Ethiopia Gets First Woman President

Sahle-Work Zewde- SHE-Inighi

While these are projections, I found this to be great news (irrespective of the outcome of the elections). This got me reflecting on the challenge of a single story/narrative where African women are concerned.

Yes, women face many challenges in Africa (and the world over). While the story/narrative of inequality, disadvantage, denial, oppression etc cannot be denied, It isn’t the only narrative.

While it is a strong story, that must be heard, it’s strength does not weaken the strength of other stories/ narratives where African women are concerned. There is also the story of equality, strength, influence, capacity, innovation and so forth that need to be told. These stories are not mutually exclusive. They have always co-existed.

Mutual stories of women in Africa: Not just as victims,  but as players; not just as invisible or helpless, but also as present; not just as recipients, but also a ready force of influence. E.g. With the challenges of democracy, the record for the highest number of women in parliament is held by an African country – Rwanda. In a famously patriarchal continent,  matriarchy (if I may use this phrase) is practiced in some regions – the Efiks in Nigeria, and some matrilineal cultures in Ghana. These stories can give insight on how to strengthen (not just increase) women participation in governance.

Visibility can empower. Stories come alive as we tell them. They create pictures and facilitate visibility. The capacity to bring alive and make visible, make stories a powerful tool for inspiration, reference, action, and change. If this is the case, the danger of a single story is that the subject is only part alive, part visible and somewhat disempowered. As a result, it’s strength and influence is compromised.

I feel the world (and in some way the west) find the narrative of oppression, victims, etc more engaging, where African women are concerned. In some way, there are times when some African women play this card because it’s the best option to get some issues addressed or to get support.

Be aware of the consequences of a single narrative. Let’s facilitate multiple narratives of African women and women in general.


Written by: Uduak-Abasi Akpabio


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