“Life was teaching me that progress and change happen slowly. Not in two years, four years, or even a lifetime. We were planting seeds of change, the fruit of which we might never see. We had to be patient.” Michelle Obama, Becoming
These words by Michelle Obama echo the way so many of the women activists who we honour live their lives – creating slow change over a lifetime of work. Here is the first in a series of articles on some of the warrior women activists who we admire and who keep us inspired.
Tarana Burke, Advocate and Activist
“People should know that they’re not alone, that healing happens best in community.” Tarana Burke
From The Bronx in New York City, Tarana Burke started the “Me Too” movement for women in her work as an activist in 2006. This was intended to show victims of abuse that they weren’t alone and give them some support in their isolation.
This quote from Ms Burke from HBR encapsulates a lot of the feeling around how the media represents the most marginalized, and we thank her for making this more visible:
“I think that the media doesn’t focus on the trauma that people of colour experience. The work that we do in the movement centers on the most marginalized people. And so if you only define the Me Too movement by what you read in the media then no, there is not enough representation or even conversation about how sexual violence affects people of colour, queer people, disabled people, anybody who is marginalized. But if you understand that Me Too is not simply what the media has defined it as, it’s the work that we are moving forward, then you know that our works start with and centers the most marginalized, including queer and trans people.”
Currently Tarana Burke is behind the #MeToo Voter campaign, which is a new initiative to try to hold the politicians and leaders in the US to a moral standard. Plus there’s a memoir on the way, we can’t wait to read it.
Nnedinma J. Ulanmo, Co-Founder of Women Initiative for Sustainable Empowerment and Equality (WISE) formerly Women Action for Gender Equality (WAGE) and Founder of Nnedinma Ulanmo and Associates in Nigeria.
“Try not to cushion the effects of your needs when demanding for what is right from life and all around you. Learn to advocate for yourself without trying to sweeten it and make yourself seem less assertive. Own your expectations! ” Women Initiative For Sustainable Empowerment and Equality – WISE Wage
Ms Ulanmo’s WISE organisation provides Human Rights Education and Information, Legal Services, Campaign against GBV and IPV, Psychosocial support and services and Empowerment programs.
Through WISE’s Empowerment programmes, they support sexual minority groups especially LBQ+ identifying women and girls to become socio-economically empowered and to become pressure groups thereby giving them the ingredients for visibility to step out of the margins and a voice to self advocate especially in this part of northern Nigeria where the LBQ+ identifying women and girls do not have visibility and have been marginalized. Where also, enough attention and resources is not given to issues of mental health, sexual health and reproductive rights.
Through WISE’s ” Creating Visibility and Giving Voice” Project they are endeavouring to unveil the silence that shrouds issues of sexuality, gender orientation, expression and identity, GBV and IPV, abuses, sexual health and reproductive rights, poverty through advocacy to ensure the following:
- Reducing the resistance and denial of these issues especially in northern Nigeria and how they adversely affect women and girls irrespective of their SOGIESC.
- Paving the way for the repeal or amendment of discriminatory laws and the domestication of extant or the creation of anti-discriminatory laws that grants access to, protect and promote gender equality and empowerment of women and girls, human rights of LBQ+ and other sexual minority groups.
Myesha Jenkins, Activist, Poet and Feminist (1948 – 2020)
At the bottom of a craggy hill
In a blooming and mysterious garden
On the night of new Light
The sounds of old instruments
Opened a crack in the universe
And birds sang from the trees
Talking with the musicians
In the beats of the future
The people listened with gentle hearts
And they began to fly.
Myesha Jenkins was an African poet, spoken word performer, feminist and a woman who lived her activism through the arts and the written word – revealing sometimes difficult themes .
She helped to found the Feela Sistah Spoken Word Collective, which was created to give confidence and inspire women to write. Her activism was around creating platforms and projects to help put the poetry of black women into the spotlight.
In 2017 she edited “groundbreaking, To Breathe Into Another Voice: A South African Anthology of Jazz Poetry” which showcases 45 South African poets, who write about how jazz made an indelible mark upon their lives. (Published by Real African Publishers.)
Myesha Jenkins also published two poetry collections, Breaking the surface, (Timbila,2005) and Dreams of Flight (Geko, 2011.) Sadly, she passed away recently, leaving behind a legacy which young female poets and all of us, can take creativity and strength from. Rest in Power Myesha Jenkins.
Other women we admire are Tomi Adeyemi, Angie Thomas, Andrena Sawyer, Jamie A. Triplin and Beverly Daniel Tatum, (more to come) so watch this space!
Matoyana Media is a champion and supporter of female entrepreneurs, in 2018 we created a “Fearless Women” video and podcast series, interviewing 23 entrepreneurial-minded women, asking them to share their stories about how they work at being fearless in their businesses and lives.
Last year we tapped into our inner-warrior and produced a modern-day Warrior Women series, representing African women from around the continent, of all ages, races and career types. How activism has shown up in your life, particularly during the CODID-19 pandemic. Under the banners of equity, inclusion, liberation, justice, solidarity, resiliency and interdependency these are the type of activists we’re seeing more of – which one (or more) are you?