It’s time for a brutally honest conversation. Some women don’t want kids. Being a parent is just one of the many roles that women can play. I particularly feel angry when women are pushed into or forced to be parents when they have no intention, inclination or desire to be mothers. Parenting, including having kids, should be a matter of choice. A child does not want or need a reluctant or frustrated parent.
As women, we are human beings first with desires, ambitions, talents, skills and purpose. For those of us who choose nurturing as their primary goal be the best you can be, it’s a choice! Personally I preferred to have my children in my 20s as they are important in my life path. However, we should all respect that women have a different paths through which to contribute to society. Sometimes this does not include having kids. If you’ve felt alone by not feeling any maternal desires, this list of prominent childless women will remind you that you are not.
Rosa Parks, Civil-Rights Activist
Rosa Parks is famous for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in Jim Crow era US. Her defiance lead her to became a symbol for the Civil Rights and she later received national recognition for her work as an activist.
Oprah Winfrey, Media proprietor and philanthropist
Oprah is undoubtedly the Queen of media. She doesn’t need an introduction, we know that she is the richest African American of our time and possibly the greatest black philanthropist in history.
Roselyn Naliaka Nambuye, Kenyan High Court Judge
The Court of Appeal judge with over 30 years experience in law, Roselyn was the chair of the Kenya Women Judges Association. She created scholarship for destitute children and is also known participate in communal activities like funerals and harambees.
Billie Holiday, Singer and songwriter
The iconic singer of the blues, Billie Holiday never had children. She pioneered new forms of singing and is known for her voice which captured her audience’s attention completely.
Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, 2005-now
The number 1 most powerful woman in world this year, according to Forbes, Angela Merkel is the first woman leader of the Christian Democratic Union party and the first woman Chancellor of Germany.
Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State 2005-2009
Condoleezza Rice was the first woman to serve as National Security Advisor and the first African-American woman to be Secretary of State. Condoleezza is also a professor of political sciene affiliated with Stanford University.
For those who just don’t want to have children now, remember that child bearing can be deferred until even your forties. This can allow you to pursue any other ambitions you may have during the “prime” of you life (that is between the ages of 25 to 35) .
“True friends are like diamonds—bright, beautiful, valuable and always in style.”
– Nicole Ritchie
Coming of age and navigating the tumultuous waters of adulthood, I was a big fan of the TV show “Sex and the city” as my friends and I looked to the show for advice on how to model our lives in a way that was fashionable and fun. As I grew older, I realized that there was another important “f factor” I needed to be on the lookout for when choosing friends, fulfillment. There comes a point in every young woman’s life, for me it hit in my late 20s as the dreaded 3-0 loomed closer, where you realize that it is time to put aside childish thoughts and ways and begin to think seriously about laying a stable foundation for your 30s and working towards the manifestation of that.
In the last decade I have lived in 5 cities in 3 different countries. I have been a student, a traveler, a freelancer and full-time employee. I have gained, and lost, more than my fair share of acquaintances, kindred spirits, fair-weather and lifelong friends. The more I think about the different periods of my life and the people who were present during those times, the more I realize the great, and lasting, impact these people have had on my life. The ones that stand out in my mind and the ones whose friendships I still cherish are the ones who were with me laughing, crying, cursing, loving, losing and believing with me all the way.
When I first watched the hit web TV series “An African City”, beyond the glamorous lives of these returnees, what struck me was the strong bond of friendship that existed between these 5 women, individually and collectively. Perhaps, wrapped in each of An African City’s complex character are a few lessons we could all learn about the types of friends every modern African woman needs to successfully navigate her late 20s and early 30s.
The Lifer/Memory Keeper
“An African City” is told from the viewpoint of NanaYa, who returns to Ghana with her parents after spending most of her life in America. We learn about the other characters through NanaYa’s insightful observations and it is clear that she is the glue that holds the group together. Every girl needs friends who can tell you the who/what/where/why of most of your major life moments, possibly because she has lived through most of them with you. The Lifer friend is someone who has been there with you through thick and thin and is not going anywhere, ever. You may choose different paths in life and there may come a time when you will be separated by distance and other relationships and commitments, but this is the friend that would drop everything to be by your side if you ever needed her. She will be the godmother of your children and the adopted daughter of your parents, she will be the one sitting next to you on a porch 50 years from now reminiscing about life and all the joy, sorrow, triumphs and failures it brought you both. Cherish the Lifers and Memory Keepers you have in your life.
The Hustler is portrayed by Zainab who moved to Ghana to start her own natural hair product business. She pours all her time and energy into making her business successful. Even through the trying times, Zainab always manages to keep her head above the water and proves that she deserves every bit of the success she has achieved. Every girl needs that Hustler chick among her circle of friends who is killing it professionally. Not only will she inspire you to aspire to greater heights, she is a fountain continuously springing forth invaluable advice on the dos and don’ts of navigating the business world. Your Hustler friend will have contacts and resources that you can tap into and before you know it, you might become the Hustler in your group as well.
The sheer amount of change you will experience in your late 20s and early 30s is enough to leave anyone dazed and confused wondering why up is down and down is up and just how in God’s name you are supposed to make sense of it all. When I was about 25, I remember feeling like someone had pulled the rug out from under me. I was expected to graduate with honors, find a great, well-paying job, move into a nice, furnished apartment. Add to that I was to work long hours and still be out on the town every weekend having a good time, then get married, have a few babies all the while remaining a successful career woman. If it wasn’t for the grace of God, family and uplifting friends I would have gone crazy a long time ago. In “An African City”, Ngozi is the Uplifter, that one friend that you can always count on for an encouraging word when times are rough, the friend who not only listens attentively but also supports all your hopes and dreams, even the crazy, impractical ones. The Uplifter’s favorite word is “yes”. Sometimes it seems like the world is screaming no to all your efforts and that you are constantly being met with closed doors. When you’re just about ready to throw in the towel, it is refreshing to have that one voice that always says “”Yes, I believe in you”, “Yes, you can do it.”
The No BS’er
Say what you will about Sade’s character but she is actually my favorite character. While she appears to have many vices, Sade is the one character in the group who is always willing to call a spade a spade. And I believe every girl needs friends who will always tell them the truth, even when it hurts. Often, to keep the peace, girls avoid telling each other the ugly or painful truth. In the worst case scenarios, rather than telling the truth to the one in question, we tell it behind their backs and by the time the truth finally comes to light, it causes even more pain and drama than it would have we had been straightforward from the beginning. Here’s where the No BS’er comes in. While it may feel like the No BS’er friend’s sole purpose in life is to burst or bruise your ego, with time you realize that they’re not trying to be rude or malicious and it is all coming from a place of love. By always keeping it real, the No BS’er helps you to see a different perspective and encourages you to keep growing and changing. Isn’t that what life should be all about?
The Unlikely Friend
Now Makena’s character was a little harder to pin down into one type. She is a delightful medley of so many types: the social butterfly who seems to know where you can get just about anything at any point in time, the risk taker who left a high paying job in London to return to Ghana, the bad influence with a smoking habit and questionable taste in men. All of these combine to make Makena the Unlikely Friend of the group. One of my favorite authors, Anais Nin, has a quote that I absolutely love. It says, “Each friend represents a world in us, a world not possibly born until they arrive”. Whether it is choosing a girlfriend with a different nationality, culture, background, interests or life views, having that Unlikely Friend will only serve to expand your worldview and enrich your life in ways you could never have possibly imagined.
Are you a fan of “An African City” and could you spot any other friend types that we might have omitted from this list? What type of friend are you in your group of friends? Join the conversation and let us know what your thoughts are in the comments below.
Almost everyone I know is either busy or tired. In this age of hyperconnectivity, we’re always “on.” In the race to stay on top of work, news, and friendships, it’s difficult to find time for self-care. By creating the space to embrace the present, meditation gives us the time to tune out the noise and listen to our inner voices
I first learned the importance of meditation at my Quaker high school. Silence is a unique features of a Quaker worship service. Through silence, Quakers believe they can listen, reflect, and deepen their connection with God, their community, and themselves. For forty-five minutes once a week, teachers and students met in a sunlit room to sit in silence. In such a competitive, Type A environment, the fact that we came together weekly to affirm the time to reflect and to dream is extraordinary. Taking the time for mindfulness helped me listen to my inner self rather than follow the crowd.
As a teenager trying to figure out life, that space was essential. But as a young woman in the digital age, I find the need for silent reflection even more essential. It was easy to meditate in high school when the time was carved out for me—it’s harder to accomplish now as an adult with a hectic schedule. But according to experts, meditation one of the best ways to focus and be present rather than in “react” mode.
Ready to start meditating? Here are a few tips for incorporating it into your life:
Sit for just five minutes a few days a week, and gradually build upwards.
Check in with yourself
How do you feel—tired, anxious, energized? Focus on your state of being and you’ll learn more about yourself.
Don’t worry about doing it right
For some people, meditation is about clearing the mind or avoiding all thought. While that can happen during meditation, that’s not the point. It’s normal to have thoughts, and meditation can help you better focus the direction of your attention.
Create a space
When you’re meditating for short periods of time, your location might not matter as much, but as you increase your time spent meditating, you should be comfortable.
What does your soothing environment look like? Do you need a pillow? Do you prefer sitting in the sunlight or an evening session with candles? Design a calming space that helps you clear your mind.
Set a reminder to meditate each morning to help get your day off to the right start. Switch off your phone and find a quiet space. Can’t take the time before the morning commute? Try carving out a little bit of your lunch break or use meditation as a strategy to unwind before bed.
Join a community
There are Meditation Meetups in thousands of cities worldwide. If you can’t find a group that suits you, create one with family, friends or colleagues. Depending on where you are, you can look into your company benefits—many employers now provide meditation training to promote wellness and productivity.
Every morning, I take half an hour to meditate. The silence helps me cope with the deluge of information I receive everyday in my full-time job as a Communications Manager at a multi-stakeholder industry association and my night-owl assignments as a freelance writer and editor.
In the words of Buddha, “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.”
It started as a conversation with my friend. We were talking about topics we’d love to read about and I said I wished someone would write a manual on how to not disappoint your mom.
Mothers…bless their souls, we love them but there’s something about knowing you’ve disappointed your mother that leaves an indelible mark on your consciousness. A mark you’ll continue trying to obliterate or make amends for -both exercises in futility really because how do you fix what you didn’t set out to ruin?
See I’m 26 and I’m a single girl living and working in Lagos, far away from the comfort of my family. That on its own is enough to cause most parents to worry, my parents don’t live in Nigeria.
Thus the responsibility of parenting me has been outsourced to a gaggle of well-intentioned, if incredibly parochial, aunts whose reports about my actions are the only things my parents have going for them right now.
This unfortunately means that over the last year and a half since arriving in Nigeria, every other phone call to my mother has been an episode of ‘New Ways to Break a Mom’s Heart’. Often due to one aunt or the other complaining about something I’ve done to her.
By all accounts, the aunties have valid cases against me. My job means that I work long days that often become longer nights; and on days when I simply can’t go home, I stay in hotels.
When you factor in that according to Nigerian aunties, only a certain type of lady regularly patronizes hotels, you begin to understand why my innocuous actions are an affront to their quiet sensibilities. By focusing on work, I disappoint their expectations of proper Nigerian womanhood.
I get it, I don’t agree with it but I get it.
I used to obsess about my work-life balance and how I was not fulfilling some arbitrary Nigerian ideas I believed I had to satisfy. But now I step away from it all. It’s really just BS. I came across an article once that argued there shouldn’t be anything like work-life balance.
The writer stated that this way of thinking doomed us into thinking it was a zero sum game. They instead chose to think of work and life as a delicate relationship that although might sometimes appear to be skewed, are in reality both being satisfied in different ways. This helped me understand that I do not disappoint, and neither do you.
I’m still not sure how to balance my work with my life or perhaps more importantly how to ensure my mother doesn’t get disappointed with me (everyday). Yet if there’s one thing I know, it’s the inevitability of mistakes.
Sometimes, your work will appear to take precedence for months on end and you won’t always do what’s right by mom. So, maybe don’t obsess over assumed failures?
These days, when I get to steal time away from work to gossip with mom over phone about bosses or new opportunities, I can hear her pride. I feel how proud she is of my ability to make things work in my career despite not being the daughter she might have wanted me to be. That’s really all there is to it at the end of the day.
It wasn’t all business and career talks at She Hive Abuja 2016. Motherland Moguls were treated to a presentation by Dr. Zainab Shinkafi-Bagudu on achieving health and wellness in their twenties and thirties. She is a paediatric consultant, Founder of Medicaid Cancer Foundation and CEO of Medicaid Radio Diagnostics. Dr. Bagudu is also the First Lady of Kebbi State and a mother of two beautiful girls.
She shared some insights particularly on her work with cancer. We created a list of some of our highlights from the discussion:
• “It is essential to look after yourself. In my career, I have found it is easier to spot those who have versus those who haven’t.”
• “Breastfeeding is one of the biggest protective factors against breast cancer. It is also best to space out your children.”
Whilst, she acknowledged that sometimes breastfeeding doesn’t work out for mother and baby, it is best to try as much as possible due to its several advantages.
• “We’re gradually losing our natural immunity due to poor diet compared with past generations.”
She blamed our reliance on red meat and processed foods as well as a higher intake of antibiotics as principal causes of more health issues today than our grandparents experienced.
• “It is the seeds that you sow early on that will carry you to term.”
• “Self-examination of the breasts should be carried out regularly to detect anything usual.”
In addition, she expressed that ultrasounds can help pick up abnormal cells but mammograms may be a more ideal test as a woman progresses into her mid thirties and forties.
• “Early period onset and late menopause may often be indicators of abnormality and such women may have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.”
• “Every sexually active woman should routinely get a pap smear done because there is a higher risk of contacting HPV which causes cervical cancer.”
As an advocate against cancer, Dr. Bagudu encourages young women to invest in the HPV vaccine. Although she and other health advocates are working with the government to make the vaccine more cost-effective, she described it as a worthwhile investment.
• “Early marriage is a hindrance not only to education but also a big contributor to certain health issues.”
Participants went home with new knowledge and the discounted screenings offered to the She Hivers at her diagnostics services didn’t hurt one bit either. Who are we kidding? The ladies were all for it!
Dr. Bagudu concluded the segment by making reference to game-changers such as Bill Gates and Olusegun Obasanjo, and charging young women to be outliers. She encouraged them to differ from the norm by having a dogged approach to life and work. Black Bill Gates, anyone?
Food! There’s just something about it that fosters camaraderie, you know. Introduce food to any gathering or meeting and it automatically brings on a more relaxed atmosphere.
We all know that food is essential, but are family meal times all-important as we make them out to be?
Family meal time is a time when members of the family sit together to share a meal. It’s not when one member sits in from of the TV gulping the meal down, while another takes a tray to the front of the computer. The meal is done together in the same place and at the same time [more often than not at the table].
While I was growing up, meal times were a big deal in my family. We all sat at table for family meal times and I can say I loved it a lot. Fast forward to these days, so many families hardly get to sit together for any activity, meal times are automatically also affected.
Eat together? I am way too busy to get that together! What with everyone trying to juggle between all manner of activities. Getting food down is often enough most times, don’t just bother with trying to get everyone together.
Are family meal times so important?
I will want to say they are. There are far greater reasons to do it than not to do it:
Bonding time: With the fast paced society we find ourselves now, there has never been a better time to eat together as a family than now. We need to regularly find time to slow down as a family. What better way to do that than to spend time together. Meal times offer this opportunity, both for slowing down and for spending time together to bond as a family. If families could commit to eating together on a regular basis, that will help to create time that can be spent together as a family.
Time to reinforce good table manners: Nothing beats teaching anything practically. Telling kids how to behave around the dinner table without showing or modeling it to them may not be so effective. Family meal times will serve as a time to reinforce those good manners to children. They can learn by watching older siblings or parents to know what kind of behavior is acceptable.
Forming healthy eating habits: Kids would prefer junk food most times over healthy meals. When a family plans family meal times together, you are not likely to go to such lengths to provide junk food for the family. It will usually be a healthy home cooked meal. Even if it is not home-cooked, it will be healthy food that will be offered. When kids are offered this option of healthy eating often enough, this becomes a part of them and they learn to choose good meals over junk food as they grow older.
Tips For making family meal times happen
Be deliberate about it: Coming to the realization that family meal time is awesome is not enough. You need to particularly make it happen. There will never be a good time or a less busy time than you have right now. That is why if you are not deliberate about it, it will not happen.
Find the best time: The best time does not necessarily mean the time that’s convenient for all. It simply means that time when most family members can accommodate. It could be a morning, afternoon or evening thing. You could decide on Thursday Dinner, Saturday breakfast, Sunday Brunch. It all depends on your family dynamics.
Get everyone involved: If you have older children, you definitely need to let them be a part of the decision on when meal times will happen. With school demands and all, they will need time to plan and maybe reschedule a few things to make the meal time happen. Involving everyone also gives them a sense of ownership and they can feel as though it’s a common goal the family needs to stay committed to.
Make it a time to look forward to: Don’t let meal times be a draaaagggg or a court session where you are drilling your kids about issues. Don’t let it be a time of tension and too many rules. Make it fun, engaging and something for them to look forward to. You could decide on something fun after the meal that will help to keep interest alive. Have a movie night for instance if it’s Friday dinner. It’s really up to you to come up with some creative ideas to make it fun.
I feel the pain of the person who may need to clear the dishes or wash up after these meal times. Sometimes, that’s the reason some moms shy away from the idea of having everyone eat together.
If you’re doing a proper table setting, it automatically translates to more dishes to wash. This is why you need everyone on board. Get everyone to pitch in. You can rotate duties weekly so no one feels over burdened. After all, there’s no point feeling miserable over what is supposed to give you joy.
Just do what you can to make regular meal times happen. You’ll see that your family will come to appreciate the good it will bring.
What about you? Do you think family meal times are that important? Do you have regular meal times in your family? I’d love to hear from you.
As a Nigerian woman, I have a lot of things on my mind. Things such as the disappointment about the Nigerian Senate recently not passing the Gender Discrimination Bill. Or the daily panic that there would be a power cut as I’m putting on my makeup and getting ready for work. My mind is full. I now have to add the pressure of saying the words ‘I am a feminist‘ into the mix.
The words are easy for me to utter, but often heavy for others to accept. The reactions are often disdain from a lot of men and suspicion from a lot of women. This surprises me greatly.
What’s really wrong with demanding gender equality?
It is surprising because to me, it is very evident that we Nigerians are all feminists – whether obvious or covert.
Take, for instance, the working mum who says that feminists are unhappy spinsters who are angry with the world because they can not keep a man. This working mum is educated up to university level. She has a career where her salary is paid into her own bank account. She can post her thoughts on social media without her husband’s permission. She is a covert feminist, reaping the fruits of trailblazing feminists before her.
But please, don’t let her know about it; that would spoil the secret.
Actually, there are covert feminists!
We definitely mustn’t forget the special variety of feminists which are the secret male feminists. They are often belligerent and patronizing to women who declare themselves to be feminists. Don’t you dare as a woman turn down the advances of the secret male feminist; he will ask you why you’re carrying this ‘feminist-thing’ on your head. His disdain for you would be oozing out of his pores.
However, watch the secret male feminist talk with pride about his mother who worked several jobs against all odds to make sure that he got an education. Watch him puff out his chest when he announces that his wife has bagged a Masters Degree with distinction.
Watch him talk with concern as he worries that the secondary school where his daughter is studying isn’t up to world-class standards, and therefore not allowing her to reach her full potential. Watch him talk with frustration about what to do his sister’s boss who sexually harasses her.
Watch him look horrified when you call him a feminist.
Who is then a feminist?
To quote author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, ‘a feminist is a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes’. That’s it.
Feminism is not a cult for angry women; it is a movement which simply suggests that men and women should be treated with equal respect, consideration and dignity.
When this is fully understood, bills which would protect the right of a woman to inherit her husband’s property would be passed into law. When this is fully understood, secret feminists-male and female-would come out of the dark shadows cast by misconceptions, and stand tall for equality.
It would be one less burden to have on my mind as a Nigerian woman.
The most beautiful thing about being a young professional or career woman today is that your knowledge isn’t limited to what you can find in your neighbourhood or community.
The digital world allows you to connect with experts and information from across the globe. Whatever issue you think you might have, there are probably 100 or so websites that can help you solve your problem.
While there are over a too websites we love, here are 7 of our favourites that help us stay informed, motivated and ready for whatever life throws at us.
The Smart Money Movement is championed by financial guru Arese Ugwu. Her website provides a platform for young people to learn to manage their finances better by knowing their net worth and prioritizing the accumulation of assets over frivolous spending.
In other words, being smart about your money. Keep an eye out for the blog, the Smart Money Workshops and the Smart Money Journal. They will literally change your life.
Young? Ambitious? Fabulous? Ready to move to the next level of all-round wellness? Then you need to be minding her business. Starting out as a series of motivational quotes on social media, MHB evolved into a practical guide for the modern woman in the form of an e-book covering financial success, self-confidence, love and relationships.
Navigate the site to get inspired by Ivy’s story, keep afloat with the blog and to get acquainted with the book.
If you’re searching for a space to address your feminist woes and reaffirm your womanhood in the African context, then this is your destination.
Through its blog articles, this website dissects topical issues such as colonialism, race, politics and what it’s like living in Diaspora. It offers strong, powerful, relevant messages for women of colour.
Sure you’ve heard the saying that one’s education is incomplete without the experience of travel. This inspirational site features travel experiences and highlights amazing travel destinations from across Africa.
If you need ideas for your next vacation, check out ‘Travel Tips & Trips’. With several helpful articles and feature stories on travel etiquette and fun things to do on your trip, it’s an amazing travel guide.
The best part? You have the opportunity to tell your own travel story and get featured on the site.
Did you think we were going to leave this out of the list? Think again. SLA is arguably the #1 go-to website for young African females with a focus on getting started or improving their careers and business.
It’s a resource pool packed with power articles and insight from the co-founders and diverse team of editors and contributors. It also features practical tips and advice, webinars, access to career coaches and more.
The SheHive events which bring together the SLA community and industry leaders are hosted in various cities around the world.
Motherland Moguls, let’s get surfing! Share with us what some of your favorite websites are to check out. Besides us of course 😉
When I began doing business and the chase for clients began, I think I probably felt every emotion there was to feel sometimes all at once. The need to maintain customers, rules of the business world, the attempts at adjusting or learning to adjust to the demands of each customer and even getting used to the word “customer” or “client’ and the wonder and satisfaction that I too had something like that.
One day, a friend who also runs a business showed me a picture online that said “power of feminism” and another that said “I’m a strong, independent woman. I have a mind of my own”.
I nodded in approval and said I was going to use it as my Whatsapp profile picture and she agreed distractedly but when I suggested she do the same, she gave me a very alarmed look saying; “Ah! Noooo! One has to be very careful in business, don’t forget my clients are also on Whatsapp, many of them are men and I might lose them”.
I was instantly reminded of medieval women. Not just in Africa but in Greece and Rome too, I remember reading that women who worked were looked down on as the lowliest of women and were not allowed to earn more than a particular amount.
Women could own anything including land but had no authority to give them away or sell them; even their dowry was not essentially theirs, it belonged to their husbands and in the event that the husband died it belonged to the son and in the event that there was no son, it belonged to the next male in the family.
They had no inheritance, only dowry. Inheritance was for the sons and if there were no sons, fathers arranged to adopt one or arranged for a potential son-in-law to agree to adoption and drop all former familial ties.
If the father made no such arrangements before dying then the daughter became an heiress and any man was free to make a bid and marry her. If she was already married, any man strong enough could force her to divorce her husband and marry him. The basic goal was for the woman to not be in charge of any wealth.
I read that the famous Plato suggested that dowry be removed to “curb the arrogance of women” and some said that women could not act independently because of what was described as ‘lightness of the mind’.
They had to be modest and restrained and possess a certain kind of sense of honour prescribed for them by society. What struck me though was reading that women had the choice to break out of such oppression —at a cost, yes— but they had the choice.
They could have made a collective agreement with a firm mind assured in its own belief or they could have buoyed each other to action…but it never happened that way. It was always one woman springing up separately after the other. I sensed an age-old lack of assertion.
Once I visited a potential sponsor for a project in the works and we began conversing in the way of two strangers attempting to build a bridge of familiarity. There was a patronizing superiority in the air as soon he began to talk about career women and what they really should be doing —not career.
After minutes of hmms and head-shakes in an accommodating manner, I knew I didn’t agree. I didn’t agree at all…and I wanted to say exactly that. Then I remembered my friend from the other day and knew I could possibly be treading a risky path but after another couple of minutes, I took a good look at my company…
This person who saw the importance of the matter at hand but didn’t quite take me seriously so found a way to veer off it into domestic topic, who did not know me but brazenly advised that instead of web design, I should have gone into food business because it was more suited for women, who even more brazenly asked how much I was being paid, who casually asked if I ever consulted a career counsellor.
So I spilled.
Smiling. I disagreed nicely. It suffices to say I didn’t get that sponsor. I wondered what would have happened if I had frowned…
The need for the choice of bold assertion especially for women goes beyond the office, it encompasses every sphere of life because so far it’s been particularly tough for the female folk.
What wins in the battle between our cautious conservative side and our radical side? When do we truly understand that although we might not be able to fly always, we’re certainly not as restricted as we fear or as we are told?
With the times changing, it still seems as though many women persistently —some knowingly— kowtow to the past and the stubborn insistence of many to hold on to its traditions. We have reached several turning points but how many of us have really chosen to turn?
What do I think? It’s simple. Put your resources together and construct a new platform that makes you proud. Follow an inspired feeling not a rule book. Society has never really known what women needed, what they are truly.
The phrase “inner queen” may sound cliché but it is truth and we need to push it forward and assert our right to exist and be free in truth —not the existence and freedom grudgingly meted out by society. Stop the subdued success act! Be especially articulate about ideas, needs and desires
And if it causes some drama? Don’t be afraid. Sometimes we need a little drama to motivate us to make changes and improvements to our lives
Earlier this month, I had the distinct pleasure of attending the launch of WANDA, a newly established nonprofit organization educating, empowering and advocating for women and girls of African decent to become leaders in the fields of nutrition, dietetics and agriculture.
The launch, which took place on March 5th was held in honor of International Women’s Day and as such, featured a panel of innovative and groundbreaking social entrepreneurs in industries ranging from beauty and cosmetics, to television and entertainment. WANDA Founder, Tambra Raye Stevenson, groundbreaking in her own right as a National Geographic Traveler of the Year and founder of the DC-based NativSol Kitchen, describes WANDA (Women Advancing Nutrition, Dietetics, and Agriculture) as an initiative bringing together “sisters of the soil” to encourage all women, young and old, to lead in advancing the fields of nutrition and agriculture.
“Women and girls are at the heart of transforming our communities through preserving our foodways, building vibrant economies and healthy communities,” she said. WANDA will also be launched in Abuja, Nigeria in May.
As a Ghanaian-American woman just beginning her journey into the fields of agriculture and nutrition, I find WANDA’s mission intriguing. The organization promotes itself as a Pan-African initiative, which is hugely significant to me at this point in my career. Though most of my professional experience falls within the realm of international development, a heightened social awareness of racial injustice in the United States, underscored by the growth of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, has compelled me to offer whatever service I can to ensuring a healthy future for Africans AND African-Americans alike.
Having shared this passion with colleagues and advisors, I have been told that I cannot have a successful career straddling both sides of the Atlantic – I would have to choose. The launch of this organization confirmed that I am not alone in my desire to protect and promote health throughout the African Diaspora. And for me WANDA is blazing a trail where there had been none before.
If you missed the launch, check out my top 10 black girl magic moments that continue to resonate with me.
1. Getting in formation
Inspired by the song that launched many a think piece, WANDA flexed its impressive marketing and social media muscle by borrowing from Beyonce’s celebrated and controversial song, “Formation” for the title of their event. Dubbing the launch, “Black Women Getting in Formation: Power of Media and the Arts to Advance Nutrition and Agricultural Advocacy,” WANDA brought attention to the convening power of a song some have identified as a call to arms for black women.
In a recent interview with Black Enterprise, Stevenson shared that WANDA’s version of “getting in formation” means encouraging women and girls to pursue education and leadership roles in health and agriculture.
For me, gathering under the backdrop of “Formation” and a national conversation about self-love and unapologetic blackness brought a palpable sense of pride and purpose to the launch. It was an environment that allowed participants to celebrate each others accomplishments, relate to each others struggles and commit to partnerships moving forward.
A moment that stayed with me, however, was when panelist and WANDA honoree Rahama Wright, CEO of Shea Yeleen International reminded attendees that countless unnamed and unknown women have always and are still doing the work only recently championed by Beyonce. Way before the Super Bowl performance that stunned America, black women worked together to achieve success and independence. This moment from Wright reminded me that despite Beyonce’s undeniable contributions to the movement, the real heroes in the quest for justice and equality are in our midst and should not be overlooked.
2. Celebrating excellence in entrepreneurship
Speaking of celebrating the heroes in our midst, WANDA set a great example by honoring four WANDA women leading the way in promoting positive images of blackness and black women. Along with Ms. Wright, WANDA honored Julian Kiganda, CEO of Bold and Fearless, DeShuna Spencer, Founder and CEO of KweliTV, and Mukami Kinoti Kimotho, Founder and CEO of Joodj.
During the panel discussion, each honoree offered a unique perspective on the realities of being a black female entrepreneur. The most memorable moment for me was the vulnerability each woman shared in explaining that their successes were not won overnight. The panelists openly discussed the tendency in the black community to erase struggles from one’s personal narrative. By openly discussing the blood, sweat and tears that goes into growing an organization from the ground up, the panelists believe that more women may be encouraged to continue chasing their dreams even when they face hardship. It was a message that resonated with the audience who clapped in support of these personal and uplifting statements.
3. The food
NativSol Kitchen provided the tasty, healthy and culturally relevant fare originating from different countries across the continent. Stevenson dazzled attendees with a Morroccan stew, West African rice dishes, savory black eyed peas, and my personal favorite from the event, bissap, or zobo as it is known in Nigeria. The drink is made from dried hibiscus leaves and is known for its tangy flavor and deep crimson color.
NativSol spiced its version up with a touch of ginger, giving the beverage a kick that rounded out the meal. The message I took away from the impressive spread is that food from across the African continent and Diaspora is naturally delicious and healthy. Over time, departure from these foods and the uptake of the Western diet has left a staggering percentage of the Diaspora suffering from overweight, obesity, heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. In the United States, over 75% of African Americans are overweight or obese, while in Africa nutrition related non-communicable disease will account for 40% of the disease burden on the continent by 2030.
A part of WANDA’s mission is to reverse this trajectory and restore health to the Diaspora by embracing the heritage foods that characterize so many of its classic dishes. For more information about the link between culture, food and health check out Oldways African Heritage and Health, a wellness program developing resources and initiatives to promote the healthy foods and delicious eating traditions of African Heritage for good health and community.
4. The fashion
Sometimes being one of a few, if not the only black woman in the one’s work environment requires a precarious balancing act of trying to maintain one’s identity while not becoming a target of stereotypes or scrutiny.Sometimes it can become pretty stressful. For black women, hair can be one of the most treacherous waters to navigate in the workplace. What I loved about the WANDA launch was seeing successful professional black women in all of their diverse glory.
From Kiganda’s waist length locs to Kimotho’s cropped and colored do, the women at the launch exuded class and professionalism no matter the texture, length or color of their hair. Not only did attendees’ hair make a statement, but their clothes did as well. Who says being a businesswoman only means blue, grey and black suits? The WANDA event was a feast for the eyes, with attendees rocking colorful Ankara print and eye catching jewelry from a range of African countries. This reinforced to me the necessity for all women of the Diaspora to rebel against the societal norms of the work place and refuse to forget just how beautiful every kind of black woman is.
5. Establishing a multigenerational connection
The number of mothers and daughters who came to the launch together pleasantly surprised me. So much of whom I am as a woman in terms of my confidence and self-esteem comes from my mother therefore it only makes sense that mother/daughter pairs would be interested in ensuring that their descendants yet to come are guaranteed equal access to the education and job opportunities they desire.
Beyond those with familial ties, women of all ages were able to connect at the WANDA launch. During the panel discussion, a lawyer with plenty of years of experience asked panelists if they ever seek to engage older women. All panelists highlighted the importance of engaging all generations, particularly elders, in their work.
Mothers, grandmothers and women leaders in general play the pivotal role of passing down cultural knowledge and eating habits, and promote economic growth in their communities. This traditional role fits well into WANDA’s model of empowerment through mentorship. It touched me to know that WANDA and its honorees saw it fitting to remind us that we all can influence the next generation. and we ‘have a duty to plant trees, so they can sit in the shade.’
6. Remembering the importance of self care
After the panel discussion concluded, I asked the panelists how they maintain their enthusiasm and confidence. I also asked how they care for themselves and maintain their sanity if they ever face backlash for their work. I asked this question because, as in the case of Beyoncé, black women who stand up for themselves and for their people can sometimes open themselves up to racist and sexist criticism.
Activists and public figures such as Melissa Harris-Perry have publicly discussed the self-care routines they adopted to protect themselves from their detractors. Though all panelists gave incredible answers, such as knowing one’s limits, never neglecting one’s health and feeling comfortable admitting failure, my favorite piece of advice came from Spencer who discussed the importance of having a team of friends and trusted advisers who you can go to for laughs, tough love, a shoulder to cry on and more.
Spencer noted that surrounding one’s self with like-minded individuals keeps one focused and inspired. I remember looking around the room in the moment and thinking, “We need each other. None of us can do this alone.” This sentiment was solidified by Stevenson who admitted that unlike past initiatives she tried to grown on her own, WANDA would be a child raised by the village – a community of women who want to see the child thrive. The grassroots nature of this organization encouraged me to address my own fears of failure and get involved with WANDA by working on my writing.
7. Reflecting on the pain that unites us (and how to overcome)
The moment that drew out the most thought and reflection came from a comment shared by a woman named Rose. Originally from Uganda, Rose had this to say during the question and answer portion of the panel: “Africans will never heal until African-Americans heal”. Having never heard such a statement, I stopped, as did many other participants, to seriously reflect on what this means.
Though I’m sure it can be interpreted in many different ways, I took what Rose said to mean that our destiny, as people of the Diaspora is interlinked. It has been interlinked since the first of us endured the Middle Passage. It was interlinked when the Civil Rights movement exploded during a time of widespread liberation on the continent and will continue to be interlinked as Africans and African-Americans battle the very similar challenges of hunger, malnutrition, unemployment, marginalization and limited access to resources. These feelings were hard to unpack, but were appreciated by the panelists who praised Rose for remembering the importance of communal healing and love within the African Diaspora. This was a thought provoking moment that will not be soon forgotten.
8. The unveiling of little Wanda
In a moment that drew a collective “Awwwwww!!!” from attendees and panelists alike, Stevenson unveiled an exciting and creative aspect of the WANDA initiative: Little Wanda of the upcoming “Where’s WANDA?” series, is a character inspired by Stevenson’s own journey to Africa and childhood goals of healing her family.
In developing series, Little Wanda travels across the African continent meeting WANDA Women, or Big Wandas, that research, produce and promote African heritage foods to nourish their communities. “Where’s WANDA,” geared towards girls under ten years of age, will include educational enrichment resources inviting young girls to travel and learn with Little Wanda.
I believe this character, the Diaspora’s answer to “Dora the Explorer,” will open so many opportunities for little girls of African descent to learn about culture and heritage in a way they never have before. With her adorable afro and cute ankara skirt, Little Wanda is a character young girls can relate to and that sort of representation in the media is so important. Follow @NativSol and @IamWANDAorg to catch updates on where Little Wanda goes next!
9. ToluMiDE debuts “Mama Sunshine”
TolumiDE is a talented Nigerian-Canadian singer and songwriter whose music spans the genres of R&B, Afropop and Soul. Having never met her nor listened her music, I was struck by Tolu’s earthy voice and quirky adlibs. A WANDA honoree herself, TolumiDE graced attendees with a new song called, “Mama Sunshine”.
While listening to the catchy song filled with themes of growth, resilience and renewal, I felt the song was a perfect way to begin a new chapter for many of the women standing in the room. WANDA has provided an opportunity to connect and build a community with a common purpose and that is something I am very thankful for.
TolumiDE had a song for these feelings as well, offering an encore with her song of thanks and praise, “My Love”. Be sure to check out the video on YouTube!
10. Recognizing the strength in numbers
The WANDA launch was an awakening for me, drawing out feelings of affirmation, inspiration, solidarity and energy that come with finally feeling understood and identifying a direction. Following the close of the event, participants lingered for hours, laughing, sharing and embracing their newfound roles as students, mentors, leaders, advocates, and WANDA Women.
We closed by taking a final picture, which solidified for me that I have become apart of something bigger than myself. The sense of community offered by WANDA and its powerful women and male advocates fills a hole that many black women in the fields of nutrition, dietetics and agriculture often feel, being one of a few, if not the only black woman in their work place.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, people of African descent only make up roughly 2.6 percent of the registered nutritionists and dietitians. It is time to change this and WANDA is a big step forward in finding the solution. There is strength in community and strength in numbers, and I look forward to watching WANDA’s membership grow.