Tag Archives: Culture

Every African – Join the movement!

30 Nov








Today we’re proud to unveil ‘Every African’, a global movement that’s mobilising Africans, both men and women, around the world to lead Africa’s development.

Our mission is to unlock the abundant talent and opportunities that abound in Africa but are often overlooked or go untapped. We develop leadership at all levels, support female entrepreneurs and build mass platforms to help African small businesses penetrate new markets. In so doing we challenge entrenched stereotypes of Africa and protect African identity so that future generations can rise to their full potential.

What makes us different?

• We’re a social enterprise with an entrepreneurial development model. We believe this is the best way to harness existing capabilities and create mass opportunities that drive economic independence for the regular person.
• We’re proudly African and seek to leverage Africa’s strengths rather than ‘save’ her.
• We see Africans as best placed to lead decisions concerning their economies, lives and future.
• Africa is not a single gender. We believe women should have an equal opportunity to contribute to the development of their continent.

Check out our online shop ‘Made from Africa’ which was inspired by our wish to share the warm vibrant Africa we love with the rest of the world. It’s also a fantastic platform for providing African small businesses with access to new markets.

Our suppliers are African entrepreneurs, both men and women, who’re using their talent and skills to create quality products and services and in the process setting off a ripple effect of economic benefits across the continent. ‘Every African’ is a movement that’s opening doors and transforming how Africans see themselves and how they’re perceived by the rest of the world. Find out more here and get involved!


Visit http://www.everyafrican.org to support our latest campaign.

Happy International Day of the Girl!

11 Oct

As you celebrate the International Day of the Girl, here are some facts about African girls to ponder! Don’t forget to make 3 people in your life aware of these issues and what they can do to help empower girls.

• Discrimination in the home is entrenched along gender roles where boys and girls internalize the gender responsibility they should play. On average, a normal working day for an African girl is between 20 to 30 hours a week.

• Approximately 140 million girls have undergone FGM and 2 million are subjected to it every year with a higher tendency of performing FGM on younger and younger girls. It is performed on infants and adult women but mostly on girls between the age of 4 and 12. The highest prevalence of FGM is found in Africa where 28 African countries practice it.

• Early marriage is most common in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Forty four percent of 20-24 year old women in West Africa were married under the age of 15 and all decisions on timing of marriage and spouse was made by fathers.

• It is often the responsibility of girls and young women to fetch water often from long distances. A study in Kenya identified that women and girls carry from 20-25 litres over 3.5 km for one or two hours daily.

• In many African countries, poverty and cultural practices often mean that it is traditional for boys and men to eat first and girls to eat leftovers. When food is scarce this can often mean females have very little to eat or nothing at all. Malnutrition will often mean that girls are anaemic which can lead to problems during pregnancy, maternal death, exhaustion and loss of productivity.

• An estimated 7.3 million young women are living with HIV/AIDS compared to 4.5million men and in Sub-Saharan Africa, 59 % of people living with the HIV virus are women.

• A young person under 15 is said to contract AIDS every 15 seconds.

• West and Central Africa accounts for the highest percentage of both girls and boys involved in child labour. This is followed by Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern and Southern Africa.

• Approximately 1.2 million children every year are victims of trafficking internationally and within local borders.

• 80% of trafficked children are girls.

• 90% of children trafficked from West and Central Africa are girls who work as domestic workers.

• Every year 1000 girls between 14 and 24 are taken from Mozambique to work as sex workers in South Africa.

• Rape has been used as a weapon of war against millions of girls and women caught up in conflict. In Rwanda 1992-1995, it is estimated that half a million women were raped during the genocide and 67% were subsequently infected with HIV. In Sierra Leone young girls were particularly singled out for rape. Many did not survive and approximately 70 to 90% contracted HIV.

Plan International

Quote of the week – I’ve learned in life

2 May


I’ve learned in life that you don’t have to know the answers to everything. Sometimes it’s enough simply to sit back and watch the drama of your life play out before you. To step in too soon would be to prevent new opportunities taking shape.

Sani Dowa

Why I voted ‘Yes’ for the women of Zimbabwe

31 Mar


By Patience F. Dobah Madambi

Women of Zimbabwe were tired – tired of being seen and treated as secondary citizens to their male counterparts! By coming out in their millions to vote in favour of the draft constitution they raised their voices loud and clear. It was time for change – change of a legal nature and change strong enough to override any cultural and societal beliefs that had kept women yoked despite 33 years of national independence.

For many women, the rest of the document was of little significance…they just wanted to vote yes for the liberties they perceived as long overdue. Certain to be passed into the law of the land by mid-year, here’s what the new constitution holds for Zimbabwean women:

  • Women will have a legal right to challenge any decisions made against them in any situation in the name of culture/tradition or whatever imagined societal beliefs.
  • The new constitution will finally allow women to regard themselves, be seen as and be treated as equal citizens (to men) and they will have the right to apply for and get national documents for their children.  In the past grown women, mature enough to give birth, had no right to apply for these without ‘permission’ from their often irresponsible and vindictive boyfriends, husbands or partners.
  • Women will also have the freedom to travel with their children without being suspected of abduction or expected to get a written and signed affidavit from the children’s father.
  • First born women and girls will no longer be overlooked in favour of a younger sibling based on anatomical makeup.
  • Married women will no longer live in the fear of being homeless once their husbands die as the law will now regard them and the children as the natural heirs.
  • Women will also have equal access to land.
  • Women will also be regarded as equals in the workplace and all other spheres of life including within the home when it comes to issues such as property and inheritance, without necessarily usurping the man as head of the home (but of course!).

These few points might, at a glance, seem minor but do in fact address a lot of social and economic disparities – disparities that left women feeling abandoned and angry.  For instance many women who left the country at the height of economic hardships were forced to leave their small children behind and sometimes the children were barely a month old – simply because the father of the child either refused to allow the woman to register the child or assist in the application of a passport.

There are other exciting new safeguards within the new constitution but the above are the main changes that will make a significant difference in the lives of not only women but children as well who often are in the care of their mothers.

Predictably, there is a large section of men in the country who are up in arms over the declaration that women will be regarded as equal citizens to them.  They are also not happy that some cultural beliefs and practices will be regarded as an infringement on the basic human rights of women and therefore a crime.  There is a general feeling among men that their ‘powers’ have been challenged and taken away!  They fear women will dominate them and strip them of their ‘manly powers’

Unfortunately for the men, as often happens in most African states, they chose not to engage in community consultation meetings and left it to the women to attend community meetings and to do the voting. This time around, the women of Zimbabwe had big reasons to  vote and nothing was going to stop them.  The men of Zimbabwe left it a little too late to register their ‘displeasure’ and have instead resorted to forming men’s organisations to ‘protect their rights!”.

This doesn’t happen to people like me

3 Mar

when a man loves you

Two weeks ago, I sat down for a transatlantic Skype interview with Alice* who got in touch with us to share her personal experience of an abusive relationship. Being South African herself, the recent headlines on the violence in her home country  prompted her introspection and she felt she had an important message for other African women. This is her story:

EAW: Thank you for getting in touch with us to share your story Alice, it was very brave of you.

Not at all, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do but I’ve never known how to do it anonymously because I’m not proud of it.

 EAW: I was struck by the fact you said an abusive relationship doesn’t happen to people like you, what did you mean?

I was brought up in a normal family in South Africa, went to a good school and had some strong female role models in my life. I consider myself smart, street wise and independent and in my mind I didn’t fit the profile of the sort of woman to be in an abusive relationship. I’m still trying to work out how it happened and why I put up with it for so long.

EAW: Tell me about the first time it happened.

I’d just come out of a relationship with yet another player when I met Tom. He was the sweetest, most attentive man I’d ever met. He was so romantic and unlike the other guys I’d dated he wanted to spend all his time with me and I very quickly became his whole world. On hindsight that should have been a warning sign.

The first time he hit me was in public, at a party with lots of people around. We’d gone out with a group of friends and as the evening progressed he became more and more moody and standoffish. I was talking and dancing with a couple of my girlfriends when he suddenly marched over, pulled me and said we were going. I told him I wasn’t ready to go when he slapped me in the face and pulled me out of the party. I was shocked and didn’t know what to do, it was in public. I screamed but nobody came to help. He bundled me into a taxi, I was screaming and the taxi driver did nothing. When we got to his place I was still crying and trying to get away, the security guard at his building just looked at me and did nothing.

When we got upstairs he suddenly burst into tears and started apologising and telling me how much he loved me. I remember feeling this deep shame; I was humiliated and couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I think I just wanted to put it behind me and forget it ever happened.

The next morning one of my friends came to his place to check up on me. I took the opportunity to walk down with her and ran off to my aunt’s house nearby. My aunt was furious when I told her what had happened. She’d been in an abusive marriage which had left her with permanent injuries. She took me down to the local police station and insisted I make a report against Tom, which I did.

The next day the police asked me to drop by and told me they had called him into the police station and how remorseful he was. They said they dealt with lots of domestic cases and they’d never seen such a remorseful guy. He’d cried and apologised and assured them it wouldn’t happen again. Suddenly he was this angel and even the police were asking me to give him a second chance.

EAW: So did it end there? Was that the last time he hit you?

Of course not, if anything it became more frequent after that. Each time he hit me he’d break down and apologise and tell me I was his life and he couldn’t live without me. I stayed so I must have felt flattered by this sick love.

My dad had recently died and I guess I was feeling vulnerable and enjoying the attention to the point I was willing to overlook the abuse. He also had a way of turning my friends and family against me so that I would always end up as the bad guy and he was this wonderful man who loved me to bits. The more isolated I became the more the beatings escalated and almost always in public.

He was extremely jealous and possessive and didn’t want me paying attention to anyone else. The funny thing is it was never about me talking to other men; he was jealous of my female friendships and just didn’t want to see me happy or having friendships or a life outside him.

 EAW: You went ahead and accepted his marriage proposal despite the beatings?

Foolishly yes, he’d been asking me to marry him from the word go and I finally agreed. I’m just glad I refused to have his baby, something he’d been begging me to do for ages. I look back now and think the day he paid Lobola for me was the day I became a child in the relationship and all the gloves came off, excuse the pun. My family loved him and thought he was the best thing since sliced bread. My auntie warned me that abusive men never change but I went ahead anyway. Perhaps I wanted to be married more than I hated being beaten up.

EAW: So how did you finally leave him?

The last time he hit me he started choking me and that was the final straw. It had always been slapping before but this time he was choking me and tearing off my clothes. This time I fought back, I thought he was going to kill me. I told him I was leaving him and he choked me some more. I managed to bite his hand hard and ran out of the house. I called the police from the street but they didn’t turn up. He ran down after me crying and apologising but I knew I was done. I stopped a taxi and went to my aunt’s house. She was furious and yelled at me to wake up because the man would end up killing me.

EAW: What did Tom do when you moved in with your aunt?

He called my uncle, who had handled the Lobola, as usual trying to make me look like the bad guy. My uncle phoned me begging me to go back to him, that all marriages had their problems and I was embarrassing the family. Tom was very good at spotting the weak links in my family and working on them to put pressure on me. I felt trapped and was getting a lot of pressure from my family to go back to him.

I’d been thinking of leaving the country for a while and then one day I came home and my aunt handed me a bundle of money and said I should go and buy an air ticket and leave the country. She could see the pressure I was under from everyone and felt I wasn’t going to hold out much longer, she was probably right.

So while Tom and my family were calling me begging me to go back to him, I quietly bought an air ticket and slipped out of the country. The next time I spoke to him I was in the UK and he was shocked. He begged me to let him join me and promised he would change but I was through making excuses for him. It’s taken me two years to get my life back together and regain my self esteem but I’ve not looked back.

EAW: You’re very calm and matter of fact about your experience, what did you take out of it?

The biggest learning for me was that the first time someone lays a hand on you walk away, they’ll never stop. It sounds like a cliché but it’s so true. There’s a reason a man lifts his hand to a woman and it has nothing to do with you. Tom obviously had psychological issues that had nothing to do with me, I took those problems and made them mine and lost my own self esteem in the process.

I’ve also learnt to make my own decisions and not involve my family too much, especially my uncles and extended family. Everyone has their own agendas and they are not necessarily aligned to yours. I found out later that Tom had been buying my uncle stuff so no wonder he was on his side. Next time I’ll take the time to get to know and love the man on my own without introducing him to my family. Once Tom had a relationship with my extended family it was easy for him to manipulate them and isolate me. My family are also quite traditional and probably felt that it wasn’t a big deal that he was beating me because all African women are beaten.

I think ultimately we are responsible for our own well being and I should have acted sooner.

 EAW: Alice thank you again for taking the time to talk to us and we wish you all the best with your future.

It was a pleasure.

*name has been changed to protect her identity

Quote of the week – if a man wants you

14 Feb

man love 3
If a man wants you, nothing can keep him away.
If he doesn’t, nothing can make him stay.


On mothers, boyfriends, toddlers and sex

10 Feb

toddlers 2The naked woman straddles the man whose bare legs are stretched out lazily in front of him. She’s lost in the moment as she works hard to extract what little pleasure she can from his small, limp penis.

A small, face appears behind her, a boy, perhaps two and a half, not quite three years old. He watches this scene for a second then calls out “mama”, no response. Maybe they didn’t hear so he tries louder “mama’, again no response, his mother’s attention is elsewhere. The little boy, looking trapped, raises his left arm and pulls at his ear in discomfort. Too young to understand exactly what’s going on he intuitively feels he shouldn’t be seeing this.

Speaking in Ndebele, the man says, “Sengiphos’ukuqeda” [I’m about to finish].

She stops briefly and asks “Uthi kunjani?” [What did you say?].

Ngithi kanti wena awuqedi? Sengiphosa ukuqeda” [I said are you not ready to finish? I’m about to finish], he repeats.

A few seconds later, the man puts his hand on her hip and the woman gets off his lap. “Mhh, angiqedanga mina” [Mhh, I didn’t finish] she says in disappointment.

“Uzabuya usuqeda” [You’ll finish later] he reassures her. She walks off the screen and the video ends.

Except the story doesn’t end there! Someone posts the video on the internet and so begins a global hunt to “name and shame” the woman.

She’s since been identified as a 24 year old Zimbabwean who lives in South Africa. She recently issued a statement to say the man in the video is the father of her son and the video must have been leaked by mobile phone repair workers when she took her phone for repairs.

An extract of her statement reads:

“The man who shot the video is my only lover and is father to my son. I was not coerced into making this video, we did it for fun. In fact, my boyfriend took the video using my cell phone. Soon after he gave it back to me and how it went viral is my sole responsibility. However, I remember at some stage I had problems with the cell phone and then took it to a cell phone repair shop. I believe it is where the video was stolen and then circulated.”

About her  son watching she says:

“I really don’t know why on earth I did not stop. I regret everything. Its now like I don’t love my son, I love him so much, nothing on earth surpasses my love for him.”

“I am now even scared going back to Zimbabwe. How am I gonna face my grandmother in Mzilikazi? I am being insulted and abused every day by strangers on my phone. There is no single day that passes without any abuse. I accept I made a terrible mistake but I want to assure all those who are concerned that such a thing won’t happen again.”

She goes on to say that the video has led to the father of her son resigning from work.

“He had taken me to his work place, unfortunately some people had seen the video and managed to identify me. It was so devastating, so my boyfriend had to resign from work because of that. Now you can see how we have suffered because of this. We are being tormented every day and night.”

This incident raises issues on so many levels, about parental responsibility, child abuse, African culture’s attitude towards women having sex, privacy and issues around bad sex and whether women should speak up when their needs are not met. Do you feel it matters whether the man is her only lover or the father of her child?, what about the man, why was there no campaign to name and shame him? Is it ever a good idea to let anyone make a sex tape of you?

This one’s up for general discussion.Tell us your thoughts!

Postcard from Zimbabwe

8 Feb


After one too many reminders from a few not so subtle friends I’ve finally dragged myself out of hibernation. A very belated Happy New Year to everyone!

The truth is I’ve been slacking off in Zimbabwe enjoying precious time with family. Remind me to only ever fly with Emirates because they sure know how to look after their young passengers.

As soon as I arrived in Zimbabwe I was reminded of what a beautiful country it is despite the media hype. I was reminded of a lifestyle that we can never have in the Diaspora and took full advantage of my 3 weeks there to soak it all in.

I was struck though by how acceptable it’s become for men to have small houses, a symptom of the economic collapse, I guess, where women are happy to trade their bodies for financial security within the now socially acceptable “small house”. For men a small house has become a must-have symbol of financial success.

It’s good to be back and I look forward to some interesting conversations in 2013!

Quote of the week – When you’ve changed

19 Jan

When someone says “you’ve changed” it simply means you’ve stopped living your life their way.


Every woman is not your enemy

15 Oct

Having breezed through an easy pregnancy, and with the control freak in me showing, I had it all worked out. We planned to have just one baby and I had absolutely no intention of experiencing a natural birth.

When I awoke from my planned and scheduled delivery I gazed at my son’s angelic face and just knew he would be an easy baby.

But my son had other plans!

I soon discovered there was nothing ‘instinctive’ about breast feeding – thank god for African mothers in law who’ve no qualms about grabbing your boob and teaching you exactly how it’s done.

I walked around in a daze watching my nights of sleep fast disappearing before me. Who’d switched my easy baby for this uptight little person who woke up grizzling at the sound of the tiniest mouse tiptoeing past the bedroom window?

I glared at the paediatrician as he patiently explained there was nothing wrong with my baby, that the hardest part of having a baby was after the birth. The pregnancy and birth were the easy bits apparently! He wondered why women no longer shared the truth about life and motherhood as their grandmothers had done.

I wondered the same thing! After all there’d been no shortage of advice on how to make sure I didn’t pay too much attention to the baby in case my husband strayed.

Leaving the paediatrician’s rooms that day I vowed to always speak the truth to other women about life in general.

My gorgeous nieces are the closest things I have to daughters and here are my top five ‘wisdoms’ for them that I wish African women spoke more openly about:

1. Every woman is not your enemy

Next time you meet a woman, don’t look her up and down and judge her clothes, hair, looks. She’s so much more than that. Don’t assume every attractive woman is after your boyfriend or husband. Make a point to be genuinely nice and mentally tick off one complimentary thing about her. Even if she turns out to be a witch it will have been good for your own personal growth.

 2. Get to know the girl inside you

African culture is loud on your role as a daughter, sister, wife and mother. Take time to meet the girl inside you, the one that no one speaks for. Understand what makes her happy, her dreams and hopes. As you go through life make a point to bring her along with you, don’t lose sight of her. She’s the one person who’ll always have your back.

 3. Hire your partner

You would never hire someone for a position at work without going through their resume, interviewing them and checking their references. So why would you give anyone such an important position in your personal life without doing the same? Ask yourself what value he brings to your life, what’s your return on investment? Conduct a thorough risk assessment as you would with any big investment

 4. Always have choices

People treat you the way you allow them to. When you find yourself accepting treatment that’s less than you deserve, ask yourself why you’re allowing it. Often it’s because of cultural pressure, social stigma, fear of being alone or financial dependence. Look your fear straight in the face and once you can see it clearly you’ll know your choice. Never give up your ambition and financial independence. Go back to school, pay attention to your career, aspire to own that late model car yourself instead of looking for a man to give it to you. Invest in yourself because when life throws you a curved ball that investment is what gives you choices.

5. Live a life you’re proud of

Live a life that’s true to who you are. Don’t reduce yourself  to monitoring phones and stalking your partner ‘to prevent them cheating’. That girl inside you has good intuition, listen to her. No amount of monitoring can ever guarantee men won’t let you down. Go into a relationship with the knowledge you’ve done your due diligence and that should you be proven wrong you’ll have the strength and dignity to come out of it wiser. Every relationship requires compromise and negotiation but know your ‘non negotiables’. These are your core values, they are who you are. Don’t trade them!


We’d love to hear your ‘wisdoms’ for other African women.