Ulandsseminar on Feminism in the North and in the South: differences and similarities

Ulandsseminar on Feminism in the North and in the South: differences and similarities

The seminar on Women's day gathered a diverse panel and a full auditorium of participants. The speakers of the seminar represented different organisations and cultural backgrounds, but most of the time agreed on the importance of female rights and especially education as a means to change attitudes and social structures. Following people participated in the panel discussion: Patience Malunga, Ragnhild Therese Nordvik, Sait Matty Jaw (giving a male perspective on feminism), Dr. Shirin Zubair and Åshild Svensson.

Sait Matty Jaw talked about his experiences as a social activist in the Gambia. In his country, more than half of the population are women, and women have a major role, for example, in the food production, but they are still in the poorest position. Religion also controls women's behaviour and choices more than men's. Sait Matty Jaw feels that men are privileged, and for this reason have a duty to stop violence against women and improve their rights.

Patience Malunga spoke about feminism in Zimbabwe. She stated that in poverty wears the faces of a woman, which is unfortunately true in many countries. In Zimbabwe, the society and culture are very patriarchal and these are used as excuses to suppress women. Marriage is seen as a norm, and non-married women are represented suspicious and disgraceful. Due to these factors, it is difficult for women to be heard in the politics, and make a change.

Even though all the panellists agreed on female rights, it is important to notice that feminism is often seen as a Western concept, and instead of feminism it is more common, and in many cases safer, to advocate and speak about women's rights than being labelled as a feminist.

Questions and comments from the audience led to a conclusion that women are seen equal only if the society values both genders, and the suppressive structures and ways of thinking are replaced by new ones.

Written by Hanna Lehto