#Metoo, #PressforProgress, #Timeisnow means absolutely nothing in #Africa

Let’s be honest about it.

This year International women’s day theme is #PressforProgress, #Timeisnow according to UN women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

The organisation recently launched a report that have uncovered a significant gaps for women’s empowerment and aims to put forward a robust agenda to shift gears but I cannot stop thinking about my continent Africa and African women in this instance.

How can women press for progress in Africa where systematic change is desperately needed at all level of government, business and society.? How in all honesty my friends? Surely we have to question ourselves.

The time has always been NOW for African women but for decades littles has been done despite the fight of many remarkable women in the continent.

According to According to UNESCO estimates, 130 million girls between the age of 6 and 17 are out of school and 15 million girls of primary-school age — half of them in sub-Saharan Africa — will never enter a classroom.

Recent revelations about Non Governmental Organisations mandated to support and advocate the poor, and that have allegedly been abusing women in Africa is just one other example of why we cannot press for progress just by accepting the Status Quo. We must speak up about it and not be silent or intimidated.

To press for the progress we need systematic change, we need to have DATA, a data that shows where we’ve started and where we are doing. Progress cannot happen if nothing is measured. We also need to educate men to stop asking sexual favours or bullying women in their jobs in Africa. We need westerners coming to Africa to respect our women when they say no and stop using their vulnerability to abuse, groom or brainswash them. We need events organised in hotels in Africa to stop being the playing ground for sexual abuse and grooming for young women, who are desperate for job and status in their societies. We need women to be courageous and work together to press for policies to be changed in their favour. They need to influence policies.

Many women in Africa do not come forward for the abuses they encounter daily, the reasons are known by many but for years they have been muted by their husbands, in-laws, friends, mothers, and society itself. If they say something they will be stigmatised, or left behind. They will no longer belong.

I was recently organising an event in Senegal where i encountered the most violent verbal abuse in a car dropping me to my hotel. I was intimidated and scared. When I arrived in my hotel room, I just cried and let it go. When I spoke to a friend the next day, she told me that men denigrate women all the time in taxis and hotels in Africa. An African woman answering back to a man is seeing as impolite. Emancipation is not tolerated. The man still holds the power and have the last word.

The other incident was on the plane from South Africa to Nigeria where a gentleman pulled my bag from the overhead bin and put his bag. When I asked him why, he told me to seat and be quiet. This was a 5 hours flight and I did not want to have any problems. I wanted to be safe on the plane. I wondered afterward how many incidents like that are happening and nobody is saying anything.

I was also told that some women are so numbed by the abuses and violence, all they do is brush it off and actually support men when other women are standing up for themselves. How can this happen in 2018?

In 2012, I was in Kinshasa (DRC) to organise an even where a group of young women told me that they have to sometimes exchange sex with teachers to get good grades. A country like the DRC is also where NGO’s have failed young women and girls with countless sexual abuse allegations.

We all know that young women and women leaders in Africa are being bullied, intimidated, harassed, violated daily but nobody is saying anything. Nobody wants to know and frankly, nobody cares. African governments are putting their head in the sand when it comes to issues like this. They are looking this other way.

I have been abused and intimidated multiples times in Africa as I travel to help young women. I also have countless examples, where sexual violence is used as a weapon to shut women and girls off. Violence against women, especially rape is also prevalent in Africa. Girls and women are also subject to forced prostitution and trafficking and sometimes with the complicity of governments, hotel owners, and other authorities. So how can we press for progress when the systems are weak and broken at their core. Can we perhaps use hundreds of events organised in Africa to talk about these issues and meaningfully press for progress? This is my question to all women marching for progress and calling for sisterhood and solidarity. Movements are great but when we mean #timeisnow, #metoo, #timeisup, it should be for EVERY WOMAN AND GIRL living on this earth not just for the few privileged living the west, who actually have a voice (money, power, positions, connections, running water, love, peace, sanitary pads, education, platforms, internet, justice systems, electricity, mobile data, opportunities, and economic opportunities).

Happy Mother’s day! If you have read until here, please support iamtheCODE to give young girls a chance for a better and sustainable future by learning how to code.

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Lady Mariéme Jamme

I’m the Founder of @i_amthecode, an Educator on Race and Diversity— I Invest in Girls/Millennials through #STEAMD Edu @YGLvoices @i_amthecode @i_amwellbeing