You hear women’s voices everywhere you go in Africa. But are we listening? While some of these voices rise above the rest, are we paying close enough attention to African women’s voices at regional levels, global levels, and within our own walls at the Gates
Foundation--especially when it comes to creating lasting change for the health and lives of women and children? African women must be at the center of any conversation around the ability to plan a family, to take care of children, to become financially stable,
to insist on women’s rights. And not merely as the focus of the conversation but as active participants and dialogue leaders. Only a woman is able to represent her views, thoughts, and opinions on what is best for her and her family. So we must provide space
for more African women’s voices. And then truly listen.
Your hear African women’s voices at the water well or in public transport, talking about the price of maize at the market, catching up on the latest village news, and sharing the joy of the birth of a new baby .
You hear the voice of an African nurse advising women on the best health care for themselves and their children, explaining the different options to plan their pregnancies, lamenting the fact that she couldn’t help the mom who arrived too late at the clinic
for a safe delivery.
You hear African women’s voices involved in civil society and galvanizing women to be engaged in leadership roles.
Theo Sowa from Ghana speaks passionately about harnessing women’s voices and ideas to engage African women in decisions that affect their own lives. As she points out, the greater the diversity of voices
we hear in leadership roles, the greater our ability to affect changes that we want to see. Women must be at the center of those conversations, not on the margins.
You hear African women’s voices through song and music, recounting the day-to-day struggles of women trying to provide the best for their children and shape the societies in which they live. Like
Hope Masike from Zimbabwe, who recognizes that making the world a better place happens only when people and communities are actively involved. Through her music, she encourages women not to feel sorry for themselves
in times of depression and oppression but instead to ‘spread their wings and fly like butterflies.’ African women have the power to change their lives and improve the lives of their families, strengthen communities, and advance nations.
You hear the power of African women’s voices through the written word, telling the stories of young mothers in rural villages, stories of a country’s history and its influence on today, and stories of girls struggling with balancing gender roles and community
values in order to positively revolutionize their societies.
Violet Barungi from Uganda is a writer who gives voice to African women’s independence, self-confidence and ambitions. Her work raises the question of how to merge modern, independent women with traditional values; her children’s stories give voice to the
next generation of strong, African women who have the potential to change the world.
You hear the voices of African women who have become recognized political leaders, guiding policies, making decisions, and raising the voices of the millions of women they represent. Like
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the President of Liberia, the first elected female head of state in Africa, and a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate of 2011. With that honor, she was recognized for the “non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights
to full participation in peace-building work.”
These are a few of the powerful voices from amongst the millions of women from all across the continent speaking every day, and must be heard widely if we want to make lasting change in policies, programs, civil society, economics, and political rights.
These voices and others give rise to women’s thoughts and aspirations, their hopes for their children, their pride in their countries. These are the voices that demand education for girls, agitate for better quality of health care, insist on improved transport
so mothers can easily access health centers, and lift women’s entrepreneurial spirit to make small businesses successful and their families financially stable.
These voices may not always agree and will no doubt express a diversity of opinions and needs as they come from across cultures, from various religions, from rural areas as well as urban areas, from the wealthy and from the extremely poor.
Regardless of the origin of these voices and the differences in opinion, these are the voices we need to hear and respect. These are the voices for which we must provide space. It’s up to all of us to create this forum, online and offline, for ideas to spread
on how to lift the voices of African women from village to civil society leader to government official to global leader. And then listen to what they’re saying.