RWA 10th Anniversary Address: Key Dimensions of Social, Ecological and Political Economy Context of Southern Africa: Where are the points of intervention for a transformative feminist agenda?

Key Dimensions of Social, Ecological and Political Economy Context of southern Africa
Where are the points of intervention for a transformative feminist agenda?
By Masego Madzwamuse:

As I was preparing for this talk two voices played in my head;

One was the voice of Memory Kachanmbwa the Director of FEMNET who challenged me recently when I was giving a lecture on climate change impacts. I made a statement about building women’s resilience to climate change and her response was as a feminist ‘I reject the concept of resilience – resilience is a term that is over-utilized to further burden women’. While I could think of numerous arguments I could use to counter her point I instead chose to reflect and ponder on what she was trying to communicate to me.

There is a power in the language we use and the concepts we adopt and while in the climate policy spaces there is a tendency to through around technical terminology what Memory was imploring me to do was to think about the political nuances of the words we use… who does the framing and what are the implications. This is a point I would like us to come back to later in our discussions.

The second voice that was playing in my head was that of my sister Everjoice Win. Back in 2007 she wrote an article – Not Very Poor, Powerless or Pregnant: the African Woman Forgotten in Development. In this article she challenged the singular image of the African woman as resource poor.

Everjoice challenged us to go a step further and think about women’s’ experience of unequal power relations – regardless of class. And to think about strategic alliances that unleash the potential of women as agents of change – i.e. how can women who are here be allies and leaders in development.

This speaks to me as an individual- as I was questioning my legitimacy to be sitting here and addressing you today. And I found the answer as the personal is political I stand here in solidarity with you as a woman and as one who is only a generation removed from your reality and the issues you work on. This is what drives me as I pursue the agenda of the Southern Africa Trust.

This point about women as agents of change is an important one which the Rural Women’s Assembly as a movement embodies. The language used to frame the agenda of RWA hasn’t been one that depicts the rural woman as poor and helpless. It has instead been a celebratory one;

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