WPL is honoured to engage in a critical conversation regarding racial injustice and gender inequality with Hafsat Abiola, Founder Kudirat Initiative for Democracy, Nigeria President of Women in Africa (WIA). In our first conversation, WPL and Ms. Abiola discussed the importance of a common humanity and a renewed sense of collective empathy, catalysed by the coronavirus, that has contributed to an invigorated response to the anti-racism movement: reykjavikforum.global/a-common-enemy-a-common-humanity/
Continuing this important conversation, Ms. Abiola and WPL explore the specific role of women as pioneers of progress and the role of intersectional feminism in advancing discussion on both racial and gender inequality.
“Women have been victims of exclusion, erasure, and injustice for long enough that oppressors find us unreliable as allies. It’s one of the reasons for hope we can hold onto as we see women rise everywhere.
Today, women and girls are taking the lead on climate change, on economic justice issues, on criminal justice reform, on LGBTQ issues, on corruption issues. Pretty much on every global issue, we are in the forefront giving voice to the demands of these causes and demanding accountability from leaders of corporations and governments, who are still all too often men. However, having the gift of compassion as a result of our history and the courage to stand up are not enough to meet the challenge.
Every theatre of injustice relies on the lack of unity among people; it’s one of the reasons oppressive systems put a lot of effort into dividing people. So as we push ahead, we have to do our work in our corner and build bridges to connect to others. We have to connect our different pain points to forge a movement. What are the issues around which we can all connect? What can we achieve together? What can we all push for now? Our power is in the intersection of our different efforts.”
Stand up, speak out
Our ancestors knew this. It is the reason why the Native Americans sent a message of solidarity with aid to Ireland in 1847. In 2020, the Irish returned the favour by sending aid to Native Americans in the fight against COVID-19. We need to remember that lesson today. In closing, I would like to recall the confessional prose of German Lutheran pastor, Martin Niemöller. He said:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –`Because I was not a Jew.`
Then they came for me – and there was no-one left to speak for me.
The centuries during which prejudice combined with power to foster a system that negates Black lives have slowly evolved into a global system that places all life on a scale to be weighed against the demands of profit and real politik. The idea that black lives need not matter has made huge profits for companies and countries over centuries. With time, those that gained from that system begin to wonder who and what else can be discounted to enable more profits to be made. So the system that started off on the basis that Black lives don’t matter slowly turns against all lives, and then against life itself. When we fight for African-Americans, we fight for ourselves and for the sanctity of life on our planet.
So I hope we do not return to the old normal but hold onto our heightened awareness that we are all human beings and continue to organise around the task of forging a world fit for all of us.”