A Weekend at #WOW and Thoughts on Africa’s Feminism

I spent the weekend before last at the Women of the World festival in London, probably the most inspiring thing I’ve done in the past year. WOW celebrates women in all their diversity using a platform of talks, debates, workshops and panel discussions on women’s issues.

Any weekend spent at the Southbank Centre feels awesome for a culture geek like me, but a couple of things had me feeling like I was walking on air as soon as I walked into the Royal Festival Hall on Saturday morning.

First, I was struck by just how diverse the women around me were: in age, sexual orientation, race, physical ability, religion, and by how inclusive the atmosphere was. Afros mixed with hijabs, mixed with blond hair, mixed with shaved heads. It felt really cool to be part of a sisterhood, without judgement. Whatever we looked like, or believed, we were there, together, because we shared similar interests, concerns, dreams and challenges. And that’s a powerful thing.

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It’s the Fear Again.

I’ve been meaning to write about fear for a while now. I think fear and envy are probably the two most instructive of all human emotions and that self-mastery must include a study of one’s expression of, and ability to navigate, each.

One of my favourite things to do on a Sunday morning is drink coffee while reading the New York Times Sunday Review. Today, I read a great article, ‘Why Do We Teach Girls That It’s Cute to Be Scared?‘, written by a woman called Caroline Paul, one of the first women in the San Francisco Fire Department. She was a firefighter for over 13 years.

Caroline makes a strong case for not mollycoddling girls by teaching them that fear is an appropriate excuse for failing to take risk. She doesn’t use these exact words, but I will: when we teach little girls that childhood adventure is not ‘ladylike’, or more precisely, when we encourage them to fear the risks that come with adventure and exploration, we cheat them of opportunities to learn important life skills. She mentions responsibility, problem-solving and confidence, and I will add one more: curiosity.

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There’s a Lot More to Learn From ‘IBB’s SAP’ Than Meets The Eye.

Most of us, including those too young to have lived a single day through it, associate the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) of the 1980s with the darkest period in Nigeria’s economic history. The popular narrative generally considers SAP to have both caused the problems and failed to fix them, laying the blame squarely at IBB’s feet.

It’s not quite that simple.

SAP reforms were introduced in mid-1986 as a precondition for Nigeria’s borrowing from the World Bank/IMF. We didn’t have much choice.

So what lessons did we learn/should we have learnt from our economic history in the 1980s?

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