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space for women - Interview with Talent Jumo, Young Women's
Leadership Initiative (YOWLI)
October 06, 2010
Inside / Out with Talent Jumo
View audio file details
inspired the formation of the Young
Women's Leadership Initiative?
In 2007 a group
of young women came together to discuss issues, things that were
happening around us. We realised that spaces were getting smaller
and most young women weren't able to participate because of
the environment - it was getting volatile. It had also been unfriendly
out there for young women to come out and speak. So we thought we
should create our own space.
Our focus is
young women and leadership, but we have also decided to look at
sexual and reproductive health and rights. We felt that it was important
for young women to be able to relate to themselves, to know their
bodies so that they can gain some form of control over their bodies
and their sexuality. It's only when we are comfortable that
we can then manoeuvre into the public space and assert ourselves
in those spaces.
all the things that young women are ordinarily concerned about;
school, getting a husband, a job, etc; how does YOWLI get young
women to think about and actively participate?
The fact that
we are talking about our bodies and sexuality is what makes it possible
for us to maintain that interest. We are talking about things that
are happening to us everyday. In really addressing issues that are
affecting us now, and also trying to see how we can live a more
meaningful life and be able to participate more fully in other spaces.
is an interesting topic for people?
It is. You
know people get excited, and when you start talking you never finish.
For us we thought we would start talking about issues, which have
been deemed 'sacred cows'. We have players who have
been looking at this thematic area for a long time, but not talking
about abortion for example. We know that women are aborting. And
we know that if a woman wants an abortion they will go ahead and
have one. These are the real issues that young women are facing.
Issues of lesbianism, bisexuality and being gay, those are issues
that we thought we have to talk about it. Issues of sex work: we
have a programme where we are helping sex workers to organise through
the sisterhood agenda.
does the subject of Feminism relate to YOWLI's work amongst
YOWLI is a
feminist organisation. We share the same principles [as feminism],
we believe that women have rights; women's rights are human
rights. Human rights are indivisible and they are universal. These
are all issues we are pushing through. But because we are at different
levels we felt that it would be important to continuously build
our own capacities, to strengthen our understanding of feminism,
and also to reflect on our lives.
circle that YOWLI is currently hosting is called the Chimurenga
Sisterhood. It's unique in that it's not just an academic
space. We look at feminism from our lived realities. We want to
bring it into our homes and our lives.
a brand of Feminism that may be considered uniquely African?
As a feminist
circle we have just started exploring what feminism should be for
Africans. I think this feminism for me would be a feminism that
[understands] that there is need for us to look at our background
and traditions and see the good therein, and be able to build on
that, rather than labelling all traditional practices as negative.
Take for example the practice of roora, personally I feel that if
we do away with roora, we may have trouble. Women may find themselves
in huge trouble, where men may feel that women today are worthless.
Creating a balance would be for people to be able to exchange gifts.
The imbalance comes in because a woman is being equated to a herd
of cattle and some cash.
you say this is the beginning of a Zimbabwean Feminist movement?
I believe that
feminism is a title that has been stigmatised for a very long time.
The arrival of the gender-mainstreaming ideology swept out feminist
ideologies. Most women's groups wanted to be identified with
being gender activists and not really feminists. Some people believe
that feminist has something to do with being radical extremist pro-abortionists
who don't take time to think. We have had a women's
movement, we have had a gender sector, but I also believe that women's
groups have tended to mainstream gender. Most organisations have
taken that approach and used it as an excuse for not really committing
resources and time to look at women's' empowerment issues.
It has watered down the struggle in a way.
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