20 powerful Chimamanda Adichie quotes for today’s boss women

chimamanda adichie

Nigerian writer, speaker, and activist, Chimamanda Adichie, is beloved by many. The award winning novelist and Ted talk sensation is fiercely revered for being a thought leader on Africa and contemporary African politics. With her recent feature on Beyonce’s self titled album, Beyonce, many have come to know her for talk, “We should all be feminist”. But Adichie speaks on more fronts than one, from the personal and private to the institutional and public.

Below, we share 20 of our favorite quotes by Adichie that shed light on some of the topics and issues today’s boss women care about: being our true and best selves, navigating social roles, confronting gender and racial injustice, love and relationships, the motherland, and of course, money and being a creative. While short, each quote is steeped deep in history and context and is worth pondering over.
chimamanda adichie

On being a powerful woman

1. Never ever accept ‘Because You Are A Woman’ as a reason for doing or not doing anything.

2. I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be.

3. Minister to the world in a way that can change it. Minister radically in a real, active, practical, get your hands dirty way.

On life

4. Your standard ideologies will not always fit your life. Because life is messy.

5. Please do not twist yourself into shapes to please. Don’t do it. If someone likes that version of you, that version of you that is false and holds back, then they actually just like that twisted shape, and not you. And the world is such a gloriously multifaceted, diverse place that there are people in the world who will like you, the real you, as you are.

6. The truth has become an insult.

On Men, Love, and Relationships

7. Masculinity is a hard, small cage, and we put boys inside this cage.

8. Of course I am not worried about intimating men. The type of man who will be intimidated is exactly the type of man I have no interest in.

9. Please love by giving and by taking. Give and be given. If you are only giving and not taking, you’ll know. You’ll know from that small and true voice inside you that we females are so often socialized to silence. Don’t silence that voice. Dare to take.

chimamanda adichie

On injustice

10. Racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it.

11. The real tragedy of our postcolonial world is not that the majority of people had no say in whether or not they wanted this new world; rather, it is that the majority have not been given the tools to negotiate this new world.

On Gender and Feminism

12. I am trying to unlearn many lessons of gender I internalized while growing up. But I sometimes still feel vulnerable in the face of gender expectations.

13. Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.

14. Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.

On Africa and being African

15. I recently spoke at a university where a student told me it was such a shame that Nigerian men were physical abusers like the father character in my novel. I told him that I had recently read a novel called American Psycho, and that it was a shame that young Americans were serial murderers.

16. They themselves mocked Africa, trading stories of absurdity, of stupidity, and they felt safe to mock, because it was a mockery born of longing, and of the heartbroken desire to see a place made whole again.

17. Because although there’s a lot of gender bullshit in Nigeria, I think women in the west have a lot more invested in being liked. And being liked if you’re female means a certain thing. So in workplaces, women who are bosses in Nigeria are fierce. The people who work for them, men and women, respect them. But, these are women who very keenly perform gender stereotypes when they go back home. And if they give a public interview, they have to say, ‘My husband supported me and allowed me to …’.

On Money and wealth

18. Creative writing programmes are not very necessary. They just exist so that people like us can make a living.

19. There are many different ways to be poor in the world but increasingly there seems to be one single way to be rich.

20. How can we resist exploitation if we don’t have the tools to understand exploitation.

Which of your favourite quotes by Chimamanda did we miss?

10 TED talks by African women that will inspire you this year

Chimamanda’s Danger of a Single Story remains the most popular TED Talk on Africa of all time. The talk boasts more than 9 million views on the TED website and 1 million+ views on YouTube.

I researched other African women sharing great insight on the TED stage and found 10 of the best that was produced in 2015. Here are 10 African women who gave inspiring Ted Talks last year:

Memory Banda

At 18, I was most concerned with getting the latest Iphone. Memory Banda on the other hand, successfully influenced the Malawi parliament to raise the legal marriage from 15 to 18. After watching her sister get pregnant at 11, Memory vowed to defy the traditional practice of kusasafumbi, a practice in which young girls are forced into marriage once they begin menstruation.

Now an avid girl’s rights activist, Memory shows a glimpse of her strength and resilience in this passionate speech about girls right to choose at the TEDWomen 2015 conference.

Taiye Selasi

Discounted by some as a “First World Problem”, Taiye’s Selasi asks the question, “Where are you from?”  in reference to migration around the world.

Taiye has lived in four continents, and her critically acclaimed book “Ghana Must Go,” details the complexity of human identity.

MaameYaa Baofo

Although Nollywood has established itself as an industry to be reckoned with in Africa, many African parents are still unlikely to be thrilled with a child actively choosing acting as a desired profession. MaameYaa Baofo, a New-York based Ghanaian actress, is also gifted orator.

In this talk, she uses her experience of pursuing acting despite discouragement from others to discuss the importance of being your authentic self without apology.

 Zodidi Jewel Gaseb

Zodidi is a Namibian woman who discusses the impacts of Western beauty ideals on women through her personal journey of wearing her hair natural. She was inspired to grow out her naturally kinky hair after she realized that her daughter perceived her long flowy extensions as the standard of beauty.

She challenges negative stereotypes about black hair in this short but poignant video:

Yawa Hansen-Quao

“Your voice is your Power” is the key message of this inspiring video by Ghanaian born and US raised Yawa Hansen-Quao, the leader of the Leading Ladies Network (LLN).

Her talk aligns with the ethos of the LLN, an organization dedicated to encouraging young women to participate in entrepreneurship and leadership.

Mallence Bart-Williams

Malence is the founder of Folorunsho, a Not-for-profit organization that she says is “not a charity”.  Mallence believes charities in Africa foster the rhetoric of poverty and dependency on the West.

She briefly explores the impact of post-colonialism on African countries as the impetus for her collective which connects a group of street boys aged 14 – 20 living in the slums of Freetown, Sierra Leone Lion Base and encourages them to be self-sufficient through creativity:

 

Ola Orekunrin

Becoming one of the youngest medical doctors in England at the age of 21 was just the tip of the iceberg for Ola Orekunrin’s promising career. She went on to create The Flying Doctors initiative, West Africa’s first emergency air ambulance service.

The success of her initiative earned her a New Voices Fellow at the Apsen Institute and a Young Global Leader title by the World Economic Forum in 2013In this TEDxTalk, she address the sexism women in business and positions of power experience, despite their noteworthy achievements.

Afua Hirsch

An experienced journalist, Afua Hirsch is the social affairs and education editor for Sky News. In this refreshingly honest video, Afua asserts that we do not live in a post-racial society as there are still several stereotypes associated with blackness.

She refutes the popular “ I don’t see colour” rhetoric by explaining that we cannot transcend racial tension and microaggressions without having honest conversations about race.

Ekua Armah

Ekua was a senior at the University of Southern California majoring in health promotion and disease prevention students at the time of this speech.

As a public and women’s health educator, Armah discusses using social media as a transformative tool to enhance women’s lives.

Salima Visram

Visram is the founder of the social enterprise, Solour Backpack. The problem: school children in certain rural areas in Kenya do not have access to lights and electricity to complete their school assignments, thus creating a vicious cycle of poverty.

To address this issue, the backpack company leverages the power of the sun by outfitting their backpacks with solar panels which provides electricity to the school children at night. In this TedxTalk, Visram discusses children’s inability to stay in school and the work we can do to prevent this.

What were some of your favourite speeches in 2015? Do you plan on giving a speech or TED Talk this year? Do share with the community.