Sisters in activism  

Combatting performative activism, one activist at a time.  

To celebrate Women’s Month, the Sesi Fellowship and Skill Hub facilitated specialist training for aspiring activists, with the hopes of increasing their level of active citizenship. 

The Generation Equality Fellowship ran over two days, August 5 and 6 at the Bannister Hotel in Braamfontein.  

Generation Equality Fellowship volunteers and trainees at the end of the last session on Saturday, August 5. Photo: Nonhlanhla Mathebula

Project lead, Mpho Rachidi, said Sesi – which translates to ‘sister’ – is focused on sisterhood so they had to ensure that the fellowship catered for women. “[We] wanted the girls to take the skills that they learnt here and implement them in the spaces that they’d find themselves in,” she said. 

When participants were selected, they “looked for beginner to intermediate activists or those who have had exposure to the space but need guidance as to how else they can contribute,” said Rachidi. 

There were various team building exercises and presentations around defining activism and its various forms, personal growth and community development, and the different roles one could occupy as an activist.  

Sesi project lead and manager, Sinoxolo Cakata, said learning about “the different qualities required to become an impactful activist” could help combat performative activism – a term A.F Thimsen described as applying to “instances of shallow or self-serving support of social justice causes”. Performative activists “only talk about the issue when it’s trending and not do anything about it,” said Cakata. 

She created a campaigning activity for the budding activists in which they had to create a hypothetical social justice campaign. Each group had to figure out the role that each member would play in ensuring their campaign’s longevity in relation to their educational background, experiences, skills, and interests.  

One group was given a topic on conscious consumerism, and they came up with a campaign on sustainable fashion in which they would hold fashion retailers accountable for child labour, inhumane working environments and other unethical practices. Each person’s role was determined according to the degree they were pursuing in that a law student would oversee the legal department for instance. 

Third-year Wits law student, Tshegofatso Modiba, told Wits Vuvuzela: “I [applied for] this programme because I wanted to find my own form of activism.” By the end of the day, she discovered that her favourite form was artistic activism (where artists create pieces that evoke emotion and inspire social change). 

Rachidi said more young women “need to use their voice”, and their future projects will be developed with this in mind.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Sesi volunteer, Sibongile Radebe, facilitating a training session. Photo: Nonhlanhla Mathebula