My first day back at work, I received a phone call from the Southern African Young Women’s Festival – an event that I had applied for many months earlier – who were letting me know that I’d been accepted to attend, that the festival started that evening, and that a hotel room (just down the road from my house) had been booked and paid for. Oh, and also that I had been designated as a Rapporteur (note-taker) for the event so my participation was more-or-less essential. After the exhaustion of my travels, my enthusiasm to upheave my life once again resembled that of a suffocating fish. Yet, given that this may be my last opportunity to be classed as “young”, I decided to attend the welcoming cocktail evening to get an idea of how best to wrangle my way out of the remainder of the event.
I had barely even stepped out of the car, before I was dragged into a photograph with a bunch of stunning girls from Angola. Then I was pulled into more photos with equally stunning girls from Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, DRC, Mozambique, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania and Swaziland. Seriously! What makes young African women activists so smokin’ hot? I had difficulty finding a woman there whose a) high heels were less than 15cm high, b) butt wasn’t round and perky, c) didn’t look like she belonged on the catwalks of Milan, d) lacked sexy African dance rhythm, and e) was devoid of enthusiasm, energy, intelligence and a sense of fun. Meanwhile I looked like a, well, suffocating fish.
The cocktail evening was spent with an endless exchange of names that I will never, ever remember (except for Isabel from Angola – I’ll remember her!), and listening to inspiring talks from a bunch of inspiring women, including shiny new American Ambassador to Swaziland Makila James (I want to be her when I grow up), and Swazi’s own Black African Feminist poet, Blacknote Nxumalo (Soul sister). Before I knew it I was swept up in the “Sister, Sister” chant and the accompanying excitement and energy of the 90+ participants that I knew I had to be a part of the next three days.
The remainder of the festival covered all manner of women’s activists topics: African feminism, Political consciousness, Personal Leadership and Emotional Intelligence, Movement Building, Mentorship, Resource Mobilisation, Creative expression, Body talk, Culture and human rights, and finally, a discussion with Doo Aphane who took Swaziland’s unconstitutional land title laws to court and won (What a rockstar!). The most inspiring thing for me, however, was the diversity, yet harmony, of the women there – Black, White, Straight, Lesbian, Bi, Trans, Blind, Wheelchair-bound. I left there with a single piece of advice for anyone daring to cross a young African woman’s path: Watch out!
Even after returning home on Friday night, the opportunity for rest and recuperation eluded me thanks to someone’s birthday. I won’t complain as I felt very loved the entire weekend, starting with new Aussie volunteers’ (Myles & Tegan = MyTe) housewarming / birthday surprise. Then House on Fire was very kind to put on Mozambiquan Dub band, The Gravity Regulators, on Saturday night for me (I assume it was for me? Or maybe it was for the benefit of the 300 Peace Corps that were in town. Hmm). Sunday morning I headed back to MyTe’s place for pancakes, before baking a Beef and Guinness pie to take to a joint birthday / leaving do at Mike and Felicity’s. In between it all, I had to write a 25-page report on the women’s festival for submission by first thing Monday morning. Needless to say, Sunday night I crashed, content and a little bit older, but undoubtedly no wiser.