Why we need women-only spaces.
Article Type: Essay
Subject: Public spaces (Demographic aspects)
Women (Social aspects)
Women (International aspects)
Feminists (International aspects)
Feminists (Social aspects)
Author: Siebritz, Elzita
Pub Date: 08/01/2008
Publication: Name: Sister Namibia Publisher: Sister Namibia Audience: Academic; General Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences; Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 Sister Namibia ISSN: 1026-9126
Issue: Date: August, 2008 Source Volume: 20 Source Issue: 3
Topic: Event Code: 290 Public affairs
Geographic: Geographic Code: 60AFR Africa
Accession Number: 188293342
Full Text: A women-only space is more than just a space where women can gather without the presence of our biologically opposite counterparts. It's a place of empowerment, encouragement, enlightenment, energy, emancipation, and any other word that echoes our independence, beauty and strength.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

A women-only space is not simply a room filled with women; it's an ideological and political space, where patriarchy in all its oppressive manifestations is challenged. This space is used to educate women and to channel our energies. It is a space where we are free to be who we are and to say whatever we want. A place of self-discovery!

Looking at our space, there will be men who argue that our society is made up of both men and women, and social issues affect both genders. Men therefore need education and knowledge as well. Men are quick to emphasise, ironically I might add, that a women-only organisation is "reversed sexism". They feel "left behind" and need to be "carried along".

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Well, to these men I would like to highlight a crucial point here: when women were confined to the private space like the kitchen, for centuries, no objection was ever made. Are these men who want to be "carried along" willing, or even capable of giving up the power and privilege that patriarchy has so generously bestowed upon them? Are they prepared to put in the work required to affect a mindset change in our society, a task that countless feminists have done for generations?

Can we as feminists afford to allow men in our spaces, employing them and allowing them to speak on our behalf? The answer to that is emphatically NO! One cannot expect to see any real results for women in such an organisation. We cannot tolerate the company of men who batter and abuse women in the private and seek to be our allies in the public. Women have fought hard to be visible in the public space, and we are not prepared to wave a white flag, surrender and go back to the kitchen.

Women-only spaces are non-negotiable. Feminism has thrived in the women's movements and the academies in the North because feminists in those countries have been able to acquire the necessary spaces and resources. Feminists in Africa therefore need this space where we can mobilise our limited resources in order to build a firm feminist foundation in our countries. It is in our women-only spaces where we can empower and train women as leaders as well as provide the necessary tools needed for emerging leaders.

We will therefore continue to claim our space. Men might fear that women's organisations are threatening their power. Well, so they should! Women-only spaces are built on the idea that we can liberate ourselves and the innumerable women who are still oppressed in Namibia. We will hold fast to our strategy; create women-only spaces so that we can share the private and make it political; to bring change and transformation to the world we live in.

Imagine therefore, a place where women chart the future of our country, lives and destinies of others to come. Imagine a place where women are free to choose the life they want to live, a world where women are safe, happy and full of life. Imagine a place where a woman of power is the norm and not the exception, a place where fear is channeled into power. This vision will only be achieved through maintaining our women-only spaces, spaces of love, acceptance, dignity and transformation.
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.