Stories of Girls’ Resistance

When a girl asks why the world cracks open:

Understanding the relationship between self and system

When a girl asks why the world cracks open:

Understanding the relationship between self and system

After an initial act of defiance, many girls begin to question why things are the way they are, and therefore to ask how things might be made different. In the act of questioning, her view of the world begins to shift, and her identity as a girl comes into focus; relationships are reformed and the systems and structures that govern her life are re-evaluated. It is here that her resistance is most likely to transition from isolated act to sustaining action.

I’m angry about so many things! About the inequalities in this world. I’m angry that a lot of us choose silence when we can speak. I’m angry that in this time and age we have been organising around racism, around sexism, around misogyny and dominance in so many ways for so many years, and spent so many resources. And yet, right now, I sit across from you and we are crying and going wild all over the world about a 19 year old who was being raped while picking up a package in South Africa at the post office. It’s sad that so many years into our civilization as we want to call it, or industrialization or social development, whichever you choose, we still haven’t found a way to be human enough to speak through all our pain rather than reciprocate that same pain on other bodies or other people. I’m angry that so many of us want to insist that the world only exists in black and white, in binaries, and I’m really angry that until now as a 34-year-old person I have to fight every day, every day, to be seen as the person I am.


And not only was that what I saw first and foremost for my dad, I don’t know how old I was when this came up. So, this might be past my single digits. I distinctly remember the trial, I guess the confirmation hearing for Clarence Thomas and I remember feeling like it was a trial for Anita Hill instead of it being a confirmation hearing. It was a trial against Anita Hill because she had the burden of proving that this man had sexually harassed her over a number of years. And the commentary all around me was that she lied.

It confounded me at that time because I didn’t have all the words that I have now, but something in me just felt like this is not right. This is not okay. I don’t like it. I don’t like the way this feels. Something just doesn’t feel right. At that time, I didn’t know about feminism because that wasn’t a word that was used in my house a lot and I don’t even think my mom today would define herself as a feminist. So, that was not going to be rhetoric in my house. But I think even then I was a feminist because it just wasn’t right.

United States of America

Due to the injustice and violence I have seen against women, it seemed to me that this planet is not safe for women.


Suddenly waking up and recognizing that the State had violated indigenous peoples, that strengthened my cultural identity and made me more aware of what we have experienced as indigenous people. I think it helped a lot that also I went to study in a boarding school where there were only indigenous women. I also met other realities, other girls, because there, girls came from across the country, from different languages, and that experience marked me a lot.


There was one school in my village, and it was a mixed school where boys and girls go to the same classes. During the class, it was known that girls should sit at the back and boys in the front. I was wondering why I am not allowed to sit in the front! And why am I not allowed to sit beside the boys! These questions provoked me to speak up and ask the school administration to change our seats. I went to the headmaster to object this, he told me “you know that this is what we’ve done for years and no one objected to this”. Then he said: “Girls should be at the back to prevent the boys looking at them”. I told him “and why are we allowed to look at boys?”. I was nine years old at the time.

After weeks, many teachers were discussing the case and some of them were agreeing on my idea. Then the school administration decided to change the shape of the class and put the seats in a parallel way. And it was a victory for me at that time and now it is known that I am the reason behind changing the class seats. When my father knew about it, he was so upset with me telling me you are not allowed to interfere in such issues. On the contrary, my mother was so happy and she encouraged me a lot.


So it came on black civil rights movements and I just remember this girl at the back of the class, clearly ginger-haired a white girl, she said – yeah but miss, don’t black people? And she made some sweeping generalisation. I don’t remember what the sweeping generalisation was but what I do remember is that I wasn’t listening to the whole class and when she said that I was suddenly listening. When she said that I literally, all you heard was my hand just bang on the table. I pushed back my chair and I stood up and I was like, I think it was something to do with the Caribbean when she said that. I stood up and I was like, hold on, it was the first time that I spoke in the class because I was just getting the grades. And at the same time that I stood up I looked across the class and this other girl had set up, a black girl, she stood up and she was like – just a second! And me and her basically take over that class. When I say took over, we teamed up. I remember very clearly when we left, I looked at her and I was like, you’re from the Caribbean and she was like, I’m born in Grenada. That became my friend that I left university with. And actually because of her so much has happened with my skin because she went into fashion. A very clear moment, I remember stepping up to join forces.

Trinidad and Tobago

I’ve done research; 9 out of 10 products for black women contain cancer-causing chemicals and parabens and sulphates, and that just didn’t sit right with me. So, I woke my mom up, it was 1:00 in the morning, and I said, Mom, I want to start my own natural beauty company, and she said go back to sleep. The next couple weeks, she was like, do you remember bringing it up to me that you want to start a company? I was like, yeah, but you shut me down. She was like, let’s talk about it. So, me, my mom, my dad, and my grandmother who lives with us, we all sat down and we talked about it – how you would get it started – and then we just worked and worked and worked on getting our LLC, our trademark, everything and then we launched on April 20th of this year.

United States of America

My pushback didn’t really start happening until I was like seventeen, to be honest. There was an incident at the time wherein, wait, not seventeen – nineteen, wherein former Minister of Health Volda Lawrence had the label of child rape allegations – this being a family matter. At the time I was in university and I was hearing this, and it just made me very angry and I couldn’t understand – how could a sitting minister say something like this and not have anybody condemn her or anything? And I was just checking on that and I came across Red Thread Women’s Center and I sent them a message and they were telling me they were holding a protest on the same action the next day and that I should come out. I did and that was kind of my first protest action. After that – it really was the beginning.


Women fought of course in the Eritrean army but then when Eritrea got its independence women went back to their homes and to the kitchen. So, I was absolutely shocked actually at how things can shift. No one questions their ability to fight during the wartime but when they went back to normal life, their capacity and credibility were questioned. Now part of my activism is from that time.


Yes and parents do that without intention. During my adolescents and being a teenager, I would ask them why I had to do certain things and why my brother didn’t have to. They gave me some diaries (famous Egyptian books) to read that helped me see different female characters, strong characters. I asked for a book on Doria Shafik, an Egyptian writer and feminist. I read all these books written by Egyptian feminists, about feminists. My feminism was constructed based on my own readings. Feminists from our region are made to feel like asking for our rights is something outrageous. Society raises girls so that they think it’s not normal to ask for our rights but the books I read and women I learned about – they show something different.

Reading gave me direct examples of women’s rights abuses and how they’ve been challenged throughout time. That I wasn’t crazy for thinking that women needed more.