all their diversities has been hard and continuous work that has proved tough but fruitful.

IF has also insisted that we centre marginalised voices by prioritising the lived experiences of African womxn and other historically marginalised groups. This is important in aligning with affirmative action or operating from a performative stance and ensuring that their needs are addressed with the sensitivity and urgency needed. While the practicality of it is still in its baby steps, there have been great improvements, especially in community organising where different women and individuals actively centre their own needs and together resolve the challenges they face from the inside out.

To effectively empower voices, intersectional feminism champions inclusive community and movement building. Challenging traditional patriarchal narratives and denouncing harmful cultural perspectives, IF has created a space for all voices to be heard and further empowered to take action. The very existence of hierarchies is still a systemic impediment that exists in religion and politics, which are arguably the aspects that dictate where and to whom power is vested. Intersectional feminism is a call to reimagine a present where each individual is empowered to contribute to the community and, therefore, build a future that is by and for them.

These are just some of the many contributions of intersectional feminism. To further document other contributions that would not fit in this dossier, we invite you to share with us some of your work within the community, which is a direct contribution and reflection of intersectional feminism. As we unpack these concepts in part, we hope this will be a space to convene and engage in discourse that aims to challenge systems of oppression, build a community of intersectional feminists and allies and celebrate the wins and accomplishments of intersectional feminists in Africa.