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Two Batswana women wrote a feminist dictionary and it’s amazing

For two young Batswana feminists, the academic terminology that has been popularised in online-driven social activism is useful but limited. When they couldn’t articulate what feminism is in their mother tongue, they decided to translate these so-called ‘woke’ terms into Setswana.

There is nothing new about people constantly berating black feminists and telling them that their feminisms are unAfrican. This is mainly because of some belief that feminist ideology is Western. But a little rummaging through history shows us that the earliest forms of African feminism existed in pre-colonial Africa.

The Dahomey Amazons of Benin are a fine example. For us, though, the idea of feminism was introduced in English, our understanding cemented by the academic work of feminist theorists such as bell hooks and Pumla Dineo Gqola. But the limited naming of feminist ideological terms in African languages creates a bridge between our intersecting worlds.

As Batswana feminists, we decided to bridge the language barrier by explaining some of the terms in our language. This is a love project that began with a tweet and has become something unimaginable and exciting. There is something affirming about knowing that we can explain and discuss patriarchy in ways our grandmothers, mothers and sisters can understand and take part in.

Ableism (ist): Kgatelelo le tshotlako ya batho ba ba golafetseng mo mmeleng kgotsa mo tlhaloganyong

Abortion: Tshenyo boimana

Activism: Tiro ya go tlhatlosa le go fetola ditshwanelo tsa batho ka maikaelelo a go tlisa phetogo mo setšhabeng

(Gender) activist: Mofetoladilo mo dikgang le ditiro tse di amanang le bong

(Human rights) activist: Molwela ditshwanelo tsa batho

Body shaming: Nyenyafatso le tshotlo ya mebele ya batho

Body positivity: Netefatso le kgothatso ya mebele e e farologaneng

Cisgender: Motho o bong ba gagwe bo tsamaisanyang le botonanyana kgotsa bonamagadi ba gagwe

Cishet (cisgender heterosexual): Motho o bong ba gagwe bo tsamaisanyang le botonanyana kgotsa bonamagadi ba gagwe gape a nang le kgatlhego mo bathong ba bong bo bo fapaneng le ja gagwe

Domestic violence: Kgokgontso ya mo malapeng

(Gender) equality: Ga ditshwanelo le ditshono tsa batho di sa angwe ke bong ba bona

Femicide: Dipolao tsa bomme/basadi

Feminism: Tumelo mo ditshwanelong le kgololesego ya bomme/basadi

Feminist: Modumedi mo ditshwanelong le kgololesego ya bomme/basadi

Gay: Monna o o ratanang, le go tlhakanela dikobo le banna ba bangwe

Gender: Bong

Heterosexual: Motho o a nang le kgatlhego mo bathong ba bo bong bo bo farologaneng le ja gagwe

Homosexual: Motho o a nang le kgatlhego mo bathong ba bo bong bo tshwanang le ja gagwe

Intersectionality: Thuto ka mokgwa o dikgatelelo tsa letso, bong le maemo di kopanang

Intersex: Motho o tlhakantseng di karolo tsa botonanyana le bonamagadi Intimate partner violence: Kgokgontso ya baratani kgotsa banyalani

(Social) justice: Tlhokokgobelelo e amanang le tlhatloso ya ditshwanelo tsa batho

Kyriarchy: Tsamaiso ya kgobelelo le kgatelelo mo setšhabeng

Lesbian: Mosadi o o ratanang, le go tlhakanela dikobo le basadi ba bangwe

Male privilege: Tlotla e e faphegileng e fiwang banna, fela ka gore ke ba bong joo

Masculinity: Mekgwa le boitshwaro jo bo rileng, e e tsamaisanang le go nna monna mo setšhabeng

Misogynoir: Kgobelelo ya basadi ba bantsho

Misogyny: Kgobelelo ya basadi

Nonbinary (gender nonconforming): Motho o tebego ya gagwe e sa netefatseng bong ba gagwe

Objectification: Go leba, kgotsa go tshwara motho, segolo jang mosadi, jaaka sedirisiwa

Oppression: Kgatelelo

Patriarchy: Tsamaiso kakaretso ya setšhaba, e e fang banna marapo le maatla a go busa le go gatlaka basadi

Privilege: Tlotla e faphegileng e e fiwang setlhopa sengwe sa batho, fela ka gore ba wela mo setlhopheng seo

Queer: Lefoko kakaretso la batho ba ba se nang kgatlhego mo bathong ba bong bo bo fapaneng

Rape culture: Mekgwa e setšhaba se nolofatsang kgonagalo le tiragalo ya petelelo le kgokgontsho e amanang le tsa thobalano

Rape: Petelelo/Thubetso

Sex: Bong go ya ka botonanyana kgotsa bonamagadi

Sexual intercourse: Thobalano, Morobalo

Sex workers: Bagwebi/badiri ka mmele

Street harassment: Ĝo leba, kgotsa go tshwara motho, segolo jang mosadi, jaaka sedirisiwa mo pepeneneng

Toxic masculinity: Mekgwa le boitshwaro jo bo bosula, bo bo tsamaisanang le go nna monna mo setšhabeng, mme e nolofatsa kgatelelo ya basadi le banna ba bangwe

Victim blaming: Go tshwaya phoso batswa-setlhabelo ba borukhutli jo bo amanang le petelelo kgotsa kgatatelelo ya basadi

White privilege: Tlotla e e faphegileng e fiwang batho basweu, fela ka gore ke ba letso leo

X (Referring to Mx, pronounced mix): Maemo a a fiwang motho o o tebego ya gagwe e sa netefatseng bong ba gagwe

Ze (A pronoun some nonbinary people use instead of “he” or “she”, pronounced zee): Maemedi a puo ya Setswana, jaaka dipuo tse dingwe tsa batho bantsho, ga a tlhaole batho ka bong*

* Many African languages, including Setswana, don’t have gender-specific pronouns

Reporting by Pontsho Pilane and Lorato Palesa Modongo. This article originally appeared on the Mail & Guardian.

Featured image via Unsplash

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