Global Roundup: Ghana Feminist, Zimbabwe Women Political Representation, Chile “I’d Defend Myself Too”, Nigerian Photographer Queer Afrofuturist Utopia, Two-Spirit Artist
Curated by FG contributor Samiha Hossain
Nana Akosua Hanson. Photograph: Elorm Richards via Irish Times
Two years before the #MeToo movement prompted debate and reckonings around the world, Hanson started teaching students in Ghanaian high schools and universities about consent. She was prompted by the victim blaming and slut shaming that followed the high-profile case where a media mogul was said to have raped a 19-year-old. Then, she founded a youth-led non-profit called Drama Queens, a “feminist, queer, pan-African” organization where she created a workshop called “Let’s Talk Consent.” It involved conversations around different scenarios, such as the importance of ongoing consent, and what happens when a woman says she wants something and then changes her mind. Discussions about consent trended on Ghanaian Twitter for three days and she says it was a conversation that was never being had before.
In addition, Hanson presents a week-nights radio show where she uses pop culture to teach people about women’s rights while they are relaxing. She is also an accomplished actor and writer – her graphic novel series, Moongirls, is an “Afrofuturistic” story of “four African Super-sheroes” with magical powers, three of whom identify as bisexual, pansexual and queer, who are battling against a fascist, patriarchal order named the Seti.
I call myself an African feminist. We believe that before colonialism, before invasions in our countries, there was a long history of women leaders; women being active participants in politics and society ... Ghanaian women were traditionally not at home, they were in the market places. We have queen mothers, we have heads of families who are women. -Nana Akosua Hanson
Hanson discusses the stigma associated with being a feminist in Ghana and how women deal with various societal pressures as well as sexual violence and a lack of representation in parliament. However, she says “queer, bi, [and] trans women are currently in the most danger.” Their situation has been worsened by the influence of American evangelical groups, as well as a collection of religious Ghanaian groups. A new bill, introduced last year, could see people sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for advocating for LGBT+ causes and as long as five years for “hold[ing] out” as being gay, lesbian, non-binary or transgender, or undergoing or performing surgeries for gender reassignment. Ghanian feminist organizations are increasingly starting to see the links between anti-LGBT+ measures and women’s issues.
Hanson is also a big advocate for African women to be open about their sexual experiences. As a co-director for the Adventures Live festival, she facilitated panels such as “Polyamory — The Myths and Misconceptions,” “Raising kids without sexual shame” and “Kink and BDSM.”
We’re fighting for freedom ... To be a Ghanaian is to be a freedom fighter. Freedom is a complex thing. That’s why everything I do is trying to let everyone be their freest selves, to coexist peacefully with others. It drives everything. -Nana Akosua Hanson
Stereotypes, cyberbullying and physical intimidations have made it difficult for women in Zimbabwe to be involved in politics. In March, Thokozile Dube was attacked by a gang of assailants who stormed her yard at twilight. It was 10 days to the Zimbabwean parliamentary and local government by-elections in which she was representing the main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) in a race for a council seat. The men numbered almost 40 and arrived in two vehicles reportedly belonging to the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) candidate vying for the same position.
In 2013, the Southern African country adopted a pro-gender equality constitution that stipulated the reservation of 60 seats from the current 270 in parliament. The seats are distributed among parties on proportional representation. But after next year’s general elections, the quota will officially expire and parliament will have only 210 seats. Despite this quota system, an attempt to achieve equality and encourage women’s participation in national decision-making platforms, female participation in politics remains low.
The reoccurrence of violence during elections has continuous negative ripple effects to the participation of women in electoral processes as the assumptions of an election being violent and intolerant of women are always evident. -Sitabile Dewa, executive director of Harare-based Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE)
According to Dewa, women have largely been on the receiving end of the political antagonism, which has seen a drop in their interest to participate actively in electoral processes. From 2018 to date, WALPE recorded 37 cases of women reportedly maimed, tortured and even killed for political reasons.
Dube is haunted by her attack and now experiences panic and nightmares. She reported the incident to the police but complained that they had been “dragging their feet” under the pretext of conducting investigations. A group of human rights lawyers has also taken the issue to the courts. Nonetheless, Dube is confident of winning her seat in the 2023 elections and bringing an end to the injustice in her community. Women in Zimbabwe continue to be adamant that the country needs to move beyond the quota system and make politics safe for women.
The system is built to support men at the expense of women and this will continue unless practical action is taken to punish perpetrators. There should be steps that deter people from repeating the perpetration of violence [but] the challenge that we have in our country is that those who perpetrate violence are actually rewarded at times. -Jestina Mukoko, director of Zimbabwe Peace Project
Women backed Cynthia Concha, posting photos holding up signs spelling out "I'd Defend Myself Too, Freedom for Cynthia" COURTESY COLECTIVO LA VENTOLERA via BBC
In 2019, Cynthia Concha caused her husband’s death through asphyxiation during a violent incident in which he threatened to kill her. She handed herself in to the police immediately and was promptly arrested and would face a 20-year prison sentence if found guilty. However, Concha did not expect a nationwide grassroots campaign to rally for her freedom under the call-to-arms "Yo Tambien Me Defendería," which translates as "I'd Defend Myself, Too." The courts accepted her self-defense plea and acquitted her of all charges.
Women's rights organizations in Chile celebrate Concha's acquittal, but warn that there are many more domestic abuse survivors who have been unjustly criminalized for defending themselves.
Many cases like this could be avoided if the justice system did its job…If a woman was actually protected every time she reported domestic abuse, there wouldn't be cases like this. -Loren Leron, feminist activist who provides aid in the jail Concha was detained
According to the Network Against Violence Against Women, 81% of women had a negative experience in their attempts to report domestic violence to the police. Documentation sent to the BBC by the prosecutor's office shows that there have been 224 cases of women killing or attempting to kill partners between 2011-2022. In total, 86 have resulted in a criminal sentence and over 50 are still active. Activists demand freedom for women who are in prison for killing their partners in domestic violence contexts.
These are women who have experienced systematic violence. Many have restraining orders against their abusers but the state has failed to keep them safe, and later criminalizes them. I would defend myself too if my life were at risk. It's not violence; it's defense. -Lorena Astullido, spokesperson for the Network Against Violence Against Women
The "I'd Defend Myself, Too" cry has also extended to the LGBTQ+ community, with gay rights activists in Chile pushing for the freedom of a trans man who was jailed after killing his aggressor earlier this year. Activists argue that he was defending himself during a life-threatening transphobic attack. Victims, particularly marginalized groups, are further victimized by the state by being expected to quietly accept violence and abuse.
Courtesy Daniel Obasi via Dazed
In October 2020, the Nigerian Army massacred at least 12 protestors of the #EndSARS movement – while injuring dozens of others – as they peacefully rallied against police brutality. Photographer, stylist, and director Daniel Obasi has lived in Lagos for most of his life and had visited the site the previous day to deliver water bottles to protestors. Obasi turned to his work to channel his emotions – shock, horror, despair – when Louis Vuitton, as part of its Fashion Eye series, approached him to make a photographic document of Lagos. Last week, Obasi released the resulting book, Beautiful Resistance: “an ode to the Queer minority community in Nigeria and young Nigerians who stood up against police brutality and political corruption.” Obasi shares with Dazed his hopes for the book in the lead-up to Nigeria’s elections, the importance of fantasy to tell stories, and how he manages to find respite despite the danger of living truthfully.
My point of view has always been very surrealist, Afrofuturistic, and fantasy-like, building what I feel could be an alternative in visual storytelling…I’m interested in going away from oppression to create an alternative where power switches to the minorities – where you see the minorities taking over or taking up the spaces visually. Maybe that’s my way of hoping that such becomes our reality over time. -Daniel Obasi
Daniel considers the book as a form of protest. He acknowledges that it is a privilege to be able to make it and a lot of people lost their lives trying to protest the same thing. With the book, Obasi wants people to remember what happened three years ago. He recognizes that the election next year “will determine many things for many Nigerians. Sexuality aside, just like the daily standard of living and being able to wake up and survive.”
…I think this time around, many young people have turned out to register to vote. We’ve stepped into that space to say we’re going to be involved, even though we’re afraid that the elections will be rigged, or [there will be] corruption. There have only been two parties in the country, and we need to break that circle. We need to step away from those people. -Daniel Obasi
Madeline Terbasket, AKA Rez Daddy, prepares their makeup before a drag show at Brexit Pub in syilx homelands in Penticton, B.C., on June 16. Photo by Aaron Hemens via Indigi News
A Two-Spirit artist and storyteller is using stage performance and social media to inspire and create safer spaces for other queer people in syilx homelands (Okangan region in British Columbia, Canada). Madeline Terbasket, who performs under the drag name Rez Daddy, said that since coming out as Two-Spirit in 2019, they have worked to pave the way so that others can also be themselves. Growing up, they never had the chance to express their queerness due to homophobic attitudes in the community.
My whole life, I knew I was bisexual but I didn’t know much about my gender. I’m non-binary. Just learning, mostly through Instagram, seeing all my friends, I was like ‘I think that’s how I feel.’ -Madeline Terbasket
Last year, while serving as the artist in residence at University of British Columbia Okanagan, Terbasket wrote three creation stories: Welcome Home, The Lonely Sparrow and Pining. As Terbasket describes it, Welcome Home is about a young queer woman who wants to perform the Chicken Dance at a powwow, which is usually performed by men.
For me, my responsibility that I’ve taken on is re-queering our traditional stories because our queer characters have been taken out due to shame. -Madeline Terbasket
Terbasket began performing in 2017 as a burlesque artist under the stage name Mother Girth. Two years later, the year that they publicly identified as Two-Spirit, their drag persona, Rez Daddy, was born. The Rez Daddy character, they said, was created as a way to satirize and heal from how they were treated by certain “rez men” while growing up, specifically the toxic behaviours expressed towards them. However, there are also aspects of Rez Daddy that pay tribute to and honour Indigenous men, particularly Terbasket’s father, Forrest Funmaker.
Before drag, Terbasket said that there were not many opportunities for them to explore their masculine side. And while Rez Daddy has allowed them to do just that, the character has also given them the opportunity to poke fun at toxic masculinity on stage. A big part of Terbasket’s performances – whether it be drag, burlesque, or live storytelling – is honouring their Indigenous identity. As for their performing aspirations, Terbasket said that they want to do drag performances in different cities and Indigenous communities. Their goal as a burlesque performer is to do more festivals. All-in-all, they said that they’ve really come into their own in the last three years.
I’m imagining my life from this point, and it’s only going to get better and better. I just had a hard time in my 20s just getting by. I’m just so thankful and proud that I’m here. I’m just giving life my all. -Madeline Terbasket
Samiha Hossain (she/her) is a student at the University of Ottawa. She has experience working with survivors of sexual violence in her community, as well as conducting research on gender-based violence. A lot of her time is spent learning about and critically engaging with intersectional feminism, transformative justice and disability justice.
Samiha firmly believes in the power of connecting with people and listening to their stories to create solidarity and heal as a community. She refuses to let anyone thwart her imagination when it comes to envisioning a radically different future full of care webs, nurturance and collective liberation.