What does Feminism look like in Africa? Is feminism the presence of a female head of state in Malawi and Liberia? Is it the first drafts of Ethiopia’s Constitution on the rights of women authored by Meaza Ashenafi? Or is it Senegal’s first female prime minister? Perhaps feminism is the election of a woman, Aminata Toure, as the first female chair of the African Union. Across the continent, women are blazing a feminist trail in Africa, and creating a true womanist movement in many countries. Despite these achievements, and the substantial gains in various industries, why is feminism still considered a dirty word?

The thought that a woman would put herself first, pursue her career instead of focus on settling down, require recognition, and demand herself be seen, all threaten our present idea of being African. We hear it from our fathers and brothers, uncles and grandfathers that women can be strong but not too strong. Women must be intelligent but not too intelligent. Women must have opinions, but not too opinionated.

“[W]hy do we keep thinking that a woman who “bows” to her husband admits to inferiority? The truth is that marriage as an African institution has evolved; men are sharing more in financial roles with wives, women are getting more independent and taking charge than before, etc. But all these notwithstanding, ours is a man-is-the-head-of-the-family society. And who says it isn’t working for us?”

          -Ayo – Bankole Akintujoye

Is the man-is-the-head-of-the-family working for us when our countries are rife with forced marriages, dowry-related violence, marital rape, sexual harassment, forced sterilization, sex trafficking, beatings, forced pregnancies, mutilations, and emotional and psychological torment? Is it still enough to say that it is part of our culture, or that religion allows, or that tradition demands that women be inferior to men? Are we still willing to accept that fifty percent of our human capital be treated as property, or less than human, or less than men?

Not only are African nations grappling with how women like Betty Kavata are treated by husbands who beat them to death, African women are also trying to understand what feminism will mean for them. Across the Diaspora, and the continent, young women sit on either side of the debate. Some ask why bother getting an education, beginning a career to simply bow down to a man because he traded you all that for his last name? The other side counters; with all your degrees, your intelligence, passion and career, you have no one to come home to, no children, and have fundamentally turned your back on your natural role in life, and the African way. In this way we have divided and continue to divide womanhood, and femininity along as many lines as we can imagine.

For the African woman raised abroad, reading bell hooks, and Patricia Hill Collins, Melissa Perris Harry, Audre Lorde What does it mean to be an African woman, and feminist? For the woman growing up on the continent, where the presence and pressure of culture is present, what does it mean to be an African woman, and feminist? For the brothers, sons, uncles, grandfather, lovers, and friends, what will it mean to them to love an African feminist, or be an African feminist?

So this month, on Rise Africa, we come to you, our readers, to talk about it as we explore these conversations through the theme “The Feminist Edition.” Is there room in our cultures, in our countries, in our politics and folklore, our homes, and churches for feminism? If not, why? Do you think our cultures have mechanisms in place to ensure equality, or do we not need equality in the way feminism prescribes? Does this global ‘trend’ somehow threaten the African way? If it doesn’t, are we willing to accept that we can only become more African, and explore and expand our potential, and our abilities, by embracing the full inclusion of women on the continent in all walks of life?

Join us as we explore what African feminism looks like, and whether such a thing is necessary, let alone possible given our overtly patriarchal culture systems. If African feminism can exist, what will it look like? What kind of impact might it have on our literature, education system, political systems, innovation, and technology? Who would we be if feminism, or the principles of feminism, was a part of our societies?

Our goal is to build a community of Africans who have the confidence to speak their voice and the awareness to engage in productive conversations with one another about the shared and unique lives we live as Africans and members of the African Diaspora. We imagine an Africa where we’re all involved. As always, we value your participation. Share your experiences with, and reflections on Afro-feminism with the Rise Africa community. If you, or someone you know would be interested in participating in this series, we encourage you to contribute. Just email us at info@africaisdonesuffering.com for more information. Click here to access all articles under our November 2013 theme.

We’re excited to hear what you have to say, and encourage you all to contribute to November’s conversation. So, this month we will be giving away a free “Africa is Done Suffering” T-shirt to the guest submission with the most views, comments, and votes. If you would like more information about the submission process, contact us as info@africaisdonesuffering.com. We wish you luck and happy November!

-Chinwe Ohanele

  • Maurice

    oh wow, I really liked this introduction. i never thought of feminism as a white or black thing so looking at feminism on the continent and how it varies from feminism in america, amongst diasporans, and elsewhere should be interesting

  • catherine