#001: We Have No Choice

May 5 Issue of Empower46 below. To receive more like this straight to your inbox, join us here.

  • We Have No Choice

A difficult but eye-opening read about the journey of West African migrants to Europe. Centered on Blessing, a Nigerian teenage girl trafficked to Italy by way of Libya, this exposé sheds light on why these migrants undertake such treacherous journeys, their plights on each leg of the journey (from thirst and sex slavery in the Nigerien desert to heartbreaking racism and risk of death in Libya), the oft-unsuccessful boat trip across the Mediterranean Sea, and the disappointment that often awaits them upon arrival in Europe.  Be aware that the content is at times quite graphic and very painful to read—but it is an important conversation to have. We are failing those who feel they have nothing left—if even crossing a vast desert full of skeletons and then an insatiable sea full of human bodies is worth it…for an unguaranteed shot at a better life.

Read for: “The girls prayed. Then Blessing stepped into the water, spread her arms wide, and shouted, “I passed through the desert! I passed through this sea! If this river did not take my life, no man or woman can take my life from me!”




  • Sip on Banana Wine

To all my wine enthusiasts out there, here’s a little something for you. After her husband’s passing in 2004, Rwanda’s Christine Murebwayire was struggling to make ends meet and care for her four children. With $200, she started Coproviba, the now widely-successful banana wine brand. As the first woman in Rwanda to start a banana wine business, Christine has faced multiple challenges, but her growing business is proof that she is woman enough to take them on. Suddenly, the bottle of Prosecco I've been looking forward to all week does not seem ambitious enough.

Click for: A photo of tenacious Christine with a Coproviba (Cooperative de production de vin de banane) sign




  • Angola Seeks To Ban Abortion Completely

Rumbi Chakamba of News Deeply reports on Angola’s update of its penal code. Angolan lawmakers have introduced a bill to make abortion completely illegal (that is, with no exceptions for rape, incest, or unsafe pregnancies). If passed, Angola would be the first African nation to completely outlaw abortions on all grounds.

The bill is supported by the Catholic community in Angola—but is heavily criticized by women’s rights activists and protesters. Introduction of the bill sparked has sparked protests across the country with numerous placards signed “Sou Livre! Eu decido”—“I am free! I decide!” Of course, separate from the arguments on the free and wide access of abortions, this absolute illegality of abortions will only serve to leave the most vulnerable women prey to unsafe abortions and in the worst cases, make them relive their trauma. Reproductive rights cannot be separated from women’s health. Simply put, this is a terrible idea. 
Read for: “She also points out that this move would go against the Maputo Protocol, and African Union-wide charter on women’s rights, to which Angola is a signatory. The protocol requires its 53 signatories to provide therapeutic abortions in the cases of rape or danger to the mother’s health.”



  • Have you heard about Jaha?                                               

Jaha Dukureh, a remarkable woman from The Gambia, has taken on female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced child marriage—fighting against the terrible practices; as a survivor.  Check out an excerpt from Jaha’s Promise—a documentary on her tremendous life journey, filmed as a part of the End FGM Global Media Campaign by The Guardian. In a heartbreaking clip, Jaha talks with her father about the teachings of the Prophet Muhammed, the pain that FGM has caused her, and the need for change in their community.  Come with tissues; leave with a resolve to change the world.

Watch for: “I’ve heard Imam Fatty’s claims [that FGM is Islamic]. He is an elder and I respect that. But I went through FGM and I know how it affects me. So, if he needs me to sit down and talk to him about that—I’m open to that.”




  • Changing The Face of Philanthropy

Close your eyes for a minute (please do not do this if you are walking—actually, if you can do so successfully, email me, let’s be friends) and imagine someone giving away large sums of money in an organized philanthropic effort. Who do you see?

I saw a white man. Tough for me to admit.

Which is why this article from Fortune, ‘Africa’s Female Philanthropists Are Emerging From the Sidelines’ is a breath of fresh air. It shares how African female millionaires and prolific activists are increasingly becoming a force in the global philanthropy landscape—particularly in Africa. There is the incredible (and underestimated) power of inherently understanding culture, having local connections, and being personally invested in work of philanthropy.

Read for: "African women, we are capable of anything...we just need someone to believe in us."




  • Les Filles de Illighadad

Much to the slight annoyance (and confusion) of my friends, I love blasting Tuareg music. I love the sounds, the rock, and the two or three words of Tamasheq I’ve picked up as a result.

Unsurprisingly, within the already small pool of popular Tuareg musicians, women are almost nowhere to be found. This is interesting, given that historically, Tuareg music was passed down by women. Fatou and Alamnou, cousins from the town of Illighadad in Niger, are re-owning that.
She Shreds magazine interviewed the two beautiful women on their guitar-playing skills, their 2016 LP “Les Filles de Illighadad”, their November 2017 tour across Europe, and the hustle of breaking barriers. Check out the article to hear them play; profitez de la musique.

Read for: "I want to have a great future with the guitar, to be successful, and I want to have girlfriends who play guitar so we can play together and be successful together."