African Feminist Profile: Shamim Salim

1. Who is Shamim? (Where are you from? Where did you grow up? What do you miss the most about your childhood? What do you miss the least? Shamim is a proud Muslim lesbian Feminist living with a disability. A human rights activist and a strong lover of liberty. It happened that by the time I was being born, my mom was in Kisumu I was bred by a single mother in the beautiful city of Mombasa. I grew up in such a big extended family hence having many mothers and siblings, uncles and people who brought so much light and joy to my life. I had a two-faced childhood; the extrovert, playful and opinionated girl in school. At home, I was the quiet one who barely had time to play with other kids and much less an opinion about anything. Growing up the only child to my mom, it gave me an opportunity to explore literally anything and everything, at least in my head. Being raised Muslim, it’s interesting how I ended up schooling in Christian schools- that, had a significant impact in shaping my view about religion and somewhat the world. I miss most those days when Eid celebrations were just that- Celebrations! The excitement of new clothes, the henna paintings, on my hands, the delicious Swahili, Arab delicacies and my moms taking me to Makadara to enjoy the most of it. I don’t miss the bullies in my high school- My Lord! Those girls got me!
2. How did you come into your activism? Think of a moment, either of witnessing injustice or justice that made you realize that a different life can be lived in this earth? Wow! I think every day I get a reason to want to fight for justice. But I’d say I got fed up and angry enough at how things were. I felt like my male cousin who was my age mate had more shots at a better, liberating (what does that even mean to a privileged Muslim male like him) and more satisfying life than I did. Anytime I looked around, I couldn’t look away from how much the system oppressed those of my kind (females, disabled et al) and what’s worse is that it seemed normal to everyone. I was angry because the story I was told is that no matter how much I thrive, I still needed a male figure to define who I am. I was angry because I could not exist as an autonomous person unless I was ‘let’ or ‘allowed’ by someone. Just how much power can someone have over another person! I constantly struggled to fit in as I watch the sun fade away, my light being taken away until I realized my life is in my own hands. I knew I was different in so many ways and from a very young age, I took so much pride in it. I got inspiration from a certain author and then I realized I had to choose me. It’s one of the toughest, saddest and most painful decisions I ever made. But also the right one! On my path to liberation, not just myself but others, I realized there are choices to be made, battles to be fought and we will lose people, things but it’s for a better course. Every day is struggle, either against certain people or systems, but eventually I will win, we will win!
3. What inspires you daily? It can be people, it can be things? I get inspired by my chosen family. They who ooze so much inspiration and power that make me want to see the next day.
4. Do you believe that the future we work hard to achieve is possible? What gives you hope?Absolutely! I think we can see the path of liberation and its successes in so many ways. I want to imagine we are not where we used to be 20 years ago. Those that have been before us fought for us to be at a place today where we can out rightly demand for what is duly ours, and so yes… that gives me hope!
5. What can you absolutely not live without? My mind- There’s so much going on right there. And also rice .
6. What is your favourite time of the day? I am a night owl.
7. How can we strengthen our work as queer/feminist women/womxn/gnc people in Africa? We are all doing so much great work and I think we need to support one another more and have collaborative efforts in our work. Let’s pull together our efforts, utilize our in-house resources and let’s not tire. The fight is ours to win!
8. What would you do with a million dollars? Hahaha being a foodie, I’d probably spend half of it getting the best foods in the world and half of it in clothes! But seriously, I’d definitely invest it in something that I don’t know yet but certainly I want to secure my future. I don’t like surprises!

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