Leadership, Voice, and Visibility Strengthening African women’s voice and representation: A case study of the African Women Development Fund’s social justice writing workshop for women writers.
Despite recent gains in areas such as school attendance and literacy, the struggle for women’s rights and equality in Africa remains constant. Alongside the socio-economic barriers holding down millions of women, is the fight against the gender bias and stereotyping which puts women in the backseat of decision-making, policy-driving, or leadership roles.
This dissertation project is a case study of a women’s social justice writing workshop run by the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), a Pan-African grant-making organisation. Convened three times since 2014, it brings together women from across the continent for a residential camp to sharpen participants’ skills in writing and communicating about social justice issues.
This research project attempts to examine the workshop in the context of media for development theory and strategies, which see the media (print, electronic and new media) as the fundamental strategies that drive the process of communicating. (Manyozo).1 It also looks at its relevance in the context of gender inequalities in media representation in Africa in line with Beijing 1995’s global call.
Although to a very limited scale, the study suggests that the workshop has played a small, yet significant role in conceptualising and implementation of a communication for development strategy that emphasizes capacity-building.
Harnessing the power of storytelling, the five years since the workshop, has seen many of the African women who participated, produce local content, confidently representing and analysing “our own issues for ourselves in our diversities.” Through their writings, radio shows, news stories, blogs and public speaking engagements, they are joining powerful agents of change in bringing transformation to the struggle to combat gender stereotypes and inequality, which is still far from over.
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