April 22, 2024
7 Black Women Leading the Charge for Social Change
7 Black Women Leading the Charge for Social Change

Across the globe, Afro-descendant women are organising and strategizing against overlapping systems of oppression which are determined to keep them subdued. Against all odds, these educators, activists, artists, and leaders from across the African continent and diaspora are using their voices and talents to challenge the status quo and build liberated futures for us all. Here are seven such women who are at the forefront of social change:

1. Stella Nyanzi

Stella Nyanzi is a Ugandan human rights advocate, poet, medical anthropologist, feminist, queer rights advocate, and scholar of sexuality, family planning, and public health. Much of Nyanzi’s digital activism is rooted in the practice of “radical rudeness”, a strategy for social critique rooted in Ugandan culture which was successfully deployed for anti-colonial resistance. Nyanzi may be best known for her vocal and controversial criticism of President Yoweri Museveni's government, which led to her multiple arrests, but much of her scholarship has been dedicated to exploring sexual and reproductive health in relation to the stigmatization of youths, women and queer people. Her work goes beyond this to reclaim queer African identities and reframe them independent of Western understandings of queerness. Dr. Nyanzi's irreverent, unruly activism embodies the spirit of fearlessly intersectional African feminisms which have no respect or regard for overlapping systems of oppression.

2. Mona Eltahawy

Mona Eltahawy is an Egyptian feminist journalist, social commentator, and activist. A reporter since the 1990s, Eltahawy is a prominent voice in the fight against gender-based violence and a vocal advocate for women's rights in the Middle East and North Africa. She is one of the conveners of the #MosqueMeToo movement and the author of Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution and Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls, both incendiary manifestos which condemn what she calls a "toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend" and encourage women around the world to disrupt and defy the patriarchy.

3. Amina Doherty

Amina Doherty is a Nigerian/Antiguan feminist and co-founder of the Black Feminist Fund (an institution pioneered to support Black feminist movements globally), a founding member of FRIDA, The Young Feminist Fund (an organization that aims to strengthen the capacity of young feminist organisations around the world through small grants) and Director of the Women’s Voice and Leadership-Caribbean program at the Equality Fund. Amina works at the intersection of activism and feminist leadership, strategising around messaging, movement-building and funding for feminist movements across the world.

4. Dr. Jaimee A. Swift

Dr. Jaimee A. Swift is a political scientist, the executive director, creator, and founder of Black Women Radicals, “a Black feminist advocacy organization working to highlight, center and support Black women and gender-expansive people's radical activism in Africa and the African Diaspora”, as well as the founder of The School for Black Feminist Politics (SBFP), the political education arm of Black Women Radicals which “empower Black Feminisms in Black Politics by expanding the field from transnational, intersectional, and multidisciplinary perspectives.” Her work is deeply rooted in and inspired by the contemporary and historical struggles of Afro-Brazilain queer and trans and their resistance against overlapping oppressions as well as the work of Sueli Carneiro, Djamila Ribeiro, and Beatriz Nascimento.

5. Ann Kazhing’a Holland

Ann Kazhing’a Holland is a Zambian feminist and women’s rights advocate and founder of the Sistah Sistah Foundation, a women’s rights organisation focused on achieving gender justice in Zambia through a focus on sexual, gender-based violence and sexual reproductive health rights. Through climate change and feminist advocacy, sex education classes, literacy programmes, art and design, a campaign to end period poverty and multiple innovative community care initiatives, Sistah Sistah is working to support and demand equality for women, girls and other marginalised groups.

6. Dayana Blanco Acendra

Blanco Acendra is a Colombian attorney who has been working for more than a decade in public interest law, especially with ethnic communities, victims of the armed conflict, women, and LGBT people. She is the General Director of  ILEX Acción Jurídica, an Afro-Colombian and Afro-LGBTQI+ organization focused on achieving racial justice in Colombia, Latin America and the Caribbean through legal mobilization actions,  research and strategic communications with an intersectional approach.

7. Guerline M. Jozef

Guerline Jozef is a Haitian human rights advocate and Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance (HBA), a nonprofit organization advocating for the fair treatment of migrants and immigrants (particularly Black immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa, the Haitian community, women and girls, queer people, and survivors of human rights abuses) by providing them with humanitarian, deportation defence, legal, and social services. It has a particular focus on

These are just a few examples of the many Afro-descendant women who are challenging oppressive circumstances to envision and construct radically different futures. We are grateful for their wisdom, sacrifice and perseverance and by amplifying their stories, we inspire and challenge ourselves to join them by doing our part to strive for change however we can.

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