Circles and Circles: Notes on African Feminist debates around gender and violence in the 21 Century

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Feminist Africa

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University of Cape Town

This article set out to sketch a terrain in which there are multiple, differently rooted, conversations among African feminists about gender and violence. There are few resolved debates, and many ways in which discussion which leads, in a pan-African gaze, towards mutual understanding and cohesive strategizing remains a naÁ¯ve idea. It is safe to suggest that the terms “gender” and “violence” remain simultaneously deeply entwined and infinitely separable. In the past few years, there have been vibrant, critical discussions on the nature, shape and direction of “women’s movement” organizing, and in African contexts, there are four overarching debates which have circled continually through intellectual writing on “women’s movements”, activist organization at several levels, and within numerous fora. The first debate concerns the meaning of the state. This debate is interlinked with a second: the meaning of the interaction between the North and diverse initiatives concerned with “women’s human rights,” “South-based feminisms,” and “gender-alert social justice”. The third debate concerns the very existence of a “women’s movement” and the fourth concerns access to reproductive health and to freedom from gender based violence.