Today is Mother’s Day for many, and most of us have heard about the horrible situation facing more than 300 girls in northeast Nigeria who were kidnapped from their school by the terrorist group Boko Haram to be sold into slavery or become “wives” of the terrorists. Their mothers are heart broken and have taken to social media to rally others to liberate their daughters. Even US First Lady Michelle Obama, who sees her own girls in these girls and can identify with their mothers, has jumped into the fray, holding up a #bringbackourgirls sign while delivering the weekly presidential address.
While this situation is horrible, it sheds light on an important and positive change taking place in Africa and among African women and those of African descent. A new and better value is being placed on African women and their sexuality.
When SuzyKnew! was launched December 2010, many people said “African women don’t use the internet. It won’t reach African women.” Few knew that at the time Nigeria had one of the highest growth rates in new internet users in the world. Today, Nigeria ranks number 11 in countries with the highest internet users, and overall, Africa has seen a massive growth in mobile web usage. Africans use the web for many things we in the US still use brick and mortar businesses for or long, “speak-to-mutliple-customer-service-reps-and-be-placed-on-hold-forever” calls. Facebook use and social media in Africa have soared, generating many new Africa-specific websites. Over half of all SuzyKnew! subscribers are women located in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and other African countries.
Not so long ago, many conservative African societies, such as those where the kidnapped girls live, placed more value in a woman’s ability to become a wife and mother than her ability to contribute beyond her sexual destination as a woman. Like African-American women, African women were valued for their reproductive assets or viewed primarily as sex objects. Whether it was a National Geographic spread showcasing African women’s breasts or an American hip hop video featuring black women’s gyrating booties, a sexual, subservient African/African-American women is what the world has mainly seen.
Enter the mothers of northeast Nigeria. Via social media,they have let the world know that from their economically modest, conservative and traditional community, they were sending their most valued treasure to school: their daughters. Before this would have been only their sons. Today, it’s their daughters. Girls they hope will become doctors, lawyers, judges and more in a rapidly growing and changing Nigeria – in a rapidly changing Africa. These women want something better for their daughters than they had for themselves.
Enter new portraits of African-American women: Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Scandal’s Olivia Pope, and more. The value of women of color is higher and continues to increase. We are claiming our sexuality for ourselves and making it into what we want. Websites by and for us have sprung up all over the world. We want our sexuality back – and our girls!
Happy Mother’s Day to those raising tomorrow’s women of color – tomorrow’s children.
Happy Mother’s Day to women of color who were raised by mothers who wanted us to be more than a gyrating booty.
Keep it sexy!
Keep it healthy!