Three eminent African women leaders took the stage: Dr Joice Manjuru, former Vice-President of Zimbabwe and 2018 Presidential Candidate (running against Robert Mugabe), Dr Nemata Majeks-Walker, Founder and First President of the 50/50 Group of Sierra Leone, a non-partisan campaign for equal representation of women in politics, and Fadumo Dayib, the first woman to run for President of Somalia in November 2016, expert in public health and award-winning activist.
All three women spoke with poise, humility, and passion, but it was Fadumo Dayib, the first speaker, who struck me the most.
Dayib spoke from the heart, unprompted, about her experiences running for President. She talked about how Islam had been re-appropriated to paint her as an infidel for speaking up as a woman, the issues she faced fighting against the clan-based system Somali society is based upon, how the resistance she was most upset by was that of other Somali women from the diaspora.
But most strikingly, Dayib was clear, she will not give up her fight. Despite losing relationships, despite the death threats she has received, despite the online harassment.
'If you know what you are doing is the right thing, never give up... I will continue this journey for as long as it takes.'
And for today, International Women's Day 2017, that is the message I wish to share. We cannot give up this fight for equal representation. We cannot negate the importance of intersectionality, and we should fight against all forms of misogyny, racism, sexism, Islamophobia, anti-semitism, and where they intersect with the experiences of class, race, and non-binary peoples.
Thank you, Fadumo Dayib, for inspiring a room full of women of colour to continue the fight.
“In 2020 we will have democratic elections and then … we will win,” Dayib said. “A lot of Somalis are in shock because I appeared out of nowhere but managed to challenge all those in power … and [now] everyone inside the country knows who I am.”