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The Strength Of A Woman – Celebrating National Women’s Month

To be a woman is to reject being known as a strong woman, because our value goes beyond our expectation to be confronted by pain.

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The Strength Of A Woman - Celebrating National Women's Month Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: @remyshoots Photography
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Reflections By Rorisang Moyo

Kumkanikazi. Mofumahadi. Mfumukazi. Queen.

You are most of the time overlooked, undermined,
stifled, frustrated. Scorched by fire, dipped in water;
yet pressure does not end you, it elevates you to
your fullest potential.

This does not mean that to be a woman means
pain is romanticised. To be a woman is to reject
being known as a strong woman, because our value
goes beyond our expectation to be confronted by
pain.

The Strength Of A Woman - Celebrating National Women's Month Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: @remyshoots Photography

To be a woman means to feel things deeply in
their entirety, to be at one with the earth and how it
works. After all, it is through us that great men and
women continue to be born, and to take their place
on this earth.

Woman means beauty, strength, community,
trendsetter, lover, and fighter. To be a girl child and
a daughter, means potential and endless possibilities.

The privilege of standing on the shoulders of
giants, a community of other women; women who
have paved the way for you to live without any barriers – ever-changing, limitless and fluid.

The Strength Of A Woman - Celebrating National Women's Month Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: @remyshoots Photography

No person alive can put a lid on the power of woman.

Photography by Jeremy Kupfuwa, IG @remyshoots

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Lifestyle

Unprepared and Offended

We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters. ~ Gloria Steinem

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Unprepared and Offended Asante Afrika Magazine
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Hazel Lifa

For years tension has been building between the sexes, a battle line has been drawn, and if we are being honest, noone knows when this happened. It is evident in movements like the Men’s Rights Movement and the christened ‘Third Wave of Feminism’. Somehow it has become a ‘Men vs. Women’ world in a reality where we honestly need each other to evolve and survive.

“It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals”.

emma watson

In a past article I spoke about how of late we tend to make everything about gender; a man behaves badly, it’s because he is a man. If a woman abuses her spouse, it is because she is a woman and privileged. In our bid to simplify the issues each sex meets in life and figuring out who’s to blame, we have cultivated so much contempt and mistrust. According to actress, Emma Watson, “It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals”.

Unprepared and Offended Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Emma Watson 

I recently had a conversation with an educated lady who pointed out a huge factor in the case of the modern woman and man. Men and boys were never prepared for the empowered, educated and powerful woman point-blank. Think about it; when you are born into societies where two parties hold such suspicion and resentment towards each other, what happens when we try to evolve and grow? Further misunderstanding and skepticism, and the game of broken telephone continues.

“…I will go as far as to say the modern woman is seen as less than.”

Whether it be in the African setting or European household, women have generally played the subservient role; treed away from major roles in powerful spaces like politics or law enforcement, asked only to entertain with their feminine appealing looks, and valued for procreation.

With the rise of feminism, women were encouraged to be just as daring as men, confident, and commanding. Women started entering the workforce, voting, started businesses… oh what a time it was! However, no one thought to prepare boys and men for this evolution of the woman, and unfortunately, it has ended in a stand-off.

The modern-day educated and working woman is often persecuted and made to feel guilty for having aspirations beyond a household and a spouse. Speaking from an African perspective, I will go as far as to say the modern woman is seen as less than. I have been genuinely warned to not get ‘too educated’, as I will be hard to marry off.

“We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.”

Gloria Steinem

On a social level, boys and men have and are still being taught that to be a ‘man’, a woman or several have to be at their mercy, inferior, and often in a position of humiliation. A woman being intelligent and insightful is equated to a man being less than. One would think that logically, having a working and educated wife would add to the quality of an ideal spouse and life partner. Many households are plagued with violence of all kinds created by insecurities which young boys are taught and carry into adulthood.

The tension has gotten to a point where women are either taking too long to marry, or forgoing the experience altogether. Such actions will have ramifications on society, but the biggest question is whether they will be positive or negative? One asks, “Ok, we have identified the issue, now how do we correct it?” The truth is that the fix is tedious, and it requires dedication from parents and adults around young boys. In the famous words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Culture does not make people. People make culture.”

Unprepared and Offended Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

The perception of the opposite sex and the dynamics of man and woman are topics taught from the tender stage of infancy, hence the nuclear family unit is where the work should start. Boys should be taught that it’s ok if a girl is better than you in a sport or at a job, her capabilities shouldn’t translate to your self-worth. “We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters,” says Gloria Steinem. 

Let us be brave enough to teach boys to not see girls as the benchmark of weakness and inadequacy. Teach boys to not to be sore losers who rather than be motivated to do better next time, lash out at girls and women who excel. Let us make phrases like ‘throws like a girl‘, ‘fights like a girl’, a positive thing; if I am a girl, how else am I to throw, fight, etc.?

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Lifestyle

#BlackGirlMagic

Zambian professional soccer star, Barbara Banda made history at the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo by becoming the first woman to achieve multiple hat tricks in a single Olympic event.

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Image: Zambian professional football star, Barbara Banda
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Hazel Lifa

They say it’s better late than never. The month of August’s significance is one that originated in South Africa after more than 20 000 women from all walks of life united in a mass demonstration walking towards the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Women’s March for Human Rights 1956

The strength and audacity exercised by women like Helen Joseph and Albertina Sisulu on August 9th 1956 are virtues that young African and black women alike can look up to in today’s world. For this year’s just ended National Women’s Month, I would like to shine a bright light on the black girl magic that has been going around in Africa and around the globe lately.

It is the time of the black woman to shine, not to say she couldn’t before, but the world right now is giving black women, as they say these days, ‘their roses while they’re alive to smell them’.

I will kick off this magical show with a feat I am sure many will agree is a game-changer. Kamala Devi Harris, the 49th Vice President of U.S.A. This biracial black woman of South Asian descent is moving in circles which women with any trace of melanin complexion couldn’t even dream of being included in for centuries. Harris’ position as Vice President of the most powerful nation on the planet gives women of colour, old and young, a sense of pride.

#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Vice President Kamala Harris

Her success also gives us another platform to discuss and grow; Harris’ sex and race are not all she is but they play a large role in the world she lives in. With time we can only hope the novelty wears off.

Zambian professional football star, Barbara Banda made history at the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo. She has become the first woman to achieve multiple hat tricks in a single Olympic event. The Zambian Women’s soccer squad’s captain is the first African woman to achieve a hat trick in Olympic history ever. Furthermore, she now holds the women’s record for most Olympic goals scored by an African. The 21-year-old is a striker who began her professional career in 2018 playing with Logrono in Spain; she scored 16 goals in 28 games. Banda came to the Olympics an unknown, but has left a name for the history books.

#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Barbara Banda in a Zambia vs. China Olympics match

Earlier this year we were impressed and elated to learn that the Miss South Africa pageant would be opening its doors to Transgender participants. Lehlogonolo Machaba took this invitation and ran with it, becoming the first openly transgender participant to make the top 30 of the competition.

#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Miss SA Finalist Letlogonolo Machaba

“Everything I do as a dark-skinned, transgender woman is a statement. My mere existence in society is threatening, and there’s a lot of closet transgender women who are afraid to come out in fear of receiving hate and even worse, being killed. By doing this I am helping all those women to know that there’s still hope and the world is changing for good, slowly but surely,” Machaba said.

Machaba works as a model booker at Invade Models, and is also the founder of the DeMollies fashion brand. She has a Diploma in Fashion Design technology from the Tshwane University of Technology.

Hailing from the western African nation of Nigeria is innovator and businesswoman, Oluwayimika Angel Adelaja. Adelaja’s two businesses Fresh Direct Produce and We Farm Africa are innovating farming technology, a feat that couldn’t come at a better time considering global warming and all. Adelaja is leading the crowd with her revolutionary stackable container farms that ease the strain on land use and opens up the world of fresh quality food to urban populations.

#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Oluwayimika Angel Adelaja
#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Oluwayimika Angel Adelaja at one of her container farms

Adelaja’s organic urban farms require way less land and water in comparison with traditional farming methods, and all while producing a yield 15times higher. Adelaja’s food shortage solutions and farming techniques all work towards creating a cohesive agricultural chain of production and creates opportunities for Africans. Adelaja also works towards the empowerment of women and developmental economics, and still holds positions like Special Assistant to the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Poverty Alleviation and National Coordinator and Consultant to the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Wealth Creation.

In the world of poetry, Dasha Kelly Hamilton is the first black woman to be named the Wisconsin Poet Laureate in its 20years of existence. Her primary objective as the award holder is to be an ambassador who encourages poetry throughout her tenure of 2years. Hamilton will be receiving a stipend of US$2,500 and a residency at Shake Rag Alley Centre for Arts in Mineral Point.

#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Dasha Kelly Hamilton

Brenda Katwesigye saw something broken in a system and set out to correct it; the result is Wazi Vision. The Ugandan native became concerned with the high cost of eyecare back in 2015 during a personal visit and launched Wazi Vision in 2016. Wazi Vision provides free eyes tests at schools and rural areas; the startup has even developed an app that incorporates virtual reality in visual tests.

#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Brenda Katwesigye

The company also uses recycled materials in manufacturing their glasses which cuts the cost of glasses. In 2018, Wazi Vision was named in the Forbes Top 60 Woman-led Startups that are shaking up Africa, and Katwesigye was named as one of Quartz Africa’s top 30 Innovators. I could go on and on, black girl magic is upon us, and backwards never my melanin beauties.

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Lifestyle

The Black Experience

If I today were to go to the U.S., issues like police brutality would be a cross I would have to bear due to the colour of my skin.

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The Black Experience Asante Afrika Magazine
Ulric Cross, World War II Hero, Trinidadian jurist, Diplomat and Royal Air Force Navigator

Hazel Lifa

I recently came across a disturbing piece of information – ‘African Americans hold a monopoly on all black experiences’. Now, what do I mean by this? I was tasked with writing articles about topics African women would be interested in or affected by. Through liaising with my boss I often got the comments, “Don’t go mainstream,” and, “…purely African flavour”. After a while, I realised what this white man meant was that my content was too African American.

Naturally, I was offended, being an African woman who had thought of what she called ‘relevant content’ which was appropriate for her demographic. But I know better, I took the criticism in an attempt to evolve and grow. It is through this process I have come to realise something; the issue here was with what my boss thought was ‘African American’ and ‘African’.

“Just like any other group of black women, African women have the same dilemma as to what constitutes professional or well-kept hair.”

My content on colourism, hair and the hyper-sexualisation of the African woman’s body came off as a bit too familiar for him. In his mind, he thought he had a clear idea of what African content looked like, but he never considered what race most Africans are, and that’s… black.

Granted, maybe some phenomenons like colourism were identified and further studied by the African American community, but does it mean they are the only BLACK people that go through it? There is a reason why African American content seems similar to some African content, and that is a matter of race. Historical events like colonisation and slave trade separated black people and threw them in an array of directions that make up today’s geological locations of black populations.

But at the end of the day, we share some issues, grievances and trials based on the colour of our skin, the texture of our hair and the shared experiences that come with the territory. For instance; where I’m from, many don’t know anything about colourism, yet it is alive and very well in indigenous derogatory terms like, “black wadada” that poke fun at darker-skinned individuals.

Another example is seen in how we approach the topic of the African woman’s hair. Just like any other group of black women, African women have the same dilemma as to what constitutes professional or well-kept hair. Many chemical relaxers have been welcomed into African households for decades and damaged African women’s hair, just like in America. But because such topics are covered more in the West, or dare I say communities in the West have more time and tools at their disposal to dissect such topics, does this make them the only black people who can claim them?

Once upon a time the white man came with a religion and attempted to save us, as he assumed we didn’t have a god. The other time, Africa had to be saved from its barbaric ways, because we ‘had no community structures’. We have come to know that both statements are untrue! Sure, Africans might have not known the words religion or community, but we did have an understanding and structure of both concepts within our societies. Point being, just because someone names something or identifies it first, doesn’t necessarily give them a monopoly over it.

If anything, I think this flawed lens of looking at things, in a way gives us a false sense of diversity. Not to say there isn’t any diversity in the world, but in certain situations like this particular one, we are the same due to shared experiences. If I today were to go to the U.S., issues like police brutality would be a cross I would have to bear due to the colour of my skin.

However, with all that said, we today more than ever aren’t aware of this deep and valid connection we share. After the years and efforts put into ending oppressive atrocities like slavery that aided in the division and displacement of black people, we the black people still propel such divisions in a failed attempt to establish historical currency.

“…we don’t own lions as pets, nor hunt for our food. We have supermarkets like in the West, iPhones, and drones.”

Yes, certain experiences like apartheid, slavery and colonisation are personal to certain subgroups of black people, but that’s not where the history of those black people begins. Rather, that is a mere drop in the ocean of culture, traditions and history that is abundant in the black race. Disregarding the shared experiences and identity that connects all black people only reinforces the divisions thrust upon us by historical events. It screams we have no history or identity, other than the stories written for us by slave traders, colonialists, racists, etc.

Putting so much value in mental shackles and focusing on how and where we ended up looks down on the aid African countries gave each other as they fought for independence. It disregards efforts made by individuals like Ulric Cross, a World War II hero and lawyer who had no affiliation with Africa, but related with her plight as a black man who also came from a colonised land. There is more uniting us than the differences we choose to honour.

Furthermore, I think how the world views Africa particularly is very narrow and one-dimensional. Africa is forever put in a box where she represents the wild, animals, and for a lack of better words, a primitive environment of sorts, an idea that got a technology boost in blockbusters like Black Panther. But in reality, many will tell you that we don’t own lions as pets, nor hunt for our food. We have supermarkets like in the West, iPhones, and drones.

Connect with Hazel:

Email: hazel@asanteafrika.net

Instagram: @word_smith96

LinkedIn: Hazel Lifa

Twitter: @Hazel_Lifa

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