Today is Africa Day, a day marked by many African countries to honour this continent that we as Zimbabweans and many other Africans call home. To help celebrate this beautiful day and continent, here are ten quotes by prominent African women whose work highlights Africa’s progress, its trials, its tribulations and its successes.
“There is a rich tradition of feminism in Africa- it needs to be documented and publicised!” – Hakima Abbas– Kenya
Hakima Abbas is a political scientist, policy analyst and activist. She has been active in struggles for social justice on issues of self-determination, race, class, gender and sexuality for over 15 years. Her work as a trainer, strategist and researcher has focused on strengthening and supporting movements for change in Africa and the Middle East. Hakima is the editor and author of various publications and articles, including ‘Aid to Africa: Redeemer or Coloniser?’ and ‘People-led Transformation: African futures’. She currently serves as a board member and advisor to several global philanthropic and civil society initiatives.
“If you followed the media you’d think that everybody in Africa was starving to death, and that’s not the case; so it’s important to engage with the other Africa.”- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Nigeria
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian author who has written several literally works including ‘Purple Hibiscus’, ‘Half of A Yellow Sun’, ‘Americanah’ and ‘The thing around your neck’, a collection of short stories. ‘Purple Hibiscus’ received the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 2005 for Best First Book (Africa) and that year’s Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (overall). It was also short-listed for the 2004 Orange Prize (now the Women’s Prize for Fiction).
“Not only are there risks of disease, a wiping out of livelihoods. There is also the risk of conflict because resources are growing scarcer, livelihood patterns are being forced to change, resulting in stress on the social fabric of these communities. Women are mainly the ones who hold this fabric together, so it is critical that their needs are taken into account.”- Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda- Zimbabwe
Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda is General Secretary of the World Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). A Zimbabwean national, she is a trained human rights lawyer with extensive experience in conflict resolution and mediation. For 20 years, she has worked on issues of women and children’s human rights, with a special focus on crisis countries, violence against women, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and HIV and AIDS. She has served as Regional Director for the United Nations Development Fund for Women in Eastern and Horn of Africa. She was previously a human rights officer with UNICEF in Liberia and Zimbabwe; interim coordinator for the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association during its formation; and a law officer in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in Zimbabwe. Image taken from www.nehandaradio.com
“Feminism is like Christianity, you have to convert people.”-Hope Chigudu – Zimbabwe
Hope Chigudu is founder and former board member of Just Associates, an organisation that brings the collective power of women together to work towards social justice. A sociologist by training, she holds an MA in Development Studies with a focus on women’s studies. Chigudu worked for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Zimbabwe before becoming a founding member of Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre and Network (ZWRCN). Her experience includes periods working with the United Nations, before setting up her own consulting organisation.
“The one thing I have never been afraid of is standing before important people and speaking my mind. I represent women who may never have the opportunity to go to the UN or meet with a president. I’m never afraid to speak truth to power.”-Leymah Gbowee– Liberia
Leymah Gbowee received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her work in leading a women’s peace movement that brought an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003. Gbowee shared the prize with fellow Liberian, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Yemen-native Tawakkol Karman. Gbowee and Sirleaf became the second and third African women to win the prize, preceded by the late Wangari Maathai of Kenya.Leymah is the founder and president of Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa based in Liberia. Her foundation provides educational and leadership opportunities to girls, women and youth in West Africa. Image taken from acelebrationofwomen.org
“We need to recognise that the choice to love rather than despise each other is a political act. We need to keep expanding the feminist embrace”.- Jessica Horn– Uganda
Jessica Horn is a writer and women’s rights consultant. She is a founding member of the African Feminist Forum and lead author of the BRIDGE Cutting Edge Pack on Gender and Social Movements She is the co-editor of Our Africa on openDemocracy 50.50. Jessica Horn is women’s rights activist and founder of Akiiki Consulting. As a consultant and activist she has worked with NGOs, progressive donors, the UN and community-based initiatives around advancing sexual rights, ending violence against women, supporting women living with HIV and ensuring women’s rights in post-conflict reconstruction and peace building. She is also the former coordinator of Amanitare- the African Network on Sexual and Reproductive Rights. Jessica currently serves on the boards of the international women’s fund, Mama Cash and Urgent Action Fund-Africa.
“We Africans have to be able to deal with our problems. Help from outside is alright, but we have to learn to be responsible for our own attitudes.” – Angelique Kidjo– Benin
Angélique Kpasseloko Hinto Hounsinou Kandjo Manta Zogbin Kidjo, known as Angélique Kidjo, is a Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter and activist from Benin, noted for her diverse musical influences and creative music videos. In 2002, Angelique Kidjo was appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador by UNICEF, and used her voice and her influence to reach people worldwide to discuss some of the major issues affecting the people of Africa, the spread of HIV, poverty and hunger, and conflict and war in places such as Darfur. Kidjo has also started her own foundation, the Batonga Foundation, to help fund and support education for young girls in Africa.
“If someone hasn’t felt how it feels to eat last, to work more and to earn less, how do you expect them to support you?” Solome Nakaweesi Kimbugwe– Uganda
Solome Nakaweesi Kimbugwe is a feminist, activist and active participant within the human rights, women’s, civil society movements and the development sector in Uganda. She has proven track record in starting, reviving and managing successful development organisations and social movements that engage in development work. She has served as an independent international consultant in areas concerning women’s rights, gender and sexual diversity, progressive social movements, transformational leadership, democracy, governance and entrepreneurship.
“Human rights are not things that are put on the table for people to enjoy. These are things you fight for and then you protect.” – Wangari Maathai– Kenya
Kenyan born Wangari Maathai was the founder of the Green Belt Movement. She authored four books, ‘The Green Belt Movement’;’ Unbowed: A Memoir’; ‘The Challenge for Africa’; and ‘Replenishing the Earth’. She became the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree in biology. In recognition of her deep commitment to the environment, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General named Professor Maathai a UN Messenger of Peace in December 2009, with a focus on the environment and climate change. In 2010 she was appointed to the Millennium Development Goals Advocacy Group: a panel established with the aim to galvanise worldwide support for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Professor Maathai died on 25 September 2011 at the age of 71 after a battle with ovarian cancer
“Solidarity between women can be a powerful force of change, and can influence future development in ways favourable not only to women but also to men.” ― Nawal El-Saadawi – Egypt
Nawal El-Saadawi is an internationally renowned writer, novelist, medical doctor and fighter for women’s rights. Her writing has influenced five generations of women and men in Egypt, in other Arab speaking countries as well as in many other societies, paving the way for dissidence, rebellion and revolution. Sometimes described as “the Simone de Beauvoir of the Arab world,” El Saadawi’s writings and professional career are dedicated to political and sexual rights for women. In 1982 El Saadawi founded the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association (AWSA) and later served as editor of the organization’s publication, before the government closed it down several months later. Image taken from www.theguardian.com
Main image taken from www.commonwealthfoundation.com