African feminists are vital to the social and economic mobility of women on the continent and in the diaspora. They have, and continue to, pave the way for the education of girls, the political participation of our women, and have even built the confidence for women to say no to patriarchal systems of government and marriage. They are intimately familiar with our struggles spanning from colonization, apartheid, and civil wars, and as the gate keepers of the female African experience, we need to learn their names and remember their work.
Here are 5 African feminists to know and love (you're welcome):
1. Leymah Gbowee is a Liberian peace activist, social worker and women's rights advocate. She is also a 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate. She is the founder and president of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, based in Monrovia. Leymah is best known for leading a nonviolent movement that brought together Christian and Muslim women to play a pivotal role in ending Liberia's devastating, 14-year civil war in 2003. Her book, Mighty be Our Powers will change your life.
2. Professor Amina Mama is Nigerian-British feminist writer and intellectual who has worked for over two decades in research, teaching, organizational change, and editing in Nigeria, Britain, the Netherlands, South Africa, and the U.S.A. She spent a decade at the University of Cape Town’s African Gender Institute (she is the reason I choose to spend my time at the University of Cape Town!) where she led the collaborative development of feminist studies and research for African contexts. Amina currently works as a professor of Women and Gender Studies at the University of California, Davis.
3. Professor Ama Ata Aidoo, is a Ghanaian author, poet, playwright, and academic. She also served as a Minister of Education in Ghana under the Jerry Rawlings administration. In 2000, she established the Mbaasem Foundation to promote and support the work of African women writers. She is a prolific writer, with her most popular works being Changes: A Love Story, and Our Sister Kill Joy.
4. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Nigeria in 1977. She is the author of three critically acclaimed novels: Purple Hibiscus (2003), Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), and Americanah (2013). She also released a short story collection, The Thing around Your Neck in 2009. Chimamanda self-identifies as a feminist and has written and given speeches on various current topics relating to women’s issues in Nigeria and across the Diaspora, including her celebrated TED talks.
5. Theo Sowa is Chief Executive Officer of the African Women’s Development Fund, the premiere grantmaking foundation that supports local, national and regional women’s organizations working towards the empowerment of African women and the promotion and realization of their rights. She has previously worked as an independent advisor for a wide range of international and social development issues. Her work has covered advocacy, service delivery, evaluation, facilitation, policy, and organizational development with a range of international and intergovernmental organizations and grant-making foundations.