Mona Hakimi

Mona Hakimi

Date: March 14, 2011
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My Learning Journey in 2011

My time at Gender Links is quick to calculate: it has been a little over two months since I moved to Johannesburg to be part of the GL team. My personal journey with GL and the lessons I have learnt as a result takes a little more time to evaluate. The lessons I have learnt over the years are key turning points in my life as an aspirant gender activist.

May 2009
Lesson One: fighting for the “f” word

In my second year of study at the African Gender Institute, I wrote a paper entitled “The ‘F’ Word”. It was based on my gradual realisation that “feminism” has become a “nasty” word in popular discourse. I struggled accepting the fact that my identity as a feminist would entail a constant battle to assert the legitimacy of gender equality. In my research on the multiple meanings of feminism, I came across the GL Strip the Back Page! Campaign and the varied responses it received in the media. The hostility from the majority of South African print media outlets resonated with a personal experience I had had when I expressed feminist sentiments at a male-dominated Student Societies Workshop at the University of Cape Town. Reading and writing about the GL campaign, I learnt a valuable lesson: to remain grounded in my beliefs and to relentlessly strive for gender equality. I learnt that it is important to pursue the cause of gender justice despite (and perhaps in spite of) attempts to undermine the activism that a feminist ideology entails.

November 2009
Lesson Two: “Yes We Can”

My final undergraduate research project was based on the daily experiences of a resilient woman trader at Cape Town Train Station. I spent approximately six months visiting Mama Ice at her stall: listening to her life story, meeting her dependents, witnessing the police brutality that comes with informality and writing about the unseen effects of the 2010 World Cup. I poured my heart into my research but my activist spirit was dampened by a feeling of utter hopelessness – so what if I was writing about Mama Ice’s experiences? Who would ever read it? Who would care? In the midst of this, I saw a GL call for papers for the GMDJ on the Pambazuka website. I jumped at the chance to take Mama Ice’s story off academic shelves and a month later, we were on a flight to Johannesburg together. Mama and I attended the Soccer 2010 Colloquium – she spoke about her struggles, I presented my research findings and we both left inspired by the powerful force that NGOs can be in promoting human rights.

October 2010
Lesson Three: “You will learn”

Being part of the media team at the GEM Summit was my first “real” encounter with daily life at GL. Needless to say, it was an overwhelming week. Early mornings, non-stop multi-tasking and late nights meant that by 11pm, I cared more ardently about meeting my pillow than taking stock of gender, media, diversity and change. This lack of midnight inspiration would be completely overturned in the mornings when I saw the daily newsletter of the GEM Summit and the coverage that many of the articles received. It was fulfilling to feed into a bigger picture and at the end of the Summit, I left rather reluctantly to UCT to complete my degree. Now that I am part of the GL team, I know to expect the best with the worst: times get tough, it can be hard to keep up, but at the end of the day, it’s worth the struggle. On one of my first days of work at GL, a former staff member wisely said, “No matter what happens, you will learn.” And so, my learning journey begins…


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