Creating ourselves in our own image

Creating ourselves in our own image

The Women's Leadership Centre in Namibia — Image Credits

On May 17 is the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. We document a foto-project by the Women's Leadership Centre in Namibia, which aims to strengthen the resilience of young lesbians through the use of creative forms of expression.

The images and texts in this gallery were co-created with young lesbian women who have participated in the Building Feminist Lesbian Leadership Programme of the Women’s Leadership Centre. During 2013, this programme aimed to strengthen the resilience of young lesbians through the use of creative forms of expression. We brought together young lesbians from across Namibia to deepen their self-knowledge and self-awareness, build their leadership, and strengthen their resilience and resistance for the prevention of stigma and discrimination, violence as well as HIV and Aids in their own lives and the lives of their peers.

We understand ‘resilience’ as the capacity to move on from adversity strengthened and more resourceful, and ‘resistance’ as the capacity to change an adverse situation for better. All people develop resilience through struggles and resist in many different ways when faced with violence and oppression.

The lives of young lesbians are negotiated under various forms of oppression in the different cultures of our society, which expose them to multiple forms of violence and damage their self-esteem and identity. This diminishes the voice of young lesbians, as citizens, as artists and storytellers, thereby excluding them from participating in co-creating the dreams, visions and hopes of this country. The project therefore used creative forms of expression including writing, dance and photography as tools for building self-knowledge, voice and visibility.

The focus of our project was on strengthening the feminist consciousness of young lesbian women, their capacity to recognise their particular oppression as well as their power and agency to individually and collectively change their situation for better by making strategic
choices, taking action, speaking their mind, creating their own images of themselves, and by speaking and writing themselves into existence. It built their capacity and agency to protect themselves from all forms of violence, discrimination, HIV and Aids.

The project educated young lesbians on their human rights and developed a feminist critical analysis of the patriarchal ideologies and structures in our society that underlie homophobia, discrimination and social exclusion of people with diverse gender identities and sexual
orientations. It created a space for building the next generation of feminist lesbian leaders in Namibia.

During this project, we also collaboratively developed two educational booklets: Being Ourselves! Being Resilient! - A guide to well-being for young lesbians in Namibia, and Loving and supporting our lesbian daughters - A guide for parents, families and friends of young lesbians in Namibia. We further developed and launched the photography exhibition: Creating ourselves in our own image, which forms the basis for this photo book. Reflections on the achievements of this project are included at the end of this book.

The images and texts in this photo book demonstrate our understandings of feminisms which are grounded in our everyday life experiences and insights. They express our organisation’s vision of creating a strong feminist legacy for young lesbians in Namibia. As stated in the opening poem:

We yearned for you / Longed for you / Now / Freedom is here
The future is here / Embraced in your eyes / Tasted in your words / Captured in your images

Feminism is the struggle for our lives, for our very existence, which we take up through finding our voice, becoming visible, naming ourselves, claiming our space and our rights.

Despite the scars of violence and discrimination on our bodies and our minds, these pages make visible the joy of being together, learning together, helping each other to heal, playing, dancing and climbing mountains together, embracing and carrying each other, singing our
freedom songs and performing our poetry.

Feminism as the practice of solidarity, collective resilience and resistance is demonstrated in our coming together to transform ourselves into powerful activist citizens and transforming the world around us into a nurturing place that respects the dignity and rights of every
human being.

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