S.H.E, social, health and empowerment feminist collective of transgender and intersex women was established in November 2010 and formalised in May 2011. The collective was established for reasons twofold:
It was established in response to the gender imbalance in the trans African movement to explore ways of involving transgender women in advocacy at a regional level
It was established in response to an African women’s (and feminist) movement that is often not inclusive of transgender and intersex women.
Mama Cash is a feminist donor based in the Netherlands. Through its writing and blog posts,
SHE has made contact with Barbara Lotti from Mama Cash and was soon contacted by Esther
Vonk of the same organisation. Esther met with Barbra Muruga, who serves on the SHE board
of advisors to discuss what the organisation hopes to achieve and just as a general introduction.
Esther proposed the abovementioned meeting to Barbra, who is also involved with UHAI Eashri,
an East African grantmaking initiative.
Many appointments via phone and Skype had been fulfilled in shaping the discussions and
developing a satisfying program.
Two day meeting in Nairobi, Kenya
Following the safe arrival of the delegates from their respective countries, the meeting kicked off Thursday morning 30 August 2012. The program was presented to the delegates of the meeting, changes observed and noted and the facilitators introduced. The rest of the delegates were introduced by “partners” with whom they paired up in teams of two.
Participants had to write down their expectations of the meeting and also what they knew about feminism. Several ideas had been expressed about what feminism is and what it is not. There was a vast, diverse expression of ideas on feminism.
Team work between the different organisations was encouraged with various exercises in the program. The rationale to this team work was to illustrate the strength of a movement.
Issues rose at the meeting
The meeting itself was truly interactive with various issues raised. The first issue was the role of trans men in the (feminist) movement – it is for us at SHE also a point of reflection – the extent to which we involve transgender masculine identified persons in our programs.
Drawing great debate was around defining feminism – what is feminism? How do we define feminism as a transgender movement? Some participants wanted to know whether we even need to define feminism? A key issue raised for us, as a coalition, was around distinguishing trans feminism? – should it be a new brand of feminism? Is it a transformation on current types of feminism? Adding to the discussions around defining feminism was a dialogue on what it should be:
– a school of thought?
– a philosophy?
– action /movement?
– an idea?
It was best to agree that feminism is something different to different people and there was not a need to define what feminism is for the purpose of this meeting.
The fact that S.H.E did a presentation at the meeting became a point of elaborate discussion. The coordinator responded to questions following the presentation. A question was raised about why one particular organisation was given a space to do a presentation. The donor highlighted that S.H.E that been involved in the planning of the meeting from the initial stages and also the fact that S.H.E has been a pioneer on trans feminism on the African continent.
S.H.E was initially intended to be a coalition and many of the organisation’s documents, markings and logo still reflect this position. However, after careful reflection on this, the coordinator, along with the board decided rather to call this initiative a feminist collective of transgender women of Africa. Adding to this, the word intersex had been added to the name of the organisation. The organisation has now officially adopted this mandate. This position was clarified when the coordinator responded to a question on the membership of the coalition. The question asked was whether the coalition had organisational membership and who those members are. An explanation was given that while the collective had not formally been any organisational agreements, it intends on forming African partnerships in the near future, for example, the potential partnership with TransBantu Zambia.
There was a concern as to the lack of an African trans feminist facilitator and the response was that a Latin American facilitating team was chosen based on the fact that they have facilitated many such meetings. Also, the organisations involved in putting together the meeting had decided to have a Latin American facilitator since there is not any such suitable person in the region.
The way forward
As far as S.H.E is concerned, there had been no concrete way forward. Nothing had been defined, or decided on – feminism was not defined or shaped. Although many strategies had been shared on movement building and there has been a number of team building exercises and group work from the delegates. There had been no concrete resolutions about what the trans African feminist movement should look like. Organisations had committed to explore how they can continue/start using feminism as a framework for their own activities. The meeting had been wrapped up with small video clips produced as part of the team work emphasising positive messages around minority groups using feminism as a framework.