Day Eight | Reflecting on Zimbabwe’s Gukurahundi Genocide through Poetry

Dudu Ndlovu

Zimbabwe

Silence 

Everyone knows of that time

That time nobody wants to go back to

That time that will never be forgotten

That time we never speak of

 

Screams in the night 

Fear gripping the most brave

Nobody wants to witness the shame

Gukurahundi Genocide

 

Daylight brings sunshine and blue skies

Yet the brightest song from the birds

Can never soak away 

The blood drenching the earth 

Calling out for justice 

 

Mothers bear a fatherless generation 

Girls pay with their sexed bodies 

Young men flee for their lives

Fathers killed for their politics

 

Silence labours to erase 

The trace of that time 

But like a woman bewitched

Produces a thousand times more

The stench of death

(Poem by Duduzile S. Ndlovu, 2015) 

 

Zimbabwe, a country on the southern tip of Africa, gained independence from direct colonial rule in 1980. This signalled the end of the liberation struggle; however, people in the Matabeleland and Midlands parts of the country (which were also strongholds for the opposition party at that time) experienced another war, this time at the hands of the army of the newly-independent country. 

The poem above reflects on this period, which is popularly known as Gukurahundi, where 20,000 people were killed or disappeared from 1980 to 1987. Much has been written on the causes of the Gukurahundi violence and most importantly that its victims have not received any acknowledgement or restitution for the pain suffered. Many see the Gukurahundi as a genocide meant to annihilate the Ndebele from Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean government has justified its silencing of the memorialisation of the violence by arguing that speaking about the Gukurahundi will incite ethnic division in the country.

Since the late 1990s, Zimbabwe began to experience economic decline resulting in an increase in the number of those migrating to neighbouring countries such as Botswana and South Africa, some as far as the United Kingdom and other countries across the globe in search of economic opportunities. As people migrate, they carry along with them their memories and trauma across the borders. Some of the victims of the Gukurahundi who migrated to Johannesburg find in it space to commemorate the Gukurahundi – which they couldn’t do in Zimbabwe, where the government prevented such efforts.  

There are calls for the acknowledgment of the Gukurahundi and for the truth about the atrocities to be made public so the perpetrators can be held accountable.  However, a male-centric, ethnic and nationalistic memorial narrative prevails in these memorials and calls for acknowledgement, reparation and reconciliation. Some calls for acknowledgement, for example, demand the cessation of borders to create an ethnically pure nation for the victims. This is despite the fact that many women were sexually violated and conceived and bore children out of the rape, thus making the idea of an ethnically pure nation impossible. Speaking about the sexual violence that many women (and some men) experienced and the presence of children born out of this thus presents an inconvenient truth. 

These calls for acknowledgement therefore do not provide women with spaces where they can speak about their pain from the sexual violence. The gendered location of women, their experience of conflict and how it is remembered is rarely captured and represented in popular memory (see, for example, ‘Gender, Memorialization, and Symbolic Reparations’ by Brandon Hamber and Ingrid Palmary). The above poem, ‘Silence’, which I wrote in 2015, seeks to rectify this, and make visible the ways in which violence is gendered, and how conflict is felt differently on different bodies.

 

Dudu Ndlovu is a postdoctoral fellow at the African Centre for Migration and Society. Her research interests include exploring arts-based research methods as a form of decolonising knowledge production; interrogating intersectionality through narrative work; and analysing the gendered politics of memory. Since March 2018, she has been developing this research agenda through a Newton Advanced Fellowship attached to the University of Edinburgh, Centre for African Studies (CAS) (2018-2020). Dudu completed her PhD at the University of the Witwatersrand focusing on Zimbabwean migrants’ use of art (poetry, music, drama, film) to navigate precarious lives; speak about violence – including the Gukurahundi in Zimbabwe and xenophobia in South Africa, and memorialise those events. More of her poetry can be found here.

Day Five | Holding foreign fighters accountable for sexual violence

Sexual violence YT video

Susan Hutchinson

As the security situation continues to deteriorate in Syria and Iraq, Western nations are being forced to reconsider the issue of what to do with their nationals stuck there since the war with ISIS. When Turkey invaded northern Syria, the Kurdish authorities who had been managing the prisons holding ISIS fighters, including those who are foreign nationals, said they could no longer prioritise the management of these prisons. Many of those prisoners are responsible for perpetrating gross sexual violence as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. But the Kurds are now facing another genocide of their own.

Too often, conflict-related sexual violence is considered a problem too difficult to resolve because it occurs in another country, by people from another country, against people from another country. But we have a unique moment in time to help end impunity for conflict related sexual violence. An estimated 40,000 foreign fighters from 89 countries travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight with ISIS. Many of the source countries are State Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, obliging them to investigate and prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in their own domestic court systems. 

We needn’t wait indefinitely for the big boys of the UN Security Council to refer these crimes to the International Criminal Court. Countries like Australia have incorporated these crimes into their own domestic criminal code and have an obligation to investigate and prosecute their own nationals for the sexual violence they perpetrated as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide while fighting with ISIS in Syria and Iraq. We have the jurisdiction and the competent authority; all that remains is the political will and investment. 

For the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, ‘prosecute; don’t perpetrate’ released a short, animated video (above) explaining why and how we need to end impunity for conflict-related sexual violence. We made it with sketches and graffiti from an incredible Afghan artist and professor, Shamsia Hassani, who does a lot of beautiful work on women’s rights. 

There are countless incredible women from conflict-affected countries defending women’s rights. Nadia Murad has been fighting for years for justice for survivors like her, not just of trafficking and sexual violence, but of genocide as well. She has shared her story countless times, but so far not a single ISIS fighter has been prosecuted for sexual violence as war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide. The time has come for us to take up the baton, to fight for women like Nadia, to make sure she receives the justice she deserves, and all the women like her. 

Investigating and prosecuting these crimes would be the responsible thing to do from the perspective of the rules-based international order. It would be the responsible thing to do if we wanted to end impunity for conflict-related sexual violence. It would be the right thing to do if we wanted to take action against gender violence. It would be far more responsible than leaving perpetrators in Syria, Iraq, Turkey or elsewhere to continue wreaking havoc on the world. It is also more responsible to ensure they are securely imprisoned within our own borders under the auspices of our own security agencies rather than in extremely unstable countries recovering from the conflict with ISIS.

When Yazidi activist Ameena Saeed Hasan bemoaned the UN Security Council’s inaction during a debate on trafficking of persons in armed conflict, she told of a Yazidi girl who had phoned her, begging, “if you can’t free us, bomb us”. “Where is the justice?” Ameena asked aghast by the total inaction of the international community. 

Today is the International Women Human Rights Defenders Day. As part of our activism this 16 Days, we can help women human rights defenders like Ameena and Nadia. We can work to ensure our governments meet their obligations to investigate and prosecute their own nationals who perpetrated sexual violence as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. 
Susan Hutchinson is the architect of the prosecute; don’t perpetrate campaign to help end impunity for conflict related sexual violence. She is also a PhD scholar at the Australian National University’s Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs. Her research focuses on the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda. Susan regularly blogs for the Lowy Institute’s Interpreter and BroadAgenda. She is a member of the Australian Civil Society Coalition on Women, Peace and Security and the Australian Arms Control Coalition.

Day Four | #MeToo and the work of ending men’s violence against women

Karen Boyle is a professor at a striking UK university. This blog was submitted on 21st November.

MeToo2

‘ME TOO and her too and them too and him too’ by Cyndy Sims Parr and used under a Creative Commons licence

On 15 October 2017, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted: 

Me Too. 

Suggested by a friend: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me Too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. 

(@AlyssaMilano, 15 October, 2017) 

Within 24 hours, 12 million Facebook posts using the hashtag were written or shared; within 48 hours, the hashtag had been shared nearly a million times on Twitter. 

In some ways, #MeToo exemplified the feminist possibilities of social media: each new post joined an existing conversation and allowed us to build a picture of what they had in common. This was not a million miles away from the consciousness-raising groups of the Women’s Liberation Movement, where women shared their experiences – including of sexual violence – in order to build an analysis of what they shared in a patriarchal society. But, where consciousness-raising typically took place in small, closed groups, #MeToo brought with it a more politically diverse and potentially global audience. 

However, I want to sound a note of caution about the way #MeToo is now increasingly referred to as a movement. To do this, I want to think about the relationship between #MeToo as a hashtag and Tarana Burke’s Me Too, founded in 2006. Burke founded the Me Too movement in response to a young woman’s disclosure of sexual abuse. At the time, Burke shut the young woman’s testimony down as quickly as she could. Yet, part of the reason for Burke’s reluctance was that the young woman’s testimony echoed her own experiences. For Burke, Me Too was (and is) about the pain and difficulty of recognition and solidarity, and the work this knowledge demands of us. 

When Milano tweeted #MeToo, she was not aware of Burke’s work. After the tweet went viral, Burke’s work was publicly acknowledged, following a by now well-established pattern of Black feminist mobilisation online. However, Burke notes that the mainstream acknowledgement has been limited: 

While it’s true that I have been widely recognized as the “founder” of the movement – there is virtually no mention of my leadership. Like I just discovered something 12 years ago and in 2017 it suddenly gained value. #metooMVMT #metoo 

(@TaranaBurke, 21 February 2018) 

Burke has consistently differentiated between the act of speaking out and the work that must follow on from that acknowledgement of personal experience in order to effect change. The media emphasis on Burke-as-founder obscures this, not least by emphasising her own personal story as a survivor. 

In my research on the media coverage of the Harvey Weinstein case, I have similarly found that the decades of feminist activism and research on sexual harassment and abuse preceding October 2017 have largely been ignored. Not only have spokespeople for organisations like Burke’s been largely missing from mainstream accounts, where feminism has featured it has too often been as a site of suspicion because of the (in)actions of prominent, individual feminists. 

What I want to emphasise, then, is the importance of understanding #MeToo not only as a social media trend, but as a mainstream news story. #MeToo was a response to a mainstream news story with Hollywood at its centre, so it is hardly surprising that #MeToo in turn became a major news story for global media outlets. Equally unsurprising has been the emphasis placed on the experiences of economically and racially privileged US women in this coverage. But this is a critique of the media, not of a movement, or even of the individuals using the hashtag on social media.

Louise Armstrong, who has written about media coverage of child sexual abuse testimony, argues that for the media “the personal is the personal” – and this can stop us seeing the bigger picture. There is also the risk that it makes stories about violence the stories only of the victim/survivors, as though the perpetrators somehow had nothing to do with it.

Even in the #MeToo era, men in public life have not been routinely asked if they perpetrated sexual violence, though after #MeToo went viral, there was a period where women in the public eye were almost routinely asked in interviews if they had a #MeToo story. This relentless focus on personal trauma compromised victim/survivors’ abilities to choose whether/how to tell their own stories, but also downplayed the expertise amassed by feminist organisations and researchers who have been listening to survivors for decades.

The feminist slogan “the personal is political” doesn’t mean that telling personal stories publicly is always or necessarily politically progressive – nor does it place an obligation on survivors to speak out. Unlike the women in consciousness-raising groups, those sharing #MeToo on social media since autumn 2017 haven’t necessarily had very much else in common, including how they make sense of their experiences of sexual harassment and abuse. This is only surprising if we think of victim/survivors as a homogenous group. 

Of course, some women (and men) have been galvanised to political action by #MeToo, but a diverse group of people posting #MeToo do not necessarily constitute a movement. A movement, as Tarana Burke says, is work. Emotional work is part of this, but not all of it: the work this generates then includes advocacy, support, campaigning, policy development, research. This work takes time, and can be obscured by a focus on one-off statements.

For all of these reasons, I refer to #MeToo as a moment rather than a movement. As the women of the Tufnell Park Women’s Liberation Workshop wrote in the inaugural edition of Shrew in 1970:

We can be so written about and give so many interviews that we can be deceived into thinking that there is a movement when all we’re doing is dealing with the press and TV. (Tufnell Park Women’s Liberation Workshop 1970: 4)

Of course, dealing with the press and TV matter. But we should not allow the media to define our movements to end men’s sexual harassment and abuse of women.

Karen Boyle is Professor of Feminist Media Studies at the University of Strathclyde (@Unistrathclyde) in Glasgow, Scotland. She is the author of #MeToo, Weinstein and Feminism (Palgrave, 2019) and Director of Strathclyde’s Applied Gender Studies programme.

 

Day Four | #MeToo at Two

Bianca Fileborn and Rachel Loney-Howes 

#MeToo.png

 

#MeToo exploded onto social media in October 2017, exposing and taking down some powerful men in the entertainment industry, and sparking conversations about the prevalence of sexual violence and what can be done in response. Two years on, however, what has the movement achieved? And what more needs to be done to address the cultural, political and legal dimensions that enable sexual violence to occur? In this blog, we address some of the key impacts of #MeToo two years on, and consider how we might go about the long, grinding process of change. 

When the #MeToo movement emerged on social media in October 2017, it almost broke the internet. Within 24 hours, the hashtag had been used over 12 million times, with survivors of sexual harassment and assault from around the world speaking out about their experiences, while others used it to express their solidarity and support. As we pass the two-year anniversary of the hashtag, what, if anything, has the movement changed? And what still needs to be achieved?  

In terms of the initial successes of the online version of #MeToo, in addition to the widespread use of the original hashtag, it was also translated into a variety of different languages, used in over 80 countries, and used a means for mobilising more specific local feminist agendas. In Argentina, for example, the #MeToo movement provided local activists with an opportunity to mobilise on the issue of abortion. The hashtag also generated some legal changes and investigations. Countries such as France, for example, made catcalling (street harassment) a crime in August 2018, with on-the-spot fines issued to offenders by police. The Australian Human Rights Commission also announced they would conduct an inquiry into workplace sexual harassment in June 2018

One of the key successes of the movement was that it provided survivors with a new platform to speak out about their experiences of sexual violence. Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media created new opportunities to collectively speak out about violence from multiple different geographic, political and cultural perspectives. It is well known that survivors’ experiences are routinely undermined or denied legitimacy in the criminal justice system, as well as by the general public. Too often, survivors are blamed for causing the violence, with many accused of lying or having ‘regretted’ consensual sex. 

The sheer scale and response to #MeToo, however, gave survivors a powerful framework for speaking out, as well as offering recognition and validation in a way that official criminal justice mechanisms regularly fail to provide. While there are issues relating to whose experience is seen on social media and subsequently who is then recognised as a legitimate survivor, at a macro level the #MeToo movement provided survivors with an unprecedented opportunity to share their stories. 

While the hashtag movement provided an important outlet to give voice to (some) survivor’s experiences, it is more difficult to know what has been achieved in terms of tangible structural and social change. Certainly, there were multiple public calls to address the structural causes of sexual harassment and violence, as well address the barriers for survivors accessing legal representation (for example, #TimesUp). However, in some instances, initiatives and organisations set up in response to #MeToo have come under scrutiny. Measuring social change is always difficult, and one of the key problems with the #MeToo movement is that it lacked (or lacks) clear goals, leadership, or indeed a united message. 

Not long after the movement exploded online, it emerged that the term “Me Too” was in fact first coined by Tarana Burke, an African-American activist who has dedicated her life to supporting and advocating for sexual assault survivors. The revelation that #MeToo was in fact a movement spearheaded initially by a woman of colour generated a significant amount of backlash, and opened up a dialogue about the all-too-frequent erasure of the advocacy work of women of colour in the area of sexual violence, as well their experiences of gender-based violence. 

From the outset, the movement was accused – as the feminist movement has been historically – of focusing too heavily on the experiences of young, cis-gendered, able bodied, white, middle class, heterosexual women. There were (and remain) serious questions as to whether and how women and survivors from marginalised groups might benefit from #MeToo. The oversight of the work of women of colour, such as Tarana Burke, and the plethora of women of colour around the world who have been working tirelessly supporting survivors and lobbying for funding increasing and social change, illustrates that the public face of anti-sexual harassment and violence remains that of privileged white women. 

While creating space for survivors to speak out is undoubtedly important in many respects, it is less clear whether the widespread discussion generated by #MeToo has been fruitful in shifting attitudes and behaviours. Although this type of change is slow-burning – and it’s unlikely that any single activist movement will generate the social, cultural and structural shifts required to end sexual violence – the evidence so far suggests that #MeToo has had limited success in this regard. As Australian masculinities scholar Associate Professor Michael Flood notes, studies in the UK and the US were conducted in 2018 to capture the effect of the #MeToo movement on men’s knowledge about #MeToo, their attitudes towards gender inequality, inappropriate behaviours, and their willingness to listen to and believe women. Results were mixed, and inconclusive at best

Concerningly, #MeToo was also subject to significant backlash and polarisation – something we’ve seen in response to second and third-wave feminism before. The movement was accused of going “too far” inciting a witch hunt against powerful men. Others have criticised the movement for placing experiences of sexual harassment on par with survivors experiences of sexual assault and rape. Canadian legal scholar Dr Heidi Matthews has further suggested that the movement has generated a sex panic – or at least lumped risky (but wanted and consensual) sexual practices in the realm of sexual violence. 

We argue however that rather than buying into the backlash, we should take the opportunity #MeToo has generated to broaden our understanding of what sexual violence is, and to engage in more productive conversations about consent, pleasure and heteronormative masculine entitlement. Ultimately, this is what will help to drive change and work towards the prevention of sexual violence in all its forms.

Dr Bianca Fileborn is a Lecturer in Criminology, School of Social & Political Sciences, University of Melbourne. Her work examines the intersections of sexual violence, space/place, culture and identity. Bianca is the author of Reclaiming the Night-Time Economy: Unwanted Sexual Attention in Pubs and Clubs (Palgrave), and co-editor of #MeToo and the Politics of Social Change.
Dr Rachel Loney-Howes is a Lecturer in Criminology, School of Health and Society, University of Wollongong. Her work explores the use of digital media for anti-sexual violence activism. Rachel is the author of the forthcoming book Online Anti-Rape Activism: The Politics of the Personal in the Age of Digital Media, and co-editor of #MeToo and the Politics of Social Change.  

 

 

Day Thirteen |Women’s Navigation of Xenophobia and Violence in South Africa and the UK

photo credit: IHSAAN HAFFEJEE/AL JAZEERA. Men from the Jeppestown hostel in Johannesburg make threatening gestures towards foreign-owned businesses

Written by Natasha Dyer

In 2015, I was back in South Africa, after two years living and working in the country. The newspapers were full of graphic pictures of men brandishing knives, hammers and clubs, with headlines blaring about the resurgence of xenophobic violence after 2008’s nationwide attacks against foreign nationals left 63 dead, hundreds injured, dozens raped and hundreds of thousands displaced.

I had so many questions. What and who exactly were behind these attacks? Which foreign nationals were being targeted? Why was violence flaring up again now? And why were only men in the pictures? What about the women affected by the violence?

Violence against women and girls in South Africa is an ever-present reality. The rates of female rape and sexual assault mostly against black women are some of the highest in the world. Over the last five years, the number of women murdered in the country has increased by 16%, while one in 13 adult women have experienced violence at home. Violence against women is generally under-reported, and LGBTI and gender non-conforming people face severe risk of violence and discrimination, including a pandemic of “corrective rape” violations against lesbian women. Both men and women were reported as victims in the xenophobic attacks of 2015; foreign nationals and South African wives of migrants.

This reality, coupled with the gruesome newspaper images, propelled me to ask questions of activists, scholars, politicians and civil society and scour debates online. Eventually, it led to starting a PhD at the University of Edinburgh this year. In May, I conducted preliminary research in Johannesburg, with South African women and African women of multiple nationalities. The project convinced me to broaden my doctoral study to compare critically with African female experiences in the UK, looking at the gendered manifestations of xenophobia in Johannesburg and London, two cities experiencing rising levels of anti-migrant abuse and gender disparities, while linked by histories of colonialism and complex patterns of migration. Gender-based violence is a phenomenon being increasingly understood and fought against, as the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence campaign shows.

Xenophobia and misogyny intertwined

Xenophobia is not new to either South Africa or the UK. Despite migrants constituting only 5% of South Africa’s population and 9% of Britain’s, foreign nationals are publicly blamed for almost every social issue. Since the start of South African democracy in 1994 and as recently as two weeks ago, politicians and the media have portrayed international migrants as “unwanted aliens”, negatively affecting businesses, acting in criminal ways and stealing our jobs and our women”. In the UK, the wave of hostility leading up to the Brexit referendum result was propelled by divisive political rhetoric led by far-right figures such as Nigel Farage, warning that failure to deal effectively with immigration may lead to ‘cultural issues’, such as women being attacked by foreign nationals. These sentiments have built upon decades-long racism embedded in UK society and policy, most often expressed in debates over immigration controls and bolstered by a media narrative about migrants as ‘scroungers’.

Approximately half of migrants in both Johannesburg and London are women. Despite this, political and media debates often position women as silent victims, passive targets of spectacular xenophobic violence or vulnerable persons. Academic studies on xenophobia are mostly lacking in rigorous gender-based perspectives (see Morrice, 2016 and Sigsworth et al, 2008 for exceptions), despite the similarity between xenophobia and the battle for power inherent in misogyny, as noted by Helen de Cruz. In her new book DownGirl (2017), Kate Manne describes misogyny as “dependent on patriarchy – societal structures that demand that women cater primarily to men’s needs.” When women do not fit the demands of patriarchy – for example, by standing up for their rights or taking on leadership roles – backlash occurs in the form of verbal or physical abuse.

As de Cruz explains elsewhere, one can see a similar struggle for control in xenophobia worldwide. Instead of a representation of hatred between a country’s native population and its immigrants, xenophobia demonstrates a fight for control over identity, rights and resources. It is a manifestation of the institutionalised sense of entitlement generated in citizens born in a country. Immigrants are tolerated as long as they adhere to stringent political and legal rules, learn trivia about a country’s history to pass immigration tests and keep out of the way, even when they contribute to society or their safety is at risk. It occurs when immigrants fight against measures designed to control them or force them into positions of dependency and potential rejection. In African contexts, xenophobia is understood as the systematic construction of strangers as a threat to society, justifying their exclusion and sometimes their suppression.

My PhD compares how women of different socio-economic classes in London and Johannesburg experience ‘everyday’ forms of xenophobia and how this impacts upon their lives. More broadly, it looks at questions of access, race, identity and belonging in two countries where migrants and often women (and especially women of colour), are made to feel unwelcome. It creates a space to explore the multiple roles women play as would-be targets, observers, accomplices and instigators of xenophobia in day-to-day life.

 Exploring conflict and violence through the arts

This work requires tools that can sensitively enable a multiplicity of voices to interact. They must facilitate the sharing of feelings and experiences, and challenge stereotypes associated with different identities. Creative, arts-based research approaches such as theatre, film, photography and walking can facilitate spaces for women’s stories to be told, shared and processed creatively, contributing to positive social change. Like the arts, conflict resolution is often approached experientially. The key to successful approaches is to create safe spaces that guarantee physical safety and a learning environment free from violence. In these forums, participants can communicate their fears, problems, feelings and frustrations.

Over a decade working on development projects across Africa, I have seen the usefulness of some of these methods first-hand. For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I was introduced to peacebuilding NGO Search for Common Ground’s project using participatory theatre to help transform the way that people view conflict. In South Africa, I have met researchers and NGOs using the arts to work with marginalised women and their communities, such as Sonke Gender Justice’s community radio arts production to help educate women about surviving sexual assault. The African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS) at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg does excellent work on migration, identity and belonging, as well as supporting artists using multimedia to explore similar issues, such as Sydelle Willow Smith, whose most recent project investigates white South Africans exploring their past and present in the new post-apartheid society.

For research to have meaning and impact beyond the academy, cross-pollination between artists and academics exploring social issues is essential. It combines creative ways of learning and investigation with well-worn data-gathering tools, hopefully providing positive ways for those affected by conflict and violence to process their experiences, as well as new insights for academics, policy-makers and practitioners. Using a participatory approach in my research, I look to the female participants to lead the process, while learning from feminist scholars and experienced artists. My hope is that by enabling women of different socio-economic classes, races and nationalities to explore their feelings on identity and belonging through the arts, in two countries where debates on these issues have become so divided, it will generate new understandings of how to tackle xenophobia and its gendered dimensions. In places where migrants are at serious risk of deportation or violence and where gender-based violence or discrimination is ever-present, women need spaces to explore and share their thoughts and experiences creatively, helping them to make connections and generate answers to increasing social problems.

Natasha Dyer is a research and communications consultant in international development, currently pursuing a PhD at the Centre for African Studies, School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked across Africa for over a decade, supporting organisations and governments to achieve gender equality, provide quality education and resolve conflict. Twitter handle: @nrlcadyer