Feminist Digital Activism in Africa

I am currently helping on researching case studies for a toolkit that JASS (Just Associates) Southern Africa is undertaking as part of their mission of sustaining feminist movement building and organising. Since JASS is working mostly in southern Africa, we’ve tried to focus on examples coming from the region, we’ve included the crowd-mapping platform HarrassMap in Egypt, which I covered already in this post.
Although you can find a lot of resources and examples of online activism, finding cases of innovative usage of media in Africa by activist, moreover feminist activist is quite a challenge! While I’ve been researching cases, two quick observations came to mind: one, I was expecting to find less examples on the continent due to issues in regards to access to the internet and lower levels of computer literacy, but one country stood out with the huge amount of examples available: urban South African organisations and movements are definitely hoping the digital bandwagon, which can definitely be explained by the high level of mobile connectivity in the country and increasingly cheaper access to the Internet. Two, I struggled to find examples from the “islands” (Madagascar, Mauritus, Reunion, etc.)… is it because of poor internet access, of little feminist organising? I still don’t have the answers.

Be that as it may, we still were able to find interesting and meaningful cases of feminist digital (and non digital!) media activism. I thought I would list here the compelling examples we have found so far. Do you have any suggestions?

JASS Digital Stories: Ampliying Women’s Voices (Southern Africa)

In 2008,JASS held in collaboration with Women’sNet workshops on digital story telling as part of its Feminist Movement Building Initiative in Southern Africa. Digital stories are production made and broadcasted through digital media, through a method that focuses on recording and documenting women’s experiences using a storytelling process. Through the workshops participants are invited to produce and tell their on stories  in their own voice using video, images and sound. The digital story telling method used by JASS and Women’sNet brings the attention to the importance of controlling the medium, the choice of words, the pictures and the music by participants in the process with the aim of empowering women through story telling and through the control of technology.

Stories from women in Namibia, South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, have been broadcasted on JASS’ website and on Youtube as tools to reflect, on issues of power and resistance, patriarchy, HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive rights, motherhood and feminist organising). One of the stories from Namibia produced in those workshop has been used alongside other advocacy tools in a recent case against forced sterilisation of HIV positive women in the country.


Mothertongue flashmob (South Africa)

The Mothertongue Project is a collective of women artists, facilitators and healing practicioners whose principal work is to foster healing and transformation through participatory approaches that integrate art methodologies. In parthnership with SWEAT, Gender Dynamix, The Southern African Media and Gender Institute (SAMGI), and the Saartjie Baartman Center, Mothertongue has pulled out an advocacy flash mob against different forms violence. On June 25 2011, 40 advocates met at the Cape Town train station, and at a specific time agrred in advance by the participants started acting scenes of violence in the middle of a crowd of busy commuters, pausing in the middle of the action and standing still. After less than a minute the advocated dispersed and were on their way out. A short videoclip of the event was produced and broadcasted through Youtube by the organisations participating in the event the link was distributed through social media platforms and websites of sympathising organisations all over South Africa.


Agenda (South Africa)

Agenda is a feminist organisation based in South Africa that is describes itself as a feminist media project. Through the organisations of feminist dialogues, the publication of newsletters and podcasts, the organisation contributes the the production of gendered knowledge and knowledge of gender on the continent. Agenda as produced and is broadcasting through their website a series of podcasts on different topics related the feminism and feminist politics. Topics like girlhood in Southern Africa, Women and the environment, poverty, the legal system, access to basic services and feminist organising have been touched by those podcasts. Podcasts are accessible on Agenda’s website at the following address: http://www.agenda.org.za/podcasts/


Uhaki News (Democratic Republic of the Congo)


Uhaki News ya Wanawake (Justice for Women in swahili) is the website of the Women’s Journalist Collective, a group 25 women journalists from the provinces of South and North Kivu. Their website: www.uhakinews.net the journalists present multimedia stories on justice and human rights in the East of the country. In this zone of armed conflict, women are reporting stories of interest for women and speak about the realities of women by using videos and online radio shows in french and in swahili. Melanie Gouby, multimedia producer of the project argues for the relevance of online news platform made by women for women: “ In a society dominated by men, as it is the case in the Congo, women journalists have to work twice as hard to be recognised. With this platform, their contributions is accessible the world over. In parallel to this website, their news  production is also broadcasted by local radios in the Kivus, reaching people who don’t have access to the internet. Journalists from Uhaki cover a diverse range of topics including electoral processes, children’s access to justice, sexual harassment, and the right of women to inheritance. Radio podcasts can be accessed at the following address: http://www.uhakinews.net/radio/ .

Sister Namibia Magazine

In 1989, on the eve of Namibia gaining its independence, a group of feminist activist founded Sister Namibia to give women a voice in the building of a democratic post-colonial society. The organization, started the Sister Namibia magazine as a vehicle to foster women’s voices. The organization now engages in many activities including education research and advocacy for women’s rights but still keeps an important space for the creation, the production and the broadcasting of media. Liz Frank and Elizabeth /Khaxas of Sister Namibia explain the objectives on working on a print media project:

Through our bi-monthly Sister Namibia magazine we raise awareness among women, men and young people of the ways in which political, social, cultural, legal and economic systems of power control girls and women. We also profile women leaders in all fields of society, advocate for and inform about gender-related law reform, and oppose and challenge all forms of sexism, racism, homophobia and other discourses and practices that oppress and divide people. We print 10 000 copies of each edition and distribute them nationally through NGO networks, as well as to subscribers and libraries around the world (Feminist Africa, issue 6, 2006).

The Magazine covers issues affecting women in Namibia but also all over the African continent, including health issues specific to women, sex work, intergenerational dialogue or the representations of women in democratic spaces.



Outras Vozes Newsletter (Mozambique)


Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) is an organisation based in Mozambique, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland Zambia and Zimbabwe that deals with women’s rights issues in Southern Africa. Since more than 10 years, the Mozambican office of WLSA has been producing a newsletter, designed to meet various needs, including the dissemination of research results of WLSA, fostering debates on laws and policies that impact the life of women, the realisation of equal rights between women and men and access to resources. The WLSA wishes through their newsletter to present new approaches that characterises their feminist activism. The title of the newsletter, Outras Vozes, meaning Other Voices, as been chosen to express to vocation of the newsletter to present debates that are not normally found in the public space. Outras Vozes is published quarterly in Portuguese and once a year in English with a print run of 2000 copies distributed for free.



The One in Nine Campaign (South Africa)

The One in Nine Campaign was established in 2006 in reaction to the rape trial of Jacob Zuma (now president of South Africa), to express solidarity with the victim, but also with other women who speak out in cases of rape and sexual violence, as according to research only one in nine rape survivors report their case to the police. The One in Nine Campaign, a coalition of m25 organisations and individual members across South Africa, has used innovative ways to advocate for the sexual rights of women. The campaign as made diverse interventions and disruptions with activist wearing t-shirts demonstrating meaningful slogans like: “sexual violence = silence”, “solidarity with women who speak out”, “stop the war on women’s bodies” or activist wearing t-shirts portraying them as different type of victims of sexual violence like “stabane”, “foreigner”, “lesbian”. Activists of the campaign have been staging protests during the 2012 Women’s Day march and the Joburg Pride, stopping both marches with a banner saying “No cause for celebration”, and staging activists and mannequins laying on the floor to represent the amount of women who have been murdered and victims of sexual violence. In other instances, activists wearing t-shirts with the slogan “sexual violence= silence” also staged protest events where they we wearing masking tape over their mouth to symbolise how women are being silenced in cases of sexual violence.



Her Zimbabwe


Her Zimbabwe is a blog created by a collective of feminist activists in Zimbabwe. Fungai Machiori, founder and managing editor of Her Zimbabwe explains the blog as a platform to promote gender activism and a a space to foster alternative narratives of Zimbabwean women. Created in March 2012, the creators see the blog not only as a space to challenge mainstream media portrayal of women in Zimbabwe but also as a way to create links with Zimbabwean women and feminist activist of the diaspora. The objective of the blog is to open a dialogue on a various set of topics ranging from sexuality to feminist organising. The blog marries various approaches to attract a readership using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to advertise the content published, but also to further stimulate discussions.



Asikana Network (Zambia)


The Asikana network is a group of young women aiming to empower other young women in the field of ICTs. The Asikana network is currently trying to map ICT and women related organisations in Africa using a Ushahidi platform with the objective of creating a space where groups and organisation can share ideas and technologies. Part of Lusaka’s main technology hub, BongoHive, the Asikana Network was created to give a voice to women and girls who are a minority in the hub.


More examples coming soon!


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