The Role of Afropolitan Women in shaping the African Narrative
By Zuko Komisa
There is a continuing debate about the role of African Women in society, with the norm customarily being that they are sub-ordinate to the men. In many African and perhaps global communities the zeitgeist of roles is firmly placed on the ideals of men, with important yet less ‘serious’ roles being given to the women. This is mostly because of the way patriarchal societies have indoctrinated our communities.
Shaping the African Narrative
How we organise our understanding of Africa plays a very crucial role in establishing a connection to it. The meaning we give to the stories we tell, the constant reminder of our essence as a continent and the strength we give the voice of the women in Africa in this regard to accomplish this.
For us to grasp the level in which our narrative defines us a continent, we need to see it from the premise that every person has an “essential” self which is unique, coherent and fixed, this is the core of every human being. The stories our African women tell their children, and what the the transfer of knowledge looks like is imperative.
Raising an African Child
We’ve all heard the saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. An African belief that the holistic growth of the child depends not only on the immediate family or community but anyone who gets in contact with the child.
How far does this theory or way of life go in the 21st Century? A time where prosperity requires both parents to work for the family income. Women working in the corporate world, empoverished mother’s who leave their own children to be care-givers in town, raising other women’s children; grandmothers’ who raise their teenage granddaughter’s children. Do we still have the same values in the upbring of an African child?
I still recall the stories my mother would tell about Nongqawuze, a Xhosa prophetess whose prophecies led to the great cattle-killing crisis, the story of the Great Xhosa king Hintsa, the values my people lived by in days gone by and how I couldn’t wait to get to school and retell the same stories.
In a documentary title Billionaires in Charge, Manoj Bhargava, spoke about the most important lessons he learned from his mother, a lesson he felt is the most important in any endeavour, whether it be business or life. He said:
“Somebody asked me what does an entrepreneur really need? So I said only two things, ‘common sense’ and ‘a sense of urgency’. Then they asked who should we learn this stuff from? I said ‘from you mom, because she has probably done more management that your MBA professor. She’s got a budget, has all these kids running around. Hard to manage, all this has to be done everyday, 7 days a week. Now that’s hardwork, that is learning on the job.” This is an important perspective in seeing what women are capable of.
Afropolitan woman in 2017
Afropolitan women generally have a firm understanding of who they are with a global perspective on life, they are everywhere among us. The likes of Basetsana Kumalo, Terry Pheto, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Taiye Selasi, Khanyi Dhlomo, Terry Pheto, Yvonne Chaka Chaka continue to open avenues that once seemed but a distant dream.
There have been many women on the African continent who have shown extra-ordinary capacity to lead with an iron fist. A prominent example is Queen Mantatisi perhaps one of the most feared female military and political leaders of the early 19th century. It still saddens me that such stories continue to be suppressed never fully told.
Trailblazer, mavens and all-round phenomenal woman continue to scrap the pavement of our peception of the limits of women in Africa. There’s still raised eye-brows when seeing a female taxi driver, a woman president, a female judge or any occupation that was traditionally meant from men. Yet we forget our strength doesn’t lie on inhibiting and stifling progress, but in understanding that women in the 21 Century can no longer be held back for fully expressing what is possible.
We need to start being more progressive in our approach as Africans. Women in our society are beacons, they are fearless nurturers armed with a big heart. There have been nations that have fallen to waste from ignoring the magnitude of women. The same woman who continue to birth nations. This African month, and beyond, let’s continue to acknowledge the irreplaceable role every woman has to play in our world.