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Women's Activism in Africa

Women's Activism in Africa

Balghis Badri | Aili Mari Tripp


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Throughout Africa, growing numbers of women are coming together and making their voices heard, mobilising around causes ranging from democracy and land rights to campaigns against domestic violence. In Tanzania and Tunisia, women have made major gains in their struggle for equal political rights, and in Sierra Leone and Liberia women have been at the forefront of efforts to promote peace and reconciliation. While some of these movements have been influenced by international feminism and external donors, increasingly it is African women who are shaping the global struggle for women’s rights.

Bringing together African authors who themselves are part of the activist groups, this collection represents the only comprehensive and up-to-date overview of women’s movements in contemporary Africa. Drawing on case studies and fresh empirical material from across the continent, the authors challenge the prevailing assumption that notions of women’s rights have trickled down from the global north to the south, showing instead that these movements have been shaped by above all the unique experiences and concerns of the local women involved.

Balghis Badri is a professor of social anthropology and director of the Regional Institute for Gender, Diversity, Peace and Rights at Ahfad University for Women, Sudan. She has previously taught at the universities of Khartoum and Riyadh, and was head of research at the Arab Centre for Training and Research in Tunis. In addition to her academic research, she is active in struggles for women’s legal rights and empowerment, has headed several NGOs, and has worked as a consultant on gender issues to several UN agencies and government ministries.

Aili Mari Tripp is a professor of political science and Evjue Bascom professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States. She has published extensively on gender and politics and on women’s movements in Africa and globally. She is author of several award-winning books, such as Women and Power in Postconflict Africa (2015) and co-author of African Women’s Movements: Transforming Political Landscapes (2009).

‘This compact volume on women’s activism, by many of the most outstanding scholars in the field, is among the best and most useful I have seen. The editors, bolstered by excellent contributions, turn conventional wisdom about African women on its head.’
Sondra Hale, UCLA (Emerita)

‘This book is distinctive for its critical analysis on issues around African women’s movements and mobilisations. The contributors represent scholarship and activism from diverse regions, and their work broadens our understanding of current African feminist discourses.’
Josephine Beoku-Betts, Florida Atlantic University

‘Coming from African scholars, this captivating book makes a much needed contribution to the current literature. Not only does it provide new perspectives and insights, but it also highlights the diversity of activism across the continent. This is a must read.’
Kathleen Fallon, Stony Brook University

‘Harnesses women’s voices and experiences across Africa to help build a common heritage of protest and activism which is normally left out of histories of the struggles of African states. It is a must read for all those interested in knowing what African women have been doing and continue to do in the African continent.’
Wanjiku Kabira, University of Nairobi, Kenya

'Women’s Activism in Africa is an act of epistemological social justice, as it reveals the important, yet overlooked, role that women have been playing on the continental and global stage.'
International Feminist Journal of Politics

'An enjoyable, informative read, a concise yet richly detailed and timely addition to knowledge on women’s activism in Africa, and a strong foundation for research on young African feminisms … invaluable reading for students and scholars of feminist politics all over the world.'
Social Movement Studies

'Badri and Tripp have assembled a remarkable collec-tion of essays by impressive, accomplished women that challenges masculinist histories of political change and challenges.'
African Studies Review

'A valuable and thought-provoking volume. In illuminating less familiar aspects of women’s politics in Africa, [the book] contributes to our wider understanding of the dynamics of (national) women’s movements and of the contemporary global movement for women’s rights.'
Commonwealth and Comparative Politics

'This is an excellent contribution to the literature on African feminism and international women’s rights agendas … valuable to students and researchers of African politics, development studies, human rights and gender studies, as well as policymakers.'
Journal of Modern African Studies

'A very inspiring and necessary read at a time when women's voices are regularly muffled.'
Strategic Review for Southern Africa

'(An) excellent collection of essays on women’s activism in Africa ... The volume’s message is thus both celebratory and deeply realistic.'

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Front cover Front cover
Title iii
Copyright iv
Contents v
Acknowledgements vi
1. African influences on global women’s rights: an overview 1
Introduction 1
Changes in women’s mobilisation 3
New feminist influences 4
African influences on women’s rights globally 6
Leaders in the political representation of women 10
Leaders in finance and entrepreneurship 14
Contributions to peace-making and peacebuilding 17
Cultural rights and women’s rights 18
Outline of this book 22
Conclusions 29
References 30
2. The evolution of the women’s movement in Sierra Leone 33
Background 34
The women’s movement prior to the war 35
The women’s movement during the war 38
The post-war women’s movement 42
Achievements after the war 42
Challenges to the women’s movement 43
The way forward 46
3. Market women’s associations in Ghana 48
Introduction 48
Study context 49
Informal economy workers as political actors 50
Existing associations and their characteristics 53
Functions of the market associations 56
Organisational challenges of the associations 57
Conclusion 58
References 59
4. Tunisian women’s literature of denunciation 61
Early steps towards rights for Tunisian women 63
French, Egyptian, Russian and Lebanese women alongside Tunisian women 65
The demands of intellectuals and feminists 68
The Personal Status Code 72
Literature and commitment 72
The literature of denunciation and the struggle for a new public morality 83
The new literature of denunciation in the context of the Arab Spring 87
Conclusion 92
References 94
5. The Moroccan feminist movement (1946–2014) 97
Introduction 97
Two main feminist trends 98
A comparison of secular and Islamic feminisms 115
Concluding remarks: an alternative? 119
References 119
6. Women’s rights and the women’s movement in Sudan (1952–2014) 121
Introduction 121
Theoretical considerations and regional trends: a framework to understand the Sudanese women’s movement 123
The Sudanese women’s movement (1952–2 014) 124
A first experience with democracy (1956–58) 128
The Abboud military regime (1958–64), the October Revolution, and a second experiment with democracy (1964–69) 131
The May revolution and the military regime under Nimeiri (1969–85) 133
The ‘April Uprising’ and a third experiment with democratisation (1985–89) 137
The Revolution of National Salvation: a military Islamist regime (1989 onwards) 142
Conclusions 151
References 154
7. The women’s movement in Tanzania 156
Women during the struggle for independence 156
President Nyerere and the Women’s Union 158
International influences 163
New women’s rights mobilisation 165
Asserting associational autonomy 168
Women in politics 171
Gender budgeting 173
Goals and challenges of women’s rights mobilisation 175
The face of feminism in Tanzania today 177
Conclusions 179
References 181
8. The women’s movement in Kenya 184
Introduction 185
The character of the women’s movement in the postcolonial era 190
The women’s movement at the national level 190
Women’s formal and informal mobilisation at the grassroots level 194
The efforts of individual women 195
The efforts of women parliamentarians through KEWOPA 199
Constitutional and legislative reform in women’s rights 199
Conclusions 203
References 203
9. Women organising for liberation in South Africa 205
Introduction 205
Feminism and South Africa 206
Women in the transition: women’s response to political change in the 1990s 209
The Women’s National Coalition and the Charter campaign 211
Women’s organisations and feminism: post-1994 elections 216
Engaging the state: violence against women 218
Conclusions 221
References 223
10. African women activists: contributions and challenges ahead 225
Introduction 225
African contributions to changing international norms and practices 226
The challenges of patriarchal ideology 231
Religious and secular ideologies 232
Building alliances 233
The lack of democracy 235
The postcolonial and military resistance period 237
From theory to praxis 237
Logistical challenges 238
Conclusion 240
References 240
About the editors and contributors 241
Index 244
Back cover Back cover