My name is Fikemi Aiyepeku, a Nigerian senior at the African Leadership Academy (ALA) in Johannesburg, South Africa. For my Catalyst Project for GOA’s Graphic Design Class instructed by Mrs Queen-ie Allinson, I have created a campaign called #WomanEnough which stems from a movement in my school started by Lobna Jbeniani called Practical Feminism – “a platform for ALA women to support ourselves and each other professionally and intellectually” (Lobna Jbeniani, Facebook Post, 24th January 2019).
A Bit of Background…
The African Leadership Academy (ALA) “seeks to transform Africa by developing a powerful network of over 6,000 leaders who will work together to address Africa’s greatest challenges, achieve extraordinary social impact, and accelerate the continent’s growth trajectory” (African Leadership Academy, 2008, source). Note that nowhere in this phrase does it say that these leaders will belong to a particular gender.
What I discovered at ALA in March 2019 was that when I asked certain questions, the answers would always lead me to male figures.
“Who do you think is the smartest student on campus?” Male.
“Who can help me out with my laptop issues?” Male.
“Who would you say is the best athlete on campus?” Male.
I would be surprised if you recognised all those names. Now, try this.
I am very sure you recognised more names there…right?
I began to wonder – why is it that the name of a woman is rarely called when we speak of great things like this?
What Is The Problem?
I knew it was definitely not because there were no smart women or no tech-savvy women or no female athletes so I asked around and conducted interviews.
Mathuso Molapo, Personal Interview, March 17 2019
“Girls try to stay humble.”
Moitse Kemelo Moatshe, Personal Interview, March 17 2019
“We (girls) don’t believe in ourselves.”
Lobna Jbeniani, Personal Interview, March 17 2019
“There aren’t many women represented in so many fields – women are underrated.”
These interviews led me to identify the problem.
We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man.Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. “We Should All Be Feminists”,
New York: Anchor Books. Published
29 July 2014.
Girls have been taught not to “toot their own horns” and this prevents other girls from learning what breakthroughs have been made by women in their own communities. If I, for example, wanted to pursue a career in finance, I will be facing statistics such as men accounting for 61.5 percent of degrees in finance (Source: Investopedia). Knowing women who have defied the norm like the Chief Financial Officer of the African Leadership Academy, Lara Rabiu, will immediately make success in my pursuits seem attainable. This is such an important factor when empowering girls. This project stems directly from the 5th Sustainable Development Goal which is about gender equality and women’s empowerment.
A lot of great work has been done by multiple people and organisations in various communities to uplift girls and empower them, and these campaigns have had so much impact. Through individuals like Priyanka Chopra and institutions like Audi, girls are being encouraged to be their best selves all over the world and I want my community to be no different.
What Will #WomanEnough Look Like?
#WomanEnough will look like constant encouragement. #WomanEnough will look like looking up while crying in the bathroom to see a poster with a word of encouragement from another woman in the ALA Community. Here are examples posters I plan to put on the ALA Campus.
Please note that the use of EL (Entrepreneurial Leadership) and CS (Computer Science) makes the content more suited for the campus as these words are used as slang.
Women should not be told to pipe down – in fact, they should be encouraged to speak up. Successful women should encourage those that are on their way up to keep on going and to ignore the words of people around them. Women should be taught that they should “break all the rules” (Tanatsei Gambura, Personal Interview, April 2019) and chase after what they want, even if they’re called obnoxious or pushy or competitive or crazy.
As we conclude the presentation, be sure to think: In what ways can I encourage and empower the women in my society?
Source: Nike. “Nike – Dream Crazier”, YouTube.com, Published
24 February 2019. Accessed 13th April 2019.
What words of encouragement do you have for a woman today?
In the future, women, rather than men, will be the ones to change the world.
– Malala Yousafzai