Strengthening Young Feminist Activism
An interview with Françoise Mukuku, a young activist who is part of the Young Women’s Caucus at the 2008 AWID Forum. Francoise is the National Coordinator of ‘Si Jeunesse Savait,’ an organisation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. By Kathambi Kinoti
AWID: What are the diverse needs and contributions of different generations of women, and how can we draw upon them to create stronger and more sustainable movements?
Françoise Mukuku: I don’t really think that the needs are different. What I think is different is the contexts and the approaches. We are all women, whether we are over or under 30. Having said that, I do recognise that in African culture for instance, there are certain freedoms that accrue more easily to older women, say those aged over 35. Even if they are still considered to be lesser than men, they have greater power to make decisions over their own lives than do younger women.
Many older women in women’s movements have been part of struggles and have seen the fruits of some – even if not all- of their struggles. We shouldn’t have to spend time and energy recreating what they have already created, but their knowledge is not always available to us. Older women can share their memories so that together we can build on what they have achieved so far. They can mentor us. We have new ideas, new modes of action, but we are in the same struggle so we need to support each other with knowledge and resources.
We are in the same struggle, but new dimensions are constantly being added, such as globalisation and the explosion of information and communication technologies. Older women need to acknowledge that they are no longer the most experienced in addressing these new dimensions. My mother is almost sixty years old. She knows about the existence of technologies like webcams for instance, but she does not use them. On the other hand, such technologies are essential to my work and my social life. I need technologies to be affordable, I need to be able to use them in the language that I speak, and to generally be accessible.
AWID: How can women’s movements build spaces that significantly incorporate and support rather than tokenise young women’s contributions to gender equality and women’s rights struggles?
Francoise: We shouldn’t just be doing the photocopying, coffee making or logistics, although I acknowledge that these are important. We need to be in the spaces where decisions are made. Women’s organisations shouldn’t simply create ‘youth sections.’ They should incorporate young women into everything that they do. We need more mentoring. Organisations need to have a conscious programme for mentoring young staff members. For example, an older activist should bring her younger colleague along to forums. I have recently noticed a trend recently invitations to meetings say: ‘This invitation is not transferable.’ This kind of practice will create strong individuals but not strong organisations. We need to trust that if the person invited is not available, organisations will send someone who can ably represent them.
AWID: How do we create more sustainable models of activism? How do we renew and sustain our movements and ourselves, as well as each other?
Françoise: Of course, getting more young women into activism is key. Here again the need for mentoring arises. This ensures that we build a bridge into the future and don’t lose the spirit of the women who have preceded us.
Funding is another aspect that needs more attention. We need to raise money to sustain us so that we are not just doing activism in our spare time. We have to be able to raise adequate funds for a paid staff.
We also need to be constantly open to learning more and sharing more with each other. We need to be able to access more resources and more knowledge about being more effective. We constantly need to check back with the women we work for, so that what we are doing remains relevant.