When I took my first women studies course, my LIFE CHANGED drastically. Besides the obvious fact that you learn about women’s oppression, intersectionality and ways to bring about change, I owe my renewed strong love for Afrikan women to this course.
Towards the end of the course, for our final project we were supposed to create a syllabus for a course we would have liked to teach. No surprise, I chose to write about “Afrikan Feminism”. But let me just say, the research I did GAVE ME ALL THE LIFE! I learned so much about Afrikan women on the continent, their contribution to Afrikan history and the international perspective on them.
Did you know that;
- Precolonial Afrikan communities are the models that UN Women uses to illustrate how complementary communities interact?
- Precolonial Afrikan communities were the first ever egalitarian communities to ever exist?
- In the 21st century, Afrikan countries are considered to be the most patriarchal societies?
- FORMAL DOCUMENTS RELEASED BY WESTERN FEMINISTS SHOW THE HISTORY OF AFRIKAN WOMEN ONLY FROM COLONIZATION?
So basically, most feminists (Afrikan and non-Afrikans) today only know lives of Afrikan women from colonization. What does that do? It erases the impact European culture had on Afrikan communities and portrays Afrikan communities as those that were always patriarchal.
It is unfair to me that I do not hear about my ancestors besides that they need saving. Literally, I just feel like feminism portrays this disgusting idea that all women from developing countries need saving. Just a few words of advice, this idea puts your fight and push for equality on hold (politically). It gives western (global north) systems this reason to say “you should be glad because at least we are not as patriarchal as they are”.
It is unfair to me that I may have had all my feminist mentors as western women because history hides my people from me.
BUT MY CHILDREN WILL NOT BE LIED TO.
I am a strong believer that your name holds weight and most times you are as good as your name. So, I have decided to give ALL my children (adopted and biological) names of activist women in Afrika (notice I did not say Afrikan feminists) in order to make sure people know of the influence of Afrikan women in Afrikan history.
My children will have names of the women that birthed the continent that is responsible for the world we know of today.
They will know the great things their ancestors did.
They will how strong and wise they were.
I will teach my children of the “feminism” that existed long before the west ever started the women’s movement.
I will teach my children the type of blood that runs in them, blood of warriors.
MY CHILDREN WILL NOT BE LIED TO LIKE I WAS.
They will Know:
Nandi kaBhebhe eLangeni, the mother of Shaka Zulu. The woman that kept ONE OF Africa’s strongest tribes running when Africa’s strongest warrior, Shaka Zulu, was at war. The same woman that was in charge of choosing the next king and elders. The same woman that spoke up for the women in the Zulu tribe against men that did not recognize the worth of a woman.
Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, the mother of Afrika’s musical Afrobeat genius Fela Kuti. Funmilayo was an activist for women’s right and traditional aristocrat. She was an advocated for the right for Nigerian women to vote. She is regarded as the mother of, not only Nigerian women activists, but Afrika’s strongest women. She created programs to informally educate illiterate women in the market sector and fought against extremely high taxes for businesses that barely earned enough to support their families. (FUN FACT: she was the first woman in Nigeria to drive a car)
Nana Yaa Asantewa, queen mother of what is known today as Ghana was the first female political and militant head. She led the Ashanti rebellion war known as the Yaa Asantewa war in history against the British colonial power. This was the last Ashanti war before the Ghana independence. She is largely remembered for her selflessness and strength in fighting for the freedom of her people.
Miriam Makeba, South Afrika’s legend known as “mama Africa” was a civil rights activist. She used her music to talk about the politics of South Afrika during the apartheid. In fact, in addition to spending her first six year in jail (because her mother was imprisoned for selling umquombothi), she was exiled for 10 years. It is through her music that she educated the international community of her experience of the apartheid and explained the very injustice that Black people faced in her homeland. She was also a big Pan-Afrikanist that encouraged sense of pride and belonging to Afrikans and Afro-descents.
Oumou Sangare, Mali’s “songbird of Wassoulou” used her music to empower women, encourage men to be advocates for women’s rights and critiqued the social norms of her country. Her music was escorted by only traditional instruments which she purposely chose as a way to encourage Afrikans to take pride in their cultures. However, her music is mostly known for the continuous mention and illustration of women’s low status in her society. She advocated for freedom of choice in marriage and educated women and men on consent. She was a major influence in women’s life that chose to stand up against Female Genital Mutilation.
My children will be the full embodiment of the strength of these women ancestors. They will carry their names and their legacies.
My children will know their oppressions but know that their wisdom, intelligence and strength is much greater than their oppression.
The strong and rich history of Afrikan women will be on my children’s fingertips. It will be burning at the tip of their tongue ready to be spat.
The strong and rich history of Afrikan women will be the blood that runs through my Children’s veins.
They will know their female ancestors held spears once and they will again.
They will know they stood at the forefront of armies, fighting for freedom.
They will know their ancestors sat on thrones once and they will again.
They will not be lied to that their place is culturally and historically home-bound.
They will know that their female ancestors, too, are the reason we have Afrika to call home.
And they will know why their ancestors are not in history books.
My children will not be a pity case.
My children will not need saving.
My children will have a voice and will speak.
My children will be the historians of Afrikan women telling the tales of the Afrikan lionesses.
Every time, someone asks one of my Children what their names mean, it will be a history lesson on Afrikan women.
My children will be the birth of a new era.