"African Women - we must be our best possible selves but the state must do more"
To mark International Women’s Day 2013, we asked for a contribution from a number of women from a variety of professional backgrounds, of both African and Non-African descent, but all engaged with the progress of women on the continent around the world. We asked them a series of questions including what more needs to be done to address the challenges facing African women in the 21st century, which women inspire them and what words or quotes inspired them. Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah, founder of Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women, is our final contributor.
Opportunities are opening up in terms of girls and women’s access to education, and increasing public awareness and discussion around concepts such as gender equity and women’s empowerment. Let me speak specifically in the context of my home country, Ghana. The main challenges for women in Ghana in my opinion are that too many of us are dying from an exorbitantly high maternal mortality rate (currently estimated at about 350 per every 100,000 live births), a growing wave of religious fundamentalism across the country welds women to rigid patriarchal norms and there are still too few of us in decision making spaces.
There is is a big ask here - Individual women in Africa must work to become their best possible selves; individual African women can continue to work in solidarity with other African women to share knowledge, resources and experiences.
In the same vein, women in the Diaspora can work to improve their own situations. Women in the Diaspora can also support initiatives led by African women and vice versa. The rich herstory we have makes me proud to be an African woman. One of my pet projects has been uncovering the herstories of African women by interviewing my Grand Aunt and reading my Grandfather’s memoirs. It’s clear how dynamic our African women ancestors are. That makes me proud to be an African woman.
My work with the African Women's Development Fund and my involvement with the African Feminism Forum have given me the opportunity to meet and work with a wide variety of African women that make me feel proud to be an African woman.
The state absolutely needs to do more. It’s the state’s responsibility to ensure that no woman dies needlessly as a result of pregnancy or childbirth. It’s the state’s responsibility to protect its citizens (including women) from violence. It’s the state that benefits when all of its citizens are able to contribute meaningfully to society.
There are several African feminists that I regard highly including Jessica Horn (@stillsherises), Hakima Abbas (@hakima), Amina Doherty (@sheroxlox) Minna Salami (@MsAfropolitan), Spectra Asala (@SpectraSpeaks), Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, First Lady of Ekiti State, Nigeria; Theo Sowa, CEO of the African Women's Development Fund, Pregs Govender, Deputy Commissioner, South African Human Rights Commission, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche…I could go on and on…
Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah is an activist and founder of the blog Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women.