The HoAF podcast dispels misconceptions about feminism and sheds light on authentic African perspectives. It captivates listeners by featuring experts who provide insightful opinions on feminism, steering clear of uninformed social media narratives.
By Joy Chukwujindu
There is a prevailing notion that when women come together, conflict is sure to arise, and that the concept of women supporting women is a far cry. However, this wig-clutching, face-scratching, and nail-pulling women-gathering is inaccurate, and in reality, women have a long history of supporting each other. This is evident in several blossoming female friendships and the various instances where women bravely speak out against abuse, among others. More organisations are also emerging to amplify the voices advocating for women’s rights, ensuring that feminist conversations remain dynamic and ongoing. Among these, the Pan-African media house, House of African Feminisms (HoAF) spotlights the contributions of African feminist scholars, artists, and thinkers, through written pieces, short videos, and podcasts.
The HoAF podcast, in particular, is infused with feminist nuances and discussions which centre on the African woman. The podcast, having now completed two seasons (each containing five episodes), offers valuable resources on African feminism. HoAF podcast is hosted by a lineup of women from various institutions, capturing events and people from different cultures, languages, and regions in Africa. From East and West Africa to Northern, Central and Southern Africa, it showcases the intersectionalities and cultural exchanges within feminism. There are a few episodes in different languages, such as French, Portuguese, and Amharic, which add a unique flavour to the podcast while also enhancing the listening experience. The first episode, “Money is a Feminist Issue” is recorded in French and anchored by Ivorian hosts, Désirée Dénéo and Edwige Dro. The second, “My Ovaries, My Decision”, is recorded in Portuguese and chaired by Mozambican host, Withney Sabino, while the third, “African Spirituality as a Practice of Feminism”, is recorded in the Ethiopian Semitic language, Amharic, with subsequent episodes recorded in English.
With the first season, HoAF explores different feminist practices and knowledge that have been rejected or shunned by present African patriarchal societies, such as female body autonomy, female agency within cultural contexts, sexuality, and belief systems. Some episodes seek to enlighten listeners on feminists’ ideologies that may have been closeted by patriarchy. For example, the episode, “My Ovaries, My Decision”, centres around the body autonomy of African women regarding childbearing, their sexuality, and female pleasures. This aligns with the modern feminist movement which advocates for a culture of consent, emphasising the crucial aspects of the girl child autonomy, specifically in safeguarding against mutilation.
This movement also extends to championing women’s right to independently decide on matters related to their reproductive functions, a fundamental entitlement tied to rights for equality, privacy, and bodily integrity. Recently, various feminist movements have amplified their voices, rallying behind the #MyBodyMyChoice slogan, to raise awareness about a woman’s prerogative to make decisions regarding her reproductive health, body, and overall life. Through this episode, HoAF effectively ignites meaningful dialogues surrounding rights to self-determination and contributes to the ongoing vital discourse.
In another episode, “Money is a Feminist Issue”, there is a dismantling of certain misconceptions about the success of African women, particularly in comparison to men. It addresses a misguided narrative that African women should not profess their desire for a higher income. Today, the enduring systemic oppression that results in women earning less than men for performing identical job roles persists. The gender pay gap remains a stark reality – there is a failure to address this issue, and when it does, it is unsatisfactorily reductive. In the HoAF podcast, this issue is intertwined with an emerging “financial feminism” trend – a movement dedicated to narrowing the gender wealth gap through education and empowerment. Shifting this narrative is crucial because an increasing number of African women are pursuing higher education, obtaining degrees, establishing businesses, earning placements on top-ranking lists, and overall achieving greater financial success.
Throughout the first season, the HoAF podcast introduces listeners to historical and contemporary feminist figures, such as Nigerian novelist, Buchi Emecheta, Yoruba folk legend, Moremi Ajasoro, the Queen mother of Benin Kingdom, Queen Idia, and Ahebi Ugbabe, the only female king in colonial Nigeria, emphasising their contributions to the female agency in Africa. The invaluable contributions of African women to history have, at times, faced suppression and neglect, diminishing the significant roles these women played in shaping the course of society and how these contributions are acknowledged. This historical oversight has resulted in a skewed narrative that often marginalises the immense impact and diverse contributions made by women throughout various periods and contexts. The need to rectify this imbalance is crucial not only for historical accuracy but also for fostering a more inclusive and comprehensive understanding of the collective human experience.
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In episode five, “Exploring African Female Agency and Culture through Efua Oyofo’s, ‘Udamalore’”, Oyofo, a multidisciplinary artist and cultural storyteller, narrates the compelling stories of six Nigerian historical women from different geo-political zones and cultures that took agency to protect their territories, secure the thrones for themselves and their children, and led armies during their lifetime. In her debut exhibition, Oyofo employs art and audio-visual storytelling to pay homage to womanhood and delve into African cultural symbolism. The culmination of six years of dedicated study of Nigerian cultural heritage, this installation specifically accentuates the profound role women have played throughout history, offering additional context behind these historical figures.
In the second season, the pervasive issue of gender injustices and how they affect African women across various spheres — work, home, and school — is explored, while also outlining certain historical contexts. The ongoing struggle against gender disparity in workplaces takes centre stage, with the HoAF podcast addressing the connection between unequal pay and hindered access to justice. In episode three, “Gender Justice & Unequal Pay”, Rwandan hosts, Sandrine Mignonne Iradukunda and Uwera Rutamu Fabiola discuss the idea that equal opportunities should be accompanied by equal pay, irrespective of gender. The hosts highlight a significant barrier to achieving justice — the financial burden that often prevents women and girls from pursuing legal action.
In the face of recent backlash labelling feminism as un-African and inherently an import, season two challenges these misconceptions, revealing that African societies were matriarchal long before Western influences. In episode five, “Gender Justice – A General Perspective Context”, hosts Zippy Okoth and Queenter Mbori, explained the distinction between feminism and toxic feminism. This holds significance because toxic feminism or “internalised misogyny”, encourages women to develop animosity towards men and should be disregarded just as toxic masculinity. As emphasised by the HoAF podcast, African feminism explicitly revolves around achieving gender equality for both men and women.
The HoAF podcast dispels misconceptions about feminism and sheds light on authentic African perspectives. It captivates listeners by featuring experts who provide insightful opinions on feminism, steering clear of uninformed social media narratives. Although the varying hosts sometimes create an inconsistency in the listening experience, each episode provides valuable content that caters to a diverse audience of women. While some episodes evoke a reflective mood, most maintain an energetic pace through the lively discussions.
Ultimately, the HoAF podcast emerges as a platform that not only exposes listeners to the stories of historical and contemporary African feminists across time but also challenges stereotypes and fosters a deeper understanding of Pan-African feminism.
Joy Chukwujindu is a Nigerian lawyer. When she is not lawyering, she doubles as an art and culture writer for Afrocritik.