Afro Feminism, or Afro Fem as it is widely known on the African Leadership Academy campus, is a movement that aims to end sexism and sexist exploitations specifically on the African continent.
The Student Enterprise (SE) does this in three ways; firstly, it contextualizes feminism in the African context through its various activities; secondly, Afro Fem builds a revenue chain by designing and selling creative merchandise (that has sold out on each print run so far); and lastly, it educates by sharing empowering information for women across the continent.
The organization forms part of ALA’s Student Enterprise Program (SEP) – an immersive learning experience that gives students the opportunity to practice entrepreneurship and leadership skills. All second-year ALA students form teams and then run a business or non-profit organization for a full year within a simulated economy on our campus. Afro Fem became an enterprise in 2017, with the reigns of leadership taken on by second-year students Kambura Kinoti (Kenya), Nadia Kalinga (Kenya), Sumaya Elmahdi (Sudan) and Tiassa Mutunkei (Kenya) this academic year.
Image credits: Kambura Kinoti
Afro Fem believes it exists beyond what a student enterprise is defined as. “We’re more than a student enterprise. We’re a movement,” says Sumaya. This is immediately apparent when you learn of each member’s personal convictions and lived experiences which they bring into their organization on a daily basis. “We really believe in feminism being a verb; we are ‘feministing’. It’s our constant state of being so it can never be described as finite – ever,” says Kambura.
Their experiences as four African women merge beautifully into an Afro Fem offering that creates impactful campaigns and safe spaces for women on campus. “We are creating a platform where women feel comfortable to share their experiences and stories,” says Tiassa. “We’ve realized that we’re all so wonderfully diverse and have such unique experiences that there is value in women from different contexts coming together to speak about things. The best part is that the movement is growing because people are realizing how important it is to support one another.”
When they’re not leading sessions or designing Afro Fem’s curriculum, they’re bonding as friends do, which is where the magic often happens. Central to the weighty work of Afro Fem lies the creative articulation of their activism which often morphs into powerful campaigns birthed from their simple act of doing life together.
“Most of our ideas form when we’re chilling in Nadia’s room,” says Kambura. “Our African Women in Sports Campaign, for example, came as a result of us sharing work we’ve seen by African artists we admire and asking ourselves how we can emulate that and add an Afro Fem spin to it.”
Other campaigns are less colorful and instead serve as an immediate response to the environment they find themselves in. An example of this is Afro Fem’s Uyinene Mrwetyana campaign which was a response to the rape and murder of the 19-year-old South African woman in August 2019. By putting posters all around campus with words such as “Am I next?”, “Femicide” as well as pictures of Uyinene, the campaign prompted a reflection by the ALA community on the realities of gender-based violence faced by countless women in South Africa – a fact many may not have known before.
“We have carried the consequences of taking on the label ‘feminist’, which has its own weight and burdens,” says Nadia. Thankfully, Afro Fem is not alone. “ALA has also provided the space for us to test out different forms of activism,” says Sumaya. “We feel this experimentation has left us better equipped for the world out there.”
With a few months left before the team hands over the mantle, these four women still have big things planned. “We’re going to re-stock our t-shirts and introduce hoodies too. We hope to see a bright and yellow campus when our merch drops,” says Nadia.
The group will also zoom further into the ALA campus. “We want to bring topics into people’s dorm rooms and daily lives so it’s real. For example, one of the topics we want to explore is “what language do we use on campus that further perpetuates gender stereotypes and experiences?”
Follow Afro Fem on Instagram to see the organization’s latest campaigns, merchandise, and announcements!