Name: Mayme Lefurgey
Canadian International Development Agency IYIP Gender Specialist in Malawi
Make Every Woman Count Social Media Intern
Student: Innsbruck University, Master of Arts in Peace, Development, Security and International Conflict Transformation, UNESCO program (accepted and commencing in April!)
MA in Gender and Peacebuilding at the UN Mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica 2010-2011
BA, First Class Honors in Sociology and Psychology, Mount Allison University Canada
Current location: Lilongwe, Malawi- soon to be back to Canada for a visit and then off to Austria!
How do you define feminism?
To me, subscribing to feminism as a philosophy means a personal pledge to achieving a society free of gender discrimination where all citizens have the right to participate equally and freely. Feminism means promoting social and economic equality and upholding the human rights of all citizens. It is an avenue by which to challenge socially constructed normativity. It is an opportunity to act in solidarity to achieve peace and sustainable development while asserting dignity for all global citizens regardless of race, gender, class and sexuality. Being a feminist to me is membership to a global movement that addresses poverty, inequality and injustice with leadership and enthusiasm. It is an outlet where I can stand up and say “no more” to issues such as rape, VAW, female infanticide, maternal mortality, sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
When did you first identify as a feminist?
From a young age I was always asking questions about social injustices and wanted to challenge gender norms. For example, when I was in the fifth grade I noticed in the newspaper that they highlighted a new delivery boy each week. I wondered why this was something only boys could do and then got a paper delivery job myself. Growing up I continued to have these types of questions but it was only once I took a Gender Relations course in my second year of my undergraduate degree that things became clear. It was really here that I was able to start recognizing my beliefs as feminism and began to learn more about global gender issues.
Has your definition of feminism changed over time? How?
It definitely changes all the time as I continue to learn and broaden my perspective. In terms of my interest within the field, I was initially very engaged in media issues and self-esteem projects for girls. While this continues to be a passion of mine, I am now also interested in the implications of gender issues in development, war and conflict situations. To me right now, feminism is about inclusivity, combatting global injustices and I am excited to be pursuing a career dedicated to promoting human rights and equality.
Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think that is and how do you handle it?
Definitely. It is something that bothered me at a younger age, as I felt insecure about the label and the misunderstandings and negativities that can be associated with it. Today, I am proud to be part of this movement as a gender activist and see feminism as an inclusive medium to make positive change. I feel that the best way to challenge this negativity is to have confidence in your beliefs and commit to being an educator about gender issues. Being a leader and exposing others to what you care about while learning from them to extend your own outlook can have a very powerful effect. It is also important to take opportunities like this one to share about the potential of feminism.
What do you see as the future of feminism?
There is still much to be done globally to achieve equality but I think the future is very promising. Even in the most dismal places in the world, we need to remain committed and hopeful while searching for creative means to engage, learn, empower and make a meaningful impact. Organizations and governments worldwide continue to make gender a priority and through challenging harmful ideologies and cultural sanctions we will see a more just world. I feel as though it has been recognized that women’s participation and rights are integral to combating world problems and issues of gender inequality can no longer be tolerated. This call to action amongst the international community is powerful and I am excited to continue to be a part of this challenging field and learn more each day.
To read more from Mayme, you can follow her on Twitter.