Yesterday, I had an exhausting, stressful flight from Yaounde-Douala-Lome-Accra on an airline that seemed more keen to help me miss my flight than catch it. I arrived and quickly bundled data on Airtel so I could go live for the BBC Focus on Africa’s 100 Women’s series, moderated by the indefatigable Ory Okolloh. As a self-declared African Male Feminist, there isn’t enough platform to share my work on women and I wasn’t going to let this one slip by. After settling into my studio and logging into Skype, the internet connection was so poor, we had to drop the interview. Even the call quality was so poor we couldn’t settle for a phone interview. How can we build a country around the poor always sacrificing for the rich?
So when you turn on the radio and you hear an old soldier and his politician cronies quoting Churchill and Lincoln and everybody unAfrican and trying to preach to you about sacrifice, you get pissed. I am pissed because the only people sacrificing in Africa are these women:
Look at this lady. She hawks bread on her head through Accra’s scotching heat but she doesn’t let that deter her. She is technologically in touch. She is politically engaged. She is business savvy. I look at this photograph of her, using her mobile phone to film a political rally and I ask myself: “Does she have a facebook account or youtube channel? Is she on twitter?” If she isn’t, it is quite obvious she will like to be… and she is the one sacrificing because in spite of the high cost of internet data, high cost of electricity and water, in spite of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly chasing her around to seize her bread and butter, she is determined to make something out of her life. She, in my opinion, is qualified to talk about sacrifice:
Now, look at these three girls and a baby. The government of Ghana just demolished the shack they live in at Old Fadama, popularly called Soddom and Gomorrah, Accra’s biggest slum. Who cares where they sleep tonight? Who cares if it rains tonight? Who cares if they get raped tonight? Who cares what happens? Who cares? But come tomorrow morning, they will find a carpenter and start rebuilding their lives again. They can talk about sacrifice.
Then there are these women in a cocoa farming village in La Cote D’Ivoire. Nestle donated a three classroom block in their village; originally intended for only the children. The community decided, since they are all uneducated, to run a system where the children go to school in the morning, the teenagers go to school in the afternoon and the adults go to school in the evening.
So they breastfeed their babies in the classroom, they have to drive some of the kids out for disrupting their class, they have to go out and change diapers, cook for husbands, return hoes and cutlasses but they always come back to finish the class and return the next day. They know about sacrifice.
You walk through Ghana; and most of Sub-Saharan Africa and almost every woman you see is a beast of burden carrying stuff on her head, carry loads where a crown should have been; and we shamelessly drive pass them in our Landcruisers and Benzes and encourage them to sacrifice some more. Sacrifice my foot!