Sunday, 13 March 2011

Seven inspirational African feminists

By Minna Salami. This post is a modified version of a post on MsAfropolitan
1. Nawal El-Saadawi – The Egyptian novelist, essayist and physician, whose works have have the central theme of women’s oppression and desire for self-expression has written books that have been banned in Egypt and some other Arab countries. It’s no surprise that she might rub people the wrong way: claims such as ‘all women are prostitutes in one way or another’ because patriarchy forces women to sell their bodies at a price, and that the lowest paid body is that of a wife, are not likely to be popular. El-Saadawi writes in her book ‘Woman at Point Zero’:
“They said, “You are a savage and dangerous woman.”
I am speaking the truth. And the truth is savage and dangerous.”
2. Waangari Maathai - The first African woman to win the Nobel peace prize is a spokesperson for ecofeminism, she was also the first East African woman to hold a doctorate, but what she refers to as ‘the tragedy of her life’ was the sexism she encountered at university in Kenya which meant she was unable to continue her academic work.
Her ex-husband is to have said that he wanted a divorce because she was “too educated, too strong, too successful, too stubborn and too hard to control”.
3. Ama Ata Aidoo - The Ghanaian novelist was once asked in an interview how she deals with people saying that she learnt to be a feminist abroad-out of Africa and how she learnt to give voice to the silenced African woman. Aidoo replied, “…if the women in my stories are articulate, it is because that is the only type of women I grew up among. And I learnt those first feminist lessons in Africa from African women.”
Discussing the misconception that most female African writers that write about women’s issues are not feminist, Aidoo rejects those suggestions in her case, saying: “how much more loudly should I declare my feminism?”
4. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – The Nigerian writer has referred to herself as a feminist who likes to wear lipgloss. I kind of like that because even though it’s absolutely fine to not wear lipgloss, or make up, it points out that women can like make up and be feminist. 
5. Bisi Adeleye – Fayemi - Nigerian/Ghanaian feminist activist Adeleye can claim the impressive titles of social entrepreneur, organisational development practitioner, fundraiser, trainer, writer and last and perhaps most significantly, the Executive Director and co-founder of the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), an Africa-wide grantmaking foundation for African women’s organisations. She has said:
I am a feminist because I am angry. I am angry because despite what most constitutions, laws, policies andscriptures say, women are still treated as second-class beings. The lives of women and girls do not seem to mean as much as the lives of men and boys.
And also:
I am a feminist because I have hope. I have hope in the love, brilliance and creativity of my sister feminists, who rise and rise again.
6. Shailja Patel - On her blog, the Kenyan writer and poet quotes another huge inspiration of mine, Arundhati Roy.
‘A feminist is a woman who negotiates herself into a position where she has choices,’ Arundhati Roy says and Patel embraces that as her favourite definition of feminism.
7. Jessica Horn - A poet with ‘roots in Uganda’s Mountains of the Moon and the shadows of New York’s Yankee stadium’, Horn has commited her creative and professional life to exploring women’s experience and advocating for respect of women’s rights. She says:
I was raised by a woman that I have come to recognise as a revolutionary mother, who used the act of mothering as a process of education and affirmation for the minds and sensibilities of her children. From this upbringing I learned that the real catalyst for liberation is neither force nor discourse, but the revolutionary power of love.

If you would like to find out about more African feminists you can visit AWDF for a list of 50 inspirational African feminists.

Would you like to share a feminist inspiration with us?

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