The Time is Now!
Updated: Dec 4, 2020
I recently read 'Woman at Point Zero’ by Nawal El Saadawi, based on a true story. Firdaus, a poor Egyptian girl, grows up in a farming community whose society is one day breached by a woman wielding a knife. Firdaus grows up under a guardian who rapes her several times, setting the stage for an experience she would go through again and again, as an adult. She attains a basic education in the form of a primary school certificate, with which she tries to earn an honest living but fails. This ultimately results in her turning to prostitution, “an invention by men” she would once say, a decision that sets off a chain of events that send her to death row.
Wangari Maathai’s life is that of uncharted territory. A Kenyan woman: resilient, intelligent, and educated, who becomes a political figure and activist. A champion of women’s rights, she campaigned for equal benefits while working at the University of Nairobi. She would lose the fight through constitutional courts, yet she remained relentless. A woman of courage, she bore and owned the pain of being part of a society that she understood had the potential to propel the country into more prosperity - but wouldn't. She found herself at loggerheads with a regime that couldn’t stand for a society that was just, or that represented and advocated for women. Ultimately, she became a household name by winning the Nobel Peace Prize, and a representation of the peak volume that each voice in a society can attain.
I think of these two stories side by side, as they highlight the many societal barriers that stand in the way of women and girls. From unequal access to education, unequal pay, and unequal representation, to sexual harassment, gender-based violence, early forced marriage, rape, and FGM.
The world’s female population is at 49.6%, with about 48-50% across all countries on the globe. The global participation rate of women in National Level parliaments is 24.1%. In business, only 29% of women hold senior management roles. These numbers demonstrate inequalities that go unnoticed. The inequalities that are normalized as the significance of having women and girls lead becomes politicized and disregarded across the globe. The median age of the world is estimated to be 30.4 years. Much like an old car bearing a new number plate, we are a young world, carrying old notions of sexism and discrimination.
The Time is Now.
African feminism has lived before us. We have had several iconic women rise from our very soil. Tatyu Betu of Ethiopia, Huda Shaarawi of Egypt, the women soldiers of Dahomey in Benin, Gisele Rabesahala of Madagascar, Wangari Maathai of Kenya, Miriam Makeba of South Africa, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Yaa Asantewaa of Ghana, Nzinga Mbandi of Angola, Cesaria Evora of Cape Verde, and let us not forget, Queen Arrawello of Somalia. So much glory lies in what they achieved, what they continue to represent, and what they proved possible.
There is no better transitioning period to sit on than the one taking place in Africa right now. The need for a leadership revolution that is inclusive of the very basic unit of society has risen. Our Kings and Queens sat together under baobab trees to make decisions, guided by spirits they believed the trees possessed.
Our Kings and Queens sit on luxury orthopedic chairs and make decisions centered around themselves, greed, capitalism, discrimination, sexism, and racism. They watch the tin roofs of the slums in their neighborhood, read the blogs each day of new femicide, later drive across town with little hands always beckoning for a coin in traffic jams, with young girls dropping out of school for the lack of fees, what an eyesore it must be for the egocentric!
I carry the belief of Thomas Sankara, a true humanist and feminist, that:
"There is no social revolution that will triumph without the emancipation of women."