"Bottom Power:" Theorizing Feminism and the Women's Movement in Sierra Leone (1981-2007)

in African and Asian Studies
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Abstract

This paper examines the theory and praxis of women's political activism in contemporary Sierra Leone. In spite of the steady upswing in the number of women elected or appointed to positions of political authority, the growing influence of women in politics runs into male resistance which privately and derisively refers to women's newly held positions of authority and public clout as "bottom power." This essay proposes that male pushback results from a neo-liberal women's movement that frames women's economic marginality and lack of access to political power as the result of patriarchy and male privilege, rather than using an African feminist framework which recognizes women's lack of resources as primarily the result of the appropriation of the country's wealth by multinational corporations, lending agencies and members of the elite. If viewed from this perspective, the women's movement would be framed as a socially transformative struggle for all sectors of society, and not as a contest between men and women for power.

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