I haven't yet met Amina Doherty in person but I love this woman! This 27 year old Nigerian feminist activist is inspiring as inspiring gets. Her work and her life is guided by a passion for creativity and an unshakable belief in the powerful agency we each have to make positive changes in our lives, our communities and the world.
Amina holds a BA in Political Science & Women’s Studies from McGill University and an MSc in Gender, Development and Globalization from the London School of Economics. Currently setting up FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund, Amina has a range of experience working with organisations such as human rights funder The Sigrid Rausing Trust, the Directorate of Gender Affairs in Antigua and Barbuda, the Caribbean Policy Development Centre, the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action, Feminist Majority Foundation and Arts & Business.
A daughter of the Diaspora, London-based Amina has lived and studied in Africa. Here's her story, in her own words …
What's your passion?
Over the years I have worked as a researcher, grantmaker, freelance writer, and community activist and in all of those roles, I have made a conscious effort to infuse my love for all forms of creative expression. I am passionate about music, poetry and spoken word, art, fashion and seeing new places. Driving all of these things however, is a love for life and an overwhelming belief that we should seek to live our lives with as much courage, adventure and love as we possibly can. My passion is Life itself.
What inspired you to be an activist in general, and specifically, to work on feminist issues?
For many years I struggled to call myself an “activist” in large part because I felt as though I wasn’t “activist” enough; as though the contributions I was making would never be enough to bring about the kinds of substantive social change that I wanted to see in the world. A world wherein people continue to be discriminated against on the basis of their race, gender, class, sexual preference, socio-economic position and other varying axes of inequality.
However, over the years I have come to understand that what actually makes someone “activist” is a heartfelt and genuine commitment to change. Simply knowing that, as an individual, I have the potential to be powerful in whatever it is that I set my mind to, motivates me. I am driven by the understanding that the smallest acts can bring about the biggest changes … being an activist is simply about taking a stand (or a seat) and refusing to move to the back of the bus.
I can’t think of a time when I haven’t thought of myself as a feminist. My feminism is inspired by the women that have helped to raise me, the women who I am blessed to call “sister-friends,” the women who have shown me love in many ways. The ones that have told me stories, offered their advice, given me hugs when I needed them (and other times, just because), by the women who make me laugh (and also make me cry). By the everyday rebels who refuse to become disillusioned and who have taught me that in the face of all adversity, you just don’t give up. I am inspired by their energy, action, passion and commitment … and by their Love. Feminism for me has always been about self-determination; it is about women having choices and opportunities and refusing to be restricted by oppressive structures and institutions. There are many ways to be “feminist” but ultimately, feminism is about supporting women's rights to be themselves.
What has been your greatest obstacle/challenge?
My biggest challenge has been learning not to overburden myself by taking on too many things at once. I have always been taught to believe that there is always work to be done – that there will always be things to change. In my current work this has meant that at any given moment in time I find myself working on several different programs and initiatives at the same time, which can be tiring and overwhelming.
How have you dealt with/overcome it?
I have come to realize that I will never stop doing all of the things I love. The work I do is not a 9 – 5. It is part of who I am and I will never stop being myself. It actually reminds of a Nigerian proverb I learned growing up that says: “To be a Wo[man] is not a one day job”. What I am learning to do is become better at multi-tasking and accepting the fact that I many not achieve everything I set out to do in one day … but I will achieve it eventually. I am learning consistency.
What has your greatest achievement been?
I am currently at a stage in my life where my achievements are marked daily through my interactions with the truly amazing people that teach and inspire me. I have come to learn that my greatest achievement is simply the on-going process of nurturing an open and porous mind.
Where will you be in 10 years?
I am by my very nature, a nomadic traveler spirit … So I will be wherever my life journey carries me next – but I will always be an activist. I will be doing exactly what I am doing now with a decade of experience, struggle and love to guide me.
How does Africa inspire you?
Everything about Africa inspires me – from the beauty of the land, to the diversity of our people. I am inspired by the endless possibilities that continue to emerge from a land bursting with so much incredible energy, ingenuity, talent, and opportunity. I cannot separate myself from Africa – it is who I am. Everyday I wake up feeling so proud to be able to call myself an “African Woman” because I recognize that I am in the company of such greatness.
Anything else you'd like to share?
Yes, I’d like to share a little about a new initiative I am Coordinating called FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund. FRIDA (an acronym that stands for the Fund’s core values: Flexibility, Resources, Inclusivity, Diversity and Action) is a funding initiative led by young feminists for young feminists that supports the creative, dynamic and groundbreaking work being done by young women globally. FRIDA is part of a collaborative effort that is being supported by the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) and The Central American Women’s Fund.
Responding to what young feminists themselves have said that they need, FRIDA is working to mobilize the financial and non-financial resources required to support their work and is seeking to help to build a connected, global community by linking young feminists from different contexts, regions and organizations. FRIDA is seeking to do this in ways that are inclusive, fun, self-critical and that demonstrate the nature of our progressive politics and values. As a fund, FRIDA is about building a culture of resources mobilization that recognizes ‘resources’ as more than just money – it’s about leveraging all of our creative skills and talents, not just finances.
FRIDA is built on the core belief that women’s movements are strengthened when young feminist activists and their organizations are provided with the resources they need and with the capacity to mobilize resources for their work. FRIDA believes that not only is supporting young women-led initiatives important in itself but that no lasting solutions to the world’s major challenges can be effective if young women are left out.
Anything we should look out for in the coming weeks/months/year?
Yes! The official launch of FRIDA will take place next April. Before that however, there will be a series of regional events taking place to mark the launch of the new fund. People can support FRIDA by helping us to get the message out, by inviting their friends to “like” us on facebook, following us on twitter @FRIDAfund or by sharing the link to our website, www.youngfeministfund.org, which we expect to launch in early October.
Images courtesy of Amina