Ann Holland is a Zambian feminist activist. She is the co-founder of the Sistah sistah Foundation and the co-host of Casting With The Feminist Witches, a feminist podcast that focuses on the Sexual Liberation of women and is also open to all sexualities and genders.
Where is Sistah sistah foundation based? Just Lusaka or also in other areas of the country?
We’re based in Lusaka, that’s where the majority of our team is, but we work with women from diferent parts of the country, like the Copperbelt province. We have a connection of volunteers, cause we’re a volunteer based NGO and women who help. It’s a diverse group.
Did you start the foundation? When? What was the initial main purpose of it?
We act like middle man between people that want to help and those that need help: some have money and time to help but just don’t know who to help. And we have people who come and ask us for help, so we connect those people. We not only help women from Kenya, we also help women from Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe and other Afrian countries. We look through our connections, from volunteers who live in different places. We connect them. I started with a friend of mine because we felt that when we were young we didn’t have mentors, and there were many mistakes that we did. We would have liked to have a mentor, so we’re doing it now for young girls.
#Endperiodpoverty and #Endrapeculture are the hashtags on Sistah sistah foundation. Why this two in particular?
The first thing we could do when we started it was period poverty. We narrowed down how and who we could help, where we’d be more useful; and the easiest and most useful we could do was to help with period poverty and sexual assault. We realized there’s a huge rape culture in Zambia: it’s terrible and scary.
In Zambia they pull your labia minora; they do it with young girls, they start pulling their labia with their hands since age 8 or 10: it’s an extremely painful process that could literally make you bleed. Grandmothers, sisters, even your friends will force you and chain you into pulling your labias. They use different types of medicines that could be dangerous, and the main thing about is is just to change your clitoris so you don’t enjoy sex and don’t become sexually promiscuous. It is supposed to help grip a man’s penis.Ann Holland
Do you think there are some aspects of the feminists struggle that are more specific from Zambia than from other African countries?
There are specific struggles. Our countries are extremely difficult. They’re very different at very similar at the same time. In Malawi we have the virginity sexual cleansing, when girls start their period they are raped, and this is considered even ‘clean’. Malawi and Zambia are sister countries, our cultures and tribes. Some girls in Zambia. We’ve diferent Systems and beliefs, we don’t have Female Genital Mutilation but we have Female Genital Modification: it’s a South African thing but it’s very different according to different traditions and tribes. In Zambia they pull your labia minora; they do it with young girls, they start pulling their labia with their hands since age 8 or 10: it’s an extremely painful process that could literally make you bleed. Grandmothers, sisters, even your friends will force you and chain you into pulling your labias. They use different types of medicines that could be dangerous, and the main thing about is is just to change your clitoris so you don’t enjoy sex and don’t become sexually promiscuous. It is supposed to help grip a man’s penis… which is just like strange, it doesn’t make sense. Zambia has about 72 tribes and each tribe has a very different culture; we’re very different ourselves but we can understand these cultures. Even when we go to other countries we realize there are similar practices, like ‘this is similar to what we experience’ or ‘that’s the opposite of what we experience’. So our struggles are the same but there are specific struggles that are just Zambian.
I saw on Twitter that you hosted an event in Zambia with Choose yourself, which for what I know is a feminist association based in Burkina Faso. Are such events with other feminists organizations across African countries common? If they are, how does Sistah sistah foundation cooperate with other feminist organizations from abroad?
I work for Choose Yourself. And we collaborate with other organizations; we’re a sisterhood, we’re constantly collaborating. Choose yourself is not a Zambian Organization, but they asked me to work for them. Similar events and workshops are very common, it’s very common for African organizations to come together and create such events.
Zambia is a very funny country with regards to sex […]When you’re about to get married your mother brings these old ladies who teach you dance move and sex moves that the Kamasutra would be shocked at. In a way it’s really nice, what I don’t like is that guys aren’t taught that lessonsAnn Holland
You’re also a podcaster talking openly about sex and masturbation. I’m sure it depends on the social circle one moves in, but broadly speaking how conservative is Zambia about women acting freely and speaking their minds about any issue?
Zambia is a very funny country with regards to sex. We have a very sexual culture. In Zambia we have what we call the initiation ceremony: when you have your first period a girl is taken into a house for like three months and she is taught she is a woman and how she should keep a home and a lot of these kind of lessons: they also teach you how to ride a man, how to dance in bed… It’s so sexual! When I was a teenager my parents didn’t ike the idea of kids learning about sex in such an explicit way. So now you do it more when you’re about to get married: your mother brings these old ladies who teach you dance move and sex moves that the Kamasutra would be shocked at. In a way it’s really nice, what I don’t like is that guys aren’t taught that lessons. When you come to Lusaka people are more open about sexuality; in the rural areas people are more shy, and women come together to tlak about sex because you’re getting married. It also depends on the social circle, but people are more open about sex. Some people are secretive, but others are a bit more open now.