Joy is the most powerful foundation within feminist movements

Dear friends,

Today is March 8th, 2024. As every year, we celebrate international women’s day. I have selected this message with a profound sense of responsibility, as a feminist, as a committed woman, as a politician and as president of the women for Africa foundation.

For twelve years now, we have been working tirelessly at the women for Africa foundation, alongside African women of all generations, to ensure that girls and women live a dignified, fulfilling, and peaceful life wherever they are. A dignified life, a fulfilling life, a peaceful life are powerful concepts, powerful words that must be defended fiercely because they have a real, personal, and collective dimension, and every minute that goes by is a precious loss of time for thousands of women and girls who suffer all kinds of discrimination and violence.

The first thing i want to say today, dear friends, is that we cannot remain indifferent; indifference is complicity with those who, day by day, snatch away the happiness of millions of women, millions of girls.

We are living in times of huge geopolitical tension and profound transformations; i would say we are living a change of era. And i am very worried, friends, deeply worried, because in the recent years, in the recent months i have been observing a dangerous shift towards authoritarianism, extremism, fanaticism, the most exacerbated individualism and an unleashed neoliberalism. In other words, the perfect recipe for inequalities to widen, and for women to bear the brunt, as always. The result is already visible: entrenched and embedded conflicts; new wars fought with new and highly sophisticated techniques of destruction; new abuses of power, tyrants who impoverish and devastate entire countries, and commit serious violations of human rights. And what’s worse is that we are observing a great deal of generalized impunity; witnessing, outraged, the helplessness or inaction of international organizations and governments.

The African women, the leaders we work with at the women for Africa foundation, know well how fragile the conquests made in favor of women’s rights are; how difficult it is for them to be respected and maintained throughout the time. And they, along with us, are also very worried, because every day that goes through they observe, with indignation, how the fragile structures of democratic institutions in their home states are cracking, risking the peace and the social welfare; every day they observe how the progress, the industrialization and the modernization seem to be a huge price to be paid, imposed by those who believe in the logic of dominance, extractivism and corruption.

I have the impression that the African continent is being rediscovered. That’s good news. The world is no longer so blind, so ignorant regarding the enormous human, cultural and material richness found in such a vast continent! But the new gaze towards Africa has a counterpart. Many states are being the mere field of lootings, social tensions and violations of human rights committed by those who aim to increase their power and enrich themselves within the nowadays geopolitics. And all of this is leading to intolerable situations of violence towards women. We are looking, as always, at states, rich in intelligence, culture, and human resources. States geopolitically relevant as Mali, Niger, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Chad, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and a very long etc. Why are we incapable of stopping it?

I repeat once again, on this march 8th, friends: we cannot remain impassive or indifferent. Every act of barbarity, every death, every abuse, every act of violence against women makes us all less human. I also call on all men not to remain indifferent out of cowardice, selfishness, or blindness. I urge you to open your eyes wide enough so that we can identify new mechanisms and forms of power that are often masked and undetectable, and worst of all, that steal the rights and hope of millions of women and girls.

The second thing i would like to state today is: a resounding appeal for action and unity. Unity and action and unity in action are also big words; but let us not forget that the word is a powerful instrument if used wisely and firmly. And the struggle for equality, is about working for intergenerational unity, intercontinental unity, intercultural, interracial, interreligious and interprofessional unity. We have many new tools to achieve this unity of action and we must know how to take advantage of them: new communication technologies, social networks, and the vast potential, still largely unknown, of artificial intelligence.

In our work with African women at the women for Africa foundation we see it every day. We accompany, support, and contribute to strengthening their leadership.  We devise new strategies with them, united to promote constructive actions, and feminist, intergenerational, profoundly transforming leaderships in the continent. We work on all this and much more so that African women lead scientific research, political decisions, peace processes, the fight against climate change and drought, and the sustainable development of their countries.

Friends, let us make our voices heard today, March 8th 2024, that they, we, women hold the key to reverse the dark picture that i presented to you at the beginning of my statement. We are millions of women, all over the planet, all over Africa, and we are not willing to give an inch of our rights and conquests for equality, justice, freedom, education for all girls, a life free of fear, our right to live a healthy life, free of violence, a fulfilling life, in sum, our right to well-being. There is no turning back. The achievements of feminisms are not negotiable. And, let me tell you, there is no other way to defend them but with unity.

Unity with creativity, with drive, with strength, with intelligence; unity in diversity; unity always innovating. And unity with joy. Because joy is essential to maintain a strong spirit, a strong gaze, and a broad perspective on the challenges we face in the struggle for gender equality. Friends: joy is, above all, the antidote to fear. Joy is unstoppable, contagious and transforming. Joy is a collective weapon and the basis for social cohesion.

Joy is the most powerful foundation within feminist movements, friends: let us never lose it.  Women will never do.

Thank you.

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