Digging in the African feminist bibliographic archives

Jessica Horn
7 min readOct 14, 2018

African feminists have been producing knowledge for centuries. Finding it however has not always been easy. Until the internet age, diverse African feminist thought and praxis has been notoriously hard to access. Many feminists of my generation remember hours spent in the catalogues of university libraries searching desparately for texts written by African women whose historical experience spoke to ours. There was nothing like the pleasure of finding analysis about a context or issue produced by someone who actually knew it intimately as hier to its legacy — and not just as an external observer of it.

Having been a part of collective feminist action for almost two decades now it is also apparent to me that the tremendous volume of feminist thought produced by African feminist activists outside of the academy remains as hard to track down. This is largely due to its documentation in the internal records of feminist organisations and collectives, and dissemination in reports that have yet to become widely read or circulated outside of the NGO world.

Social media has helped open access to, and participation in, African feminist knoweldge production. However we also can’t take the medium for granted, as the tendecy for hypenation, appropriation and lack of referencing on social media can also re-render source texts and authors invisible.

In this context, it is wonderful that Kenyan scholar-activist Dr. Awino Okech has published a selection of African feminist texts from her course reading lists. This adds to efforts by a handful of individuals and collective platforms to generate bibliographies, reading lists and sample syllabi for the classroom and for activist training.

In a similar spirit I am sharing the reading list that I compiled for participants attending the second African Feminist Forum convened in Uganda in 2008. The references are older as the list itself was collated a decade ago, however this itself points to the track record of African feminist thinking on issues so present in our debates today: sexualities, fundamentalisms and movement building. It includes Monica Arac de Nyeko’s short story Jambula Tree which has since inspired the screenplay for Wanuri Kahiu’s new film Rafiki banned by Kenyan government censors due to its lesbian content.

The focus of the 2008 feminist forum reader was content by African Feminist Forum members and other academics, practitioners and artists, around the three conference tracks. References available in French are also indicated. The weblinks to some resources no longer work — a reminder in itself that we still need to keep archives of the knowledge we produce given the epehemeral nature of websites. (To that end, the African Women’s Development Fund has been sustaining an online digital repository of content by African feminist and women’s rights activist organisations and individuals).

Expanding and sharing archives of African feminist thinking remains imperative — in English, in the written word, and in the many other languages that we articulate our politics in. Onward with the work.

Background resources for the African Feminist Forum 2008



Ait-Hamou, Louisa. 2004. “Women’s Struggle against Muslim Fundamentalism in Algeria: Strategies or a Lesson for Survival?”. Warning Signs of Fundamentalisms. Ayesha Imam, Jenny Morgan & Nira Yuval-Davis (Eds). London: WLUML

Chigudu, Hope. 2004. Return the Rib. Available online here.

Hungwe, Chipo. 2006 “Putting them in their place: “respectable” and “unrespectable” women in Zimbabwean gender struggles. Feminist Africa, Issue 6. Cape Town: African Gender Institute.

Imam. Ayesha. 2004. “Fighting the Political (Ab)Use of Religion in Nigeria: BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights, Allies and Others”. Warning Signs of Fundamentalisms. Ayesha Imam, Jenny Morgan & Nira Yuval-Davis (Eds).London: WLUML

Maolidi, Selma. 2005. Why bring Islamic personal laws into the public space? Episodes from Tanzania. Dossier 27. The Network of Women Living Under Muslim Laws, December

FRANCAIS Maolidi, Selma. 2005. Réflexion sur l’introduction des lois islamiques relatives à l’individu dans le domaine public: Cas de figure observés en Tanzanie. Dossier 27. Femmes Sous Lois Musulmanes, Decembre.

Salo, Elaine and Desiree Lewis. 2002. “Democracy, Citizenship and Gender” AGI Newsletter Vol 10.July (Originally available at http://web.uct.ac.za/org/agi/pubs/newsletters/vol10/democracy.htm )

FRANCAIS Sow, Fatou. 2005. “Penser les femmes et l’islam en Afrique: une approche féministe” In Mama Africa. Mélanges offerts à Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch,. Paris: l’Harmattan, pp. 335–357.

Tadesse, Zenebeworke. 2002. “Gender and Democratisation in Africa: The Long Road to the Front Seat”. AGI Newlstetter Vol 10.July

Various authors. 2001. African Gender Institute Newsletter- Militarism (Originally available at http://web.uct.ac.za/org/agi/pubs/newsletters/vol9/webpdf.pdf )

Speeches, interviews, position papers and reports

African Union. 2003. Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa

FRANCAIS Union Africaine. 2003. Protocole a la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples Relatif aux Droits des Femmes

Creative writing

Mugo, Micere. 1994. “Mother Afrika’s Matriots”. My Mothers Poem and Other Songs. Nairobi: East African Publishing House


“Ugandan women speak about AU Women’s Protocol.” Pambazuka News Podcasts. 3 June 2008. Available online.



Badoe, Yaba. 2005. “What makes a woman a witch?”. Feminist Africa Issue 5. Cape Town: African Gender Institute.

Horn, Jessica. 2006. “Re-righting the sexual body”. Feminist Africa, Issue 6. Cape Town: African Gender Institute.

Klugman, Barbara. 2000. “Sexual Rights in Southern Africa: A Beijing Discourse or a Strategic Necessity?”. Health and Human Rights: An International Journal. 4:2

Pereira, Charmaine. 2005.“Zina and transgressive heterosexuality in northern Nigeria”. Feminist Africa Issue 5. Cape Town: African Gender Institute.

Tamale, Syliva. 2003. “Out of the Closet: Unveiling Sexuality Discourses in Uganda”. Feminist Africa. Issue 2. Cape Town: African Gender Institute.

Speeches, interviews, position papers and reports

Aken’ova, Dorothy. 2004. “Protecting the sexual health and rights of vulnerable groups”. Speech delivered at 60th session of UN Commission for Human Rights, Geneva, 14 April.

CRR and International Programme on Reproductive and Sexual Health Law,Univ. Toronto. 2005. Legal grounds: Reproductive and Sexual Rights in African Commonwealth Courts. New York: Center for Reproductive Rights.

Johannesburg position on HIV/AIDS and women’s and girl’s rights in Africa. April 2006.

Gqola, Pumla Dineo. 2006. “In defence and embrace of ourselves: Blackwomen intellectual activists, self-love and technological interventions”. Keynote Address to the Forum for the Empowerment of Women’s (FEW) Black Lesbian and Bisexual Conference, 5–8 August 2006, Constitution Hill, Johannesburg.

Creative writing

Horn, Jessica. 2006. “Dreamings (Meditations on HIV/AIDS in Uganda )”. Speaking in Tongues. London: Flipped Eye Publishing

FRANCAIS Horn, Jessica. 2006. “Rêveries (méditations sur le VIH/sida en Ouganda)”. Translation and publication by Imagining Ourselves: A Global Generation of Women (Online Exhibition).

Nyeko, Monica Arac de. 2006. “Jambula Tree”. First published by Ayebia Clarke Publishing Ltd., in African Love Stories: An anthology (ed) Ama Ata Aidoo, Oxfordshire: Ayebia Clarke Publishing Ltd.


“Lesbian Women’s Football in South Africa- Phumla Masuku”. Pambazuka News Podcasts. 22 February 2008. Available online.

“Sexuality and Social Justice Exhibition- Fikile Vilakazi”. Pambazuka News Podcasts, 8 March 2008. Available online.



Diaw, Aminata. 2007.”Sewing machines and computers? Seeing gender in institutional and intellectual cultures at the Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar, Senegal”. Feminist Africa, Issue 7. Cape Town: African Gender Institute.

Endeley, Joyce B. Mbongo and Margaret Nchang Ngaling . 2007. Challenging gender inequality in higher education: Attitudes and perceptions of teaching staff and administrators at the University of Buea, Cameroon. Feminist Africa, Issue 7. Cape Town: African Gender Institute.

Lewis, Desiree. 2005 “A tribute to Yvonne Vera: 19 September 1964–7 April 2005, Feminist Africa. Issue 4. Cape Town: African Gender Institute.

FRANCAIS Sow, Fatou.2007. “L’appropriation des études sur le genre en Afrique”. In Genre et sociétés en Afrique. Implications pour le développement”. Thérèse Locoh (dir.), en collaboration avec Koffi Nguessan et Paulina Makinwa-Adebusoye, Institut national d’études démographiques, Paris.-Première partie : L’émergence des questions de genre dans les sociétés africaines. pp : 45–68

Creative writing

Patel, Shailja. 2006. “Drum Rider: A tribute to Bi Kidude”. Published online at www.shailja.com



Chigudu, Hope. 2008. Jesus and Movement Building. Unpublished training tool.

Chigudu, Hope. 2004. “The joys, hurts and traumas of the women’s movement”. Distributed by Gender and Media Commentary Service.

Essof, Shereen. 2005. “She-murenga: Challenges, Opportunities and Setbacks of the Women’s Movement in Zimbabwe”. Feminist Africa, Issue 4. Cape Town: African Gender Institute

Sisulu, Elinor. 2006. “The 50th anniversary of the 1956 Women’s March: a personal recollection”. Feminist Africa. Issue 6. Cape Town: African Gender Institute

Speeches, interviews, position papers and reports

Alliance. 2007. “Interview with Betty Murungi”. Alliance. Vol. 10. №2. June.

APWLD. 2007. Claiming rights, claiming justice: A guidebook for women human rights defenders. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development.

AWID. 2007. Where’s the Money for Women’s Rights?

FRANCAIS AWID. 2007. Où est l’argent pour les droits des femmes?

AWID. 2003. An Advocacy Guide for Feminists. AWID Young Women and Leadership Program.

Primers on AID Effectiveness and Women’s Rights (AWID).

Primer 1-An Overview of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the new Aid Modalities

Primer 5- Making Women’s Rights and Gender Equality a Priority in the Aid Effectiveness Agenda

FRANCAIS Plaquettes — Série Efficacité de l’aide et droits des femmes (AWID)

Plaquette 1- Aperçu de la déclaration de Paris sur l’ de l’aide et les nouvelles modalité d’aide.

Plaquette 5- Mettre l’égalité entre les sexes et les droits des femmes au centre de l’agenda d’efficacité de l’aide

Adeleye-Fayemi, Bisi. 2007. “Financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women: The critical role of autonomous women’s funds in strengthening women’s movements”. Paper presented at Expert Group Meeting on financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women, UN DAW, Oslo, Norway 4–7 September. Available online.



Jessica Horn

(East) African feminist writer, doer, interpreter of the ordinary. Women’s rights strategist and advisor on bodies, movements, feminist futures @stillsherises