Community, Human rights

African feminism and building the resilience of our societies amidst COVID-19

Photo by AMISOM Public Information : Flickr

The COVID-19 pandemic has kept the global community at nearly a stand-still. The impacts of the pandemic have been beyond devastating. To curb the spread of COVID-19, nations are implementing lockdowns and movement restrictions, while allowing services deemed as essential to operate less stringently than others. Now more than ever before, the global community has to be catalysed to rebuild societies premised on social cohesion, equity (including universal health care), innovation, amongst others. COVID-19 is affecting nations and demographics in similar, yet different ways. 

Women across Africa are being disproportionately affected by the pandemic, as they are experiencing high levels of gender-based violence. African women are experiencing violence in their homes, in pursuit of income especially under the informal sector and in simply existing as women. The movement restrictions have forced some women to stay indoors with their abusers. Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) has raised alarm on the increased incidents of violence against women by their male partners (The Nation, 2020).

Within sub-Saharan Africa, women comprise the bulk of the informal sector (UN Women, not dated). A sector in which social protections are almost absent. Women in the informal sector are now vulnerable to violence by security officers acting unlawfully in the guise of implementing COVID-19 movement restrictions. In Uganda, a day after a presidential directive annulled the selling of “non-food items” in the markets, “Ugandan women street vendors were flogged and brutalized by police” (Global Voices, 2020). Such use of force is simply unacceptable.

In addition, women, especially mothers, who have been living as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in camps are on the receiving end of the now amplified affects of their previously-existing plights. According to the International Organization for Migration (2017) – “In most contexts, women and children make up the vast majority of IDPs” (p. 6). This has been observable within sub-Saharan Africa. For example, civil unrests in Cameroon have forced numerous people, “most of whom are women and children” to become IDPs (UNHCR, 2019). Serious attention has to be paid to the compounded vulnerabilities which women are facing during this pandemic. 

A feminist approach to the implementation of lockdowns and movement restrictions is crucial. With women being so critically affected during this period, their concerns need to be at the centre of the ways that African governments respond to the pandemic. This does not take away the means through which care is provided to other genders and demographics, rather it balances the response field for COVID-19.

A feminist approach in this case, entails acknowledging that women-led and feminist organizations in Africa are now working overtime and being innovative to respond to the increased cases of violence against women. They are working to reduce the risk of violence for women living and working in vulnerable situations. Also, they are providing COVID-19 safety information and materials. NAPTIP recently donated food items and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to mainly female-serving organizations that, “take care of vulnerable children and victims of human trafficking” (Daily Trust, 2020). Engage Africa Foundation (led by a woman) collaborated with several volunteers to translate COVID-19 public health messages into up to 16 African languages (EAF, 2020). As the Founder of the Initiative for Inclusive Dialogue in Nigeria (IIDN), I am a witness to the now multiplied, internal activities of our organization to build solutions-oriented knowledge on gender-based violence affecting women and girls. Several more examples exist across Africa. The efforts of women-led and feminist organizations in Africa amidst the pandemic have to be recognised and supported. Amnesty International Nigeria has advised the Nigerian government, “to classify as essential workers, social workers, women’s rights groups and providers who work with victims of domestic violence” (IIDN, 2020). This is vital.

A feminist approach to the COVID-19 response also entails boosting funding for African women-led and feminist organizations that are working to support women in need, during this difficult time. With adequate funding, “women’s organizations seize opportunities to create shifts—in societies, economies, and communities” (Equality Fund, 2020). Financial assistance will undoubtedly go a long way in supporting women to make free and informed choices that prioritise their rights and safety.

In this fragile period, African women-led and feminist organizations are building significant resilience. Their efforts in supporting women who are at risk of or already experiencing violence are essential services. The resilience that they are enabling today will positively impact the post-COVID period. Beyond COVID-19, it is critical that African governments enable the necessary conditions for women to work, live and exist free of gender-based violence and discrimination. The resilience of women-led and feminist organizations in Africa need not be overlooked in the aftermath of this pandemic. They have to be invited to decision-making tables, listened to and supported. It is very possible to develop nations where women do not bear the brunt of societal chaos that is beyond their control. Women are not collateral. No one is.


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The Mistreatment of Aboriginals and The Footprints of The Colonizers, In Canada

Oh Colonization. You had both benefits and problems. The latter cannot be exempted. Being an African in Canada and an African who aims to break down the stereotypes that non-Africans have of my people, I very often fill-in the footprints of colonization. I hardly hesitate to say “Our (Nigeria’s) official language is English”, when a surprised acquaintance or friend tells me that my English is so good. I very often feel the need to have no non-North-American accent in the land of the Westerners. I very often feel the need to speak like the white man. Oh, colonization. I am not the only descendant of a former colony who tends to stick closely to the culture of the colonizers. If you have ever visited Canada, you will know that the culture of its colonizers – the British, still lives on here. It is purposely preserved by the federal government. I do admire it in some cases. I love the historical buildings, I enjoy the designs in-and-out of the pubs. However, there are some negative and worrisome colonial traits that still pervade in my dear Canada. These are with regard to the treatment of First Nations people in Canada.


Their decision to stick with the culture and practices of their ancestors without compromise has long caused them to be treated with less value than non-Aboriginals, in Canada. During colonization, Aboriginals were mandated to totally adjust to the societal systems of the colonizers. Also, Aboriginals were not allowed to pass on their culture under colonial rule. Even now, long after colonization, these individuals earn less than the minimum wage; the rate of employment for Canada’s Indigenous peoples is “about two-thirds of the national level.” Lack of jobs sometimes leads idle hands to get dirty. Aboriginals in Canada have higher rates of alcohol abuse than the national level. Also, the death rate among Aboriginals is “about three times” higher than the national rate. While I have heard that the federal government has issued apologies and offered funds to Aboriginals for the dark history of discriminatory treatments that they have had whilst living on Canadian soil, there is still more work to be done. The cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women are yet to cease. Early this month of May, there was a report that according to the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), over 1000 cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal females have been discovered by Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Just when one would have thought that those horrible stories of Aboriginal women being more vulnerable to murder than non-Aboriginals in Canada, had become things of the past. I have mentioned during conversations with friends, my disgust at how Aboriginals are marginalized in a country like Canada that is known and celebrated for having a very diverse population. On some occasions I was replied with: The problem is with their culture. Now that’s the echo of colonization. That’s the trail of the colonizers being followed. No human being should be vulnerable to violence, segregation or discrimination because of his/her race, culture, gender or religion. The federal government of Canada needs to enact strict regulations that protect Aboriginal persons from being victims of violent attack and discrimination. Also, as the government has it’s huge role to play, so do members of the Canadian public. We need to change our mindset. There is no one best way of living. Not the European, African or Asian ways of life. No. Every individual has the right to stick to the culture that best suits him/her without being queried. The mosaic of a multicultural society like Canada is that the different cultures that exist will make the state beautifully unique and more understanding of difference as opposed to homogeneous societies. Rather than believe that Aboriginals should push their cultural heritage aside and dissolve in Canada’s ‘melting-pot’, we should all agree that measures should be put in place to support Aboriginals’ culture in such a way that it is beneficial to them in an all-round way. I look forward to a day when Aboriginals will be treated without discrimination and given equal opportunities to succeed, just like every other Canadian. Last week, I received the petition below via Please take a moment to read it and consider signing. Thank you!  

My Questions For You – How do you think prejudice in society can be curbed? – Do you have other examples of negative effects of colonization that still exist in former colonies? 

Love & Peace,


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