Formerly, "This is Africa/fyeahAfrica".
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Afro-curator, womanist, media studies student, pop culture enthusiast, aspiring journalist, curious amateur photographer, social media guru.
Based in Cape Town, South Africa
From Lagos, Nigeria
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(since Oct. 21st 2012)
Between 1939 and 1946, Fatima Massaquoi penned one of the earliest known autobiographies by an African woman. But few outside of Liberian circles were aware of it until this week, when Palgrave McMillian published The Autobiography of an African Princess, edited by two historians and the author’s daughter.
The book follows Massaquoi, born the daughter of the King of Gallinas of Southern Sierra Leone in 1904, to Liberia, Nazi Germany and the segregated American South, where she wrote her memoirs while enrolled at Tennessee’s Fisk University.
She died in 1978, and her story could have died with her.
OF THE 36 lower houses of parliament worldwide that have reached the 30% threshold considered necessary for women to have an impact on decision-making, 11 are African. At the end of 2012, one-fifth of sub-Saharan MPs on average were female, according to figures of the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union. That may not sound a lot, but marks an increase of seven percentage points on 2002, and puts the continent on a par with the global mean. By comparison, women MPs make up 23% of Britain’s House of Commons, and 18% of America’s Congress.
In many cases, the gains are because of quota systems, which are increasingly popular. Last year Senegal’s parliament saw the fastest advance in female representation globally after it enforced a parity law. Women make up almost half of it. In September Aminata Touré was appointed as Senegal’s prime minister.
South Africa is not far behind, ranking eighth in the world, with women taking 42% of Parliament’s seats, almost double the rate in 1994 when the ruling African National Congress (ANC) created a voluntary party quota, allocating 30% of posts to women. And they run some of the country’s grandest ministries, such as home, defence and foreign affairs. The central bank governor is a woman, too.
Women will also vie for South Africa’s presidency in next year’s election. Most prominent is Helen Zille, head of the liberal Democratic Alliance, the main opposition. Mamphela Ramphele, founder of a new party called Agang, is also set to run. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a former wife of President Jacob Zuma, has been urged to bid for the ANC leadership when he goes; she has been minister of foreign and then home affairs and now chairs the African Union’s executive commission. Liberia and Malawi have elected women to be their presidents.
Even in less democratic countries female representation is on the march. After the genocide in 1994, Rwanda’s authoritarian president, Paul Kagame, engineered the election of the world’s highest proportion of women in a legislature. When a new parliament assembled in October, women had a world-record 64% of the seats. The president jokes that “women are almost taking over everything” and says that soon it will be the men who need help.
Botswana, by contrast, has dipped from 17% in 2003 (ranking it 54th in the world) to 8% (putting it 125th). Nigeria has increased its proportion up a shade from 5% to a still paltry 7%.
It takes time for female MPs to improve women’s lot. Despite law changes in South Africa, the World Economic Forum’s gender-gap report shows that women earn 35% less than men doing the same jobs.
In Rwanda a higher proportion of girls than boys enroll in primary and secondary education, but they perform worse, and the balance reverses in university, when household duties call daughters and wives away from their studies.
Despite the heading in this article, ‘Women Are Winning’, by the time one reads the last two paragraphs, one gets that feeling that despite gains in numbers when it comes to parliamentary and governmental roles for women, there’s is still so much to be done - and urgently so - when it comes to the progression and empowerment of girls and women, from all walks of life, throughout the African continent.
Are African women really winning? And where, or in/at what?
She said her generation of Igbos, the majority ethnic group in the southeast, “grew up knowing that this terrible thing had happened and deeply affected our families,” but those who lived through the war did not talk about it.
"My mother would say ‘I used to have this before the war’ or my father talked a lot about his father, my grandfather, whom I never met because he died in 1969 in a refugee camp."
"The war was always there. I knew agha. Agha is war (in Igbo). There was always ‘agha.’ But I didn’t know the details," she said.
"I think this is what happens for a generation that experiences trauma, that usually, it’s the next generation who can start to talk about it," she continued.
"I don’t think I could have written this book if I had lived in Biafra."
"It’s a book I am very proud of but it’s also a book that has a lot of emotional meaning for me…Every page of that book matters to me," she said.