Women in Africa and the Diaspora: What Happened to Ms. Fat Booty?

“How can you be African and not have a butt?” My friend jokingly said. “All African women got a booty girl. How’d you miss that gene?” I let out a forced laugh but I was hoping she would change the subject. Instead she continued, “I’ve seen your mom before, how did you not get any of that?” as she motioned to create the shape of a “full figured” woman in the air with her hands. By this time all I wanted to do was to walk away from the conversation, but I continued to mask my annoyance with forced laughter. This time I threw my head back just to make sure she wouldn’t sense my uneasiness. After a few minutes, I made up a story that I had a class and quickly walked away.

Unfortunately this was a familiar conversation for me. Compared to my mother and my other cousins, I am fairly petite. I was the last of my cousins to leave my training bra and transition into a real bra. While all my cousins could fill up their jeans, I still struggled to find a perfect pair that would accentuate the “African pride” I didn’t have.  I dreaded family functions because my aunts would all make jokes about my body in comparison to other girls my age. While everyone looked their age or older, I still looked 12 at the age of 18. Although I never expressed the impact of these comments, I often left these family functions with my self-esteem trailing behind me.

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Watch on theprepaideconomy.com

According to the World Bank report, “Women and Trade in Africa: Realizing the Potential”, eliminating gender-specific barriers can help boost trade and increase productivity in Africa. Behind the research for this report were women who shared their personal stories of how they overcame gender discrimination at work in order to realize their potential.

After being thrown out of her house, Mary from Tanzania started her own company and now has over 300 clients internationally. Mary employs hundreds of women and is planning to start a training institution designed specifically for women.

Charity from Kenya secretly applied for college – against her family’s wishes – to pursue a degree in Tourism. Tourism in Kenya brings in over $1 billion annually, directly provides over 300,000 jobs and accounts for 12.5% of the country’s GDP. Despite the pressure to do otherwise, Charity took advantage of the opportunity to benefit from the sector and is now a park ranger.

This short film, Mind the Gap: Gender Equality and Trade in Africa, follows these women as they share their experiences taking advantage of trade opportunities and tapping into foreign markets.

Over the course of nearly 20 centuries, millions of East Africans crossed the Indian Ocean and its several seas and adjoining bodies of water in their journey to distant lands, from Arabia and Iraq to India and Sri Lanka.

Called Kaffir, Siddi, Habshi, or Zanji, these men, women and children from Sudan in the north to Mozambique in the south Africanized the Indian Ocean world and helped shape the societies they entered and made their own.

Free or enslaved, soldiers, servants, sailors, merchants, mystics, musicians, commanders, nurses, or founders of dynasties, they contributed their cultures, talents, skills and labor to their new world, as millions of their descendants continue to do. Yet, their heroic odyssey remains little known.

The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean World traces a truly unique and fascinating story of struggles and achievements across a variety of societies, cultures, religions, languages and times.

NEED is when you can’t live without something. WANT is a choice. So mas matuwa kung may magsabi sayong ‘I want you’ because it means, ‘I can live without you but I choose not to
—  UP Professor 

More African Everyday

In grade five, I transferred from a private school to a public school. Until then—in my home, at school and at church—I was called Chidozie; “God fixes things.”

It is a name that was given to me under appropriate circumstances. When I was to be born, my father’s mother—his father’s first wife—had left Nigeria to come live with my family in New Jersey. It was then that she and my father were reunited from their near 30 year long estrangement. For the next eight years, my grandmother lived with us and helped to raise my siblings and I. Then she returned to Nigeria—my mom said that people like to return home when they know that their time has come.

And so, in what seems to be particularly African tradition of naming your child around the circumstances of his or her birth, I received the name Chidozie. But it wasn’t my first name. My first name is Georges. Like many others that I know, I have both an “African name” and a “Christian name”—as if the two are somehow mutually exclusive. My grandfather was an author and he named my father after an author whom he liked, and I was named after him. So when I transferred to that public school, about a year after my grandmother’s passing, when asked whether I would like to be called George or “sha-DOE-zee-ay,” naturally I picked the former. Where I found myself, I had “abnormal” skin and “abnormal” hair; I might as well have a “normal” name.

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Interview: Jason Njoku

I’m proud to be an African. A huge part of my pride I can attribute to my parents (hailing from Nigerian and Sierra Leone). When I look back, I’m thankful that they forced me to wear African fabrics to school events, constantly blasted music to the likes of Youssou N’Dour or Salif Keita in the living room, and fed me generous heapings of Joloff rice and Grannat stew on a nightly basis.

At the time, I didn’t give being African much thought. As I got older and further away from my parents influence, I started to really embrace the music, movies, and culture of which I came from.

Movies are particularly relevant to me nowadays. I’m an aspiring filmmaker now, but back then, The Gods Must Be Crazy and Shaka Zulu were the only “African” movies I remember barely being able to sit through. After being introduced to the film “Mummy’s Daughter” (I know, I was really late to the game) a few years ago, Nollywood, and African cinema in general, really garnered my adult interests.

The discussion over Nollywood tends to be endless; who does it benefit? Where are the quality scripts and actors? etc. However, in western film, it often appears that not everyone is allowed to have a voice, and I love that in a world that lacks representation of Africans in the media, Nollywood continues to support African stories, actors, and filmmakers.

This past summer, I was searching for some movies to watch, but living in NYC the only way I knew how to get these African films are by buying DVD bootlegs down Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. After searching for some downloads online, I came across iROKOtv.

iROKOtv is a web platform that provides Nigerian films on-demand. With over 5,000 Nollywood films, it is one of Africa’s first mainstream online streaming websites. Coined “the Netflix of Africa,” I thought it’d be a great idea for Rise Africa to speak to the CEO of iROKOtv, Jason Njoku, and discuss more about Nollywood, iROKOtv and when he fell in love with his roots (read interview)

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