By now, the 16 year-olds in Sweden know about feminism than several 30-year-olds in Africa. Thanks to Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and the Swedish Women’s Lobby, among other groups. But they probably always did; gender equality is one of the cornerstones of Swedish society. Every 15-year-old student now has Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists.”
According to an official Sweden site, the overarching principle is that everyone, regardless of gender, has the right to work and support themselves, to balance career and family life, and to live without the fear of abuse or violence. Not what we have in Africa where there is no fairness and this is masked by culture. The society is also guilty of encouraging this. You can get blamed for being raped in Nigeria and in South Africa, every 8 hours a woman is killed by her partner and it may take an appeal court to pass a murder verdict.
There are several lessons to learn from Sweden and other Nordic states that top world gender equality index. The government is feminist. Sweden has among the highest percentages of women in parliament in the world (44.7 percent) and 12 of 24 government ministers are currently women. The law mandates that both parents get 480 days of parental leave and there is a Ministry of Integration and Gender Equality to oversee things. But why so much focus on gender equality, you’d ask. Why not?
According to the United Nations Special Rapporteur Dubravka Šimonović, who is presently in South Africa to gather first-hand information from victims and survivors of violence in the country, “Violence against women continues to be one of the most pervasive human rights violations globally. When women and girls experience violence, they are denied access to fundamental human rights.” There needs to be an improved focus on gender equality. Everyone, including women themselves need to know more about gender equality. This is why Chimamanda Adichie’s book strikes the right chord.
“To me feminism is about justice,” she says. “I’m a feminist because I want to live in a world that is more just. I’m a feminist because I want to live in a world where a woman is never told that she can or cannot or should or should not do anything because she is a woman. I want to live in a world where men and women are happier. Where they are not constrained by gender roles. I want to live in a world where men and women are truly equal. And that’s why I’m a feminist.”
While people like Adichie keep educating the world on the need for equality, women in Africa also need to emancipate themselves. But, of course, this comes with understanding what feminism truly means; it is much more than discussing kitchen roles or who kills the bugs. Feminism does not say “hey lady, don’t cook for your partner. If you do, you are an idiot!” What feminism says is “hey lady, it is not your duty to cook but cook when you have to or feel like doing so. Don’t allow any man to make it your solemn duty. The kitchen is there for anyone who wants to cook; it is not your office.”
Whatever your twisted belief is, being a feminist in Africa does not mean you should be lazy. If you grew up learning how to cook and your man does not know how; you can always help out. Of course, he can always help out with the laundry too. Feminism is about equality. It is not about women who have found new reasons to be lazy. Get out of the domestic talk once in a while talk about feminism in leadership; be the best at what you do, run for a political office, start a business, join the army (if you have the capability), pay the bills, take the lead.
Chimamanda Adichie’s Ted Talk turned publish essay has gotten the attention of the world and that’s the best way to get the attention of Africans. Now, we all (not 16-year-olds) can have a copy of her feminist manifesto. Hopefully, it will change us a little.