Dear Madam Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma,
Hello! (not the Adele type, but a warm, friendly African Hello).
You don’t know me, but I know you. Infact, I have met you personally on several occasions and every time I meet you, I come away with a deep and profound sense of admiration, awe and inspiration. I am encouraged by your hectic work schedule and how you are able to manage it, flitting from one part of the continent to the other, always prepared, always ready to deliver and intensely knowledgeable about the continents challenges and opportunities. I remember one time when you had just arrived in Addis Ababa from a meeting in some country, I think, Liberia and walked off the plane straight into another High Level meeting, well prepared and up to date on all the issues.
Well, this is between me and you, but I wish to compliment you on your Afropolitan fashion taste and your love of wedged platform shoes. Nice. I also love wearing platform shoes. Thank God for whoever invented the platform shoes. They are comfortable, can be worn for long periods of time and yet very classy and give one height and lift.
Ok, back to the reason for this letter. As a feminist pan Africanist blogger, I am always looking interesting topics to wow my readers on a regular basis. I hope that during one of your night flights from Addis to Pretoria, you will make time to peruse my blog on pan africanism and send me comments. So I was pleasantly surprised to learn from the newly updated African Union website that the theme for the African Union for this year was on human rights with particular focus on the rights of women.
I wish to congratulate you for choosing such a relevant theme for this year. As a feminist and an African, (not necessarily an African feminist), I am pleased at this choice of theme. Infact, over the time you have been AUC Chair, I have been looking forward to when your feminist side will show up more. And now I see it in the same clarity as your work as a freedom fighter during the South African apartheid era.
The African woman suffers all forms of atrocities, most of them silently. From being the receiver of wars, plagues and pestilences to being marginalized in all decisions especially those concerning her personally. She watches her children die daily from hunger, disease and malnutrition; she loses her property on the death of her partner, she labours day and night for the benefit of her family and many at times, to the detriment of her own goals and suffers atrocious human rights abuses under the guise of ‘custom’ and ‘tradition’. But she is also brave, courageous, tenacious and creative. She walks many miles to get fresh drinking water for her family; she works many hours to put food on the table. We are all witnesses to the undying spirit of the specie Africanus feminus.
Earlier this week, you addressed the gender pre-conference to this year’s AU summit and spoke to women about being agents of change for Africa’s development, being transformers and not conformers. I applaud this and look forward to your speech at the AU summit proper.
Madam Zuma, humbly allow me to add my take to what I believe the AUC should focus on whilst working on human rights with particular emphasis on the rights of women in 2016 and beyond. These, I have classified as the three ‘E’s of women’s growth and development- Education, Economic stability and Empowerment.
Education is at the heart of any type of development and the education of women and girls have been proven as a sure and sustainable way to development. As Kwegyir Aggrey said, ‘if you educate a man, you educate an individual but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation’. Malala Yousafzai said, “If we want the education of girls, we should be united. We should not wait. We should do it now.” I totally agree with this courageous young lady.
Economic stability as a major panacea to most of the challenges that the modern day African woman faces. underlying factors such as access to land, access to finance and access and use of new technology will make the African woman more profitable. It is also proven that when a woman makes money, she spends it on bettering the lives of her family members. This ensures reduction in malnutrition rates, she is able to pay for her children to go to school and for healthcare needs for herself and her family. A new hairdo and a pair of wedge platform shoes also did nobody no harm. lol
Empowerment in its bare form means to give power or authority to. It can also mean to enable or to permit. It is a fact that gender bias and discrimination against women is still a powerful negative force in significant percentages of Africa and this must be aggressively dealt with over and over again. Empowerment encompasses all but also stands alone as a major tool to the development of the African woman and girl child. An empowered woman will speak out against oppression in her community. Most importantly, an empowered woman is a role model for young girls. This will create a snow ball effect which, ultimately, is in the interest of Africa.
So when you meet all those old men Presidents in suits next week at the 26th Ordinary Session of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, kindly give them this message of change from a young African girl who wants to see that Agenda 2063 is gender compliant. My message is simple. Mr. Presidents, commit boldly to change the future of the African woman. Be audacious in the decisions you make and dare to support your affirmations. Ensure our children go to school and support our work and we will in turn work hard for our respective countries and for Africa as a whole. Remember, every woman is either your daughter, sister, mother or wife.
For me, I will continue to do my best to promote the interest of the African woman through my blog and through my work. As Martin Luther King once said, ‘be a bush if you cannot be a tree, if you can’t be a highway, just be a trail, if you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are’.
I therefore join Madam Diop when she says that ‘We, Women of Africa, must seize this opportunity as we all know that Africa will not achieve its Agenda without the women and youth of this continent”.
Pan Africanist. Feminist. Optimist.