Africa Day with a difference

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IMAGINE being born in Africa, the motherland. Being a part of something huge and exciting as the continent births its democracies, charts new territory and struggles to come to grips with the global world.

Nothing beats the feeling of being part of the bigger picture. A motherland that is full of youth, life, extremely rich in culture, wisdom and talent. A continent that is filled with a vast majority of mineral wealth and land that is so fertile the whole world eyes it with yearning.

Indeed Africa is greatly endowed and if it were a woman it would be a drop-dead gorgeous, we-all-want-a-piece-of-you kind of woman that whatever gender would strongly desire. Africa is a jewel and a relentless beauty.

It’s our motherland and where our roots are. However, Africa is bleeding and is slowly losing its touch as it is adulterated by neo-imperialism, greed, corruption and other ills that seem strikingly familiar across the continent. It clearly neglects developing fully its greatest resource — the women. How sad.

Reminiscing

Haile Selassie and Kwame Nkrumah were great visionaries who I am sure appreciated the vastness and potential of Africa and hence dreamed of the Union of African States.

Well, my parents were not even born by then, but what I am sure of is that this Union of African States would facilitate for an Africa that was united, had solid trading ground that not only benefited governments, but even the people it led, development and progress.

It was a dream to see Africa and its people prosper to unimaginable levels. Of course, there would be challenges as that is the nature of life — it has challenges. However, this Union of African States was a means of harnessing the continent’s potential for the benefit of its people.

This dream, of course, did happen and has seen Africa develop in leaps and bounces at various levels. However, even as the African Union has declared 2015 as the “Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development Towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”, one can never fail to see that Africa needs to do more than dedicate years so as to see its women actually progress and prosper. I mean, do not get me wrong here, the thought of including women on the futuristic agenda is well received and appreciated, but let us then see the political commitment and, of course, resources channelled towards achieving this vision.

I am sure that the dreams of the honourable Nkrumah and Selassie did include women — right? Well, I do hope so! However, the reality of women on the continent has been heart-wrecking to say the least. Poverty, rape, war, corruption, low representation and power in decision-making spaces, and much more have defined women and their lives.

In 2015 where the world is moving towards the development of each and every person through a plethora of methodologies, women still remain in the periphery of development and empowerment.

I must commend here the good strategy dedicated towards women’s issues, but to what cause exactly on a continent that seems to forget that most of its women are living in the rural areas where they have no or very limited access to education, information and ability to generate sustainable wealth. Oh, come on Africa, is this the legacy we want to see for our women — the very co-creators of human life?

Indeed we have come a very long way and, of course, some more than others are failing to come to reality with their various countries.

unidentified women do laundry on an open place in Mabvuku where they collect water from.Mabvuku residents have had no water for the over a year.

Most women in these African countries bear the brunt of being female, poor and illiterate which makes it even more difficult for them to develop. Empowerment programmes seem to leave women with the ability to meet the most basic of needs while the majority of the richest on the continent continue to be male.

In order for Africa Day to make sense to me as a woman, it needs to translate to the transformation of my lived realities. The day has to have a semblance of care from the powers that be that women’s lives matter and are a priority and the reality on the ground has to show this.

So for example, the hospitals need to have adequate facilities for a woman not to die giving birth, which means motivated staff and efficient equipment.

It also means the government and all the powers that be ensuring that perpetrators of crimes such as rape do not get stiffer sentences for stealing a cow than raping a woman. It also means that women have access to credit lines and own more decision- making powers and not be the ones to sing for those in power as they exercise their power over the women.

The realisation of women’s basic freedoms of movement and expression, plus making their living spaces safe and secure would be worthwhile in realising that Africa actually is genuine towards achieving Agenda 2063.

There is more in other words in realising women’s development and empowerment than making a declaration. While statistics and figures may be out there noting the progress, it would be critical to also ensure that the realities of women have been transformed as well.

Educating a woman is educating an entire village, so saying no to early and forced child marriage would get the dedication on women’s empowerment and development to another level.

Sometimes it is more than celebrating a day and commemorating it. It is also about challenging ourselves as Africans to say that we will become more than what our myopic worldview has taught us.

It is about ensuring that the women of Africa live their lives to their fullest potential.

It means we celebrate the women of Africa as the sisters who deserve our respect, love, dedication and critical attention.

Zimbabwe is currently the chair of AU as we commemorate this Africa Day; it says a lot of what we can do to give a new inference and meaning to this day. African women matter and need to be respected for the brilliant minds they are.

By saying no to poverty, poor governance, exclusion and embracing women as equal and critical contributors to the development of Africa — we also begin a new path of ensuring that women become the key drivers of development in Africa.

We will in turn celebrate Africa as the motherland whose women are able to fully exert themselves towards this Agenda 2063 and we will look back once we get there to the many steps we took starting with this 2015 dedication to women’s empowerment and development. Let’s do this!

l Grace Chirenje is a citizen of the world and writes in her personal capacity as one who lives life to the full. She would be excited to hear from you. You can contact Grace on graceruvimbo@gmail.com, follow her on Twitter @graceruvimbo or like her Facebook page: Grace Ruvimbo Chirenje.
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