#005: Les Amazones d'Afrique

June 30 Issue of Empower46 below. To receive more like this straight to your inbox, join us here.

Good morning,
In our Community Blog this week, Aisha Inuwa, reflects on why she thanked her catcallers and how the word "gracefully" pushed her to stop. I find it quite an engaging piece on the dilemma many women face between reacting appropriately to stranger harassment and prioritizing self-preservation.  Also, it's my 22nd birthday today; I'm spending it in New York City eating Magnolia Bakery cupcakes with 8.1 million of my closest friends. You subscribers are the best birthday present I could ask for.

  • Les Amazones d'Afrique

All our musical dreams have come to life with West African supergroup, Les Amazones d'Afrique. Formed in 2015, the all-female music collective is made up of 10 artistes including heavyweights like Nneka (gasp!), Rokia Koné (gasp!) and Angelique Kidjo (who I once saw in concert in Salt Lake City and she is magnificent). The group's purpose is to use music as a medium to uplift and empower women across Africa.

Their 2017 album, République Amazon, addresses the unique experience of womanhood on the African continent. The album is absolutely gorgeous and between production, lyrics, and the amazing voices featured, it hits every mark - and that's not just my opinion. My favorite song is "Kounani" (Track 9), but you will love Nneka's sultry crooning on "La Dame et Ses Valises" (Track 4).

Listen for: "You've been inside that darkness for too long/Woman don't you know you are a queen?"  [La Dame et Ses Valises]




  • Free Sanitary Pads for Kenyan Schoolgirls

Kenya continues to lead the way in menstrual hygiene rights across the world. In a bid to reduce menstrual-related absenteeism and improve girls' access to education, Kenya has amended its education law and now mandates that enrolled schoolgirls must be provided "free, sufficient, and quality sanitary towels" as well as "a safe  and environmental sound mechanism for disposal." Over a decade ago, Kenya outlawed taxes on sanitary products to make them more affordable. 

This new law puts the responsibility of provision of pads on the government, and it has been preparing itself - particularly by setting aside $5million of the national budget to the cause. Of course, government and schools alike must effectively distribute funds to meet the need. Kenya's move has been met with immense praise from the international community, rights groups, and the 1million-plus schoolgirls that stand to benefit from it.

Read for: “President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the act into law. Child rights groups say many girls in [Kenya] skip at least four days a month because they cannot afford sanitary pads and want to avoid embarrassment."



  • "From Where I Stand"

UN Women's remarkable "From Where I Stand" series aims to highlight the stories of women across the world who are overcoming their own daily sustainable challenges, in order to reach the 2020 Sustainable Development Goals.

The series features women of all ages from countries all over the world that have a variety of experiences and backgrounds. I'm thoroughly in awe of them.

Read for: "They said I couldn’t fish because I was a woman and the fish wouldn’t take the bait from a menstruating woman. I told the men in my community that I was post-menopausal, so they should not be concerned.” [Yayi Bayam Diouf]


  • Do Mothers have a Role In Fighting Extremism?

In this piece for The World Post, Ioana Moldovan, explores the role of mothers in combating extremism and keeping their sons away from ISIS front lines. Focused on radicalization of youth in Tunisia, the article seeks to understand the 'push and pull' factors driving young men to fundamentalism and how the elevated position of mothers in Islam can work to save youth from joining extremist groups like ISIS.

This is not a new concept. Organizations like FATE (Families Against Terrorism and Extremism) are formed by family members of youth radicalized by ISIS, who now work to educate others on how to protect their own young ones from recruitment into fundamentalist groups. Mothers are often at the forefront of such groups and serve as support systems for one another. It is a mammoth undertaking that may not seem as powerful on the surface, but could really have tremendous potential for success. After all, Rudyard Kipling once said, "God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers."

Read for: "One hadith for instance goes like this: A man once consulted the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) about taking part in a military campaign. The Prophet asked the man if his mother was still living. When told that she was alive, the Prophet said: “(Then) stay with her, for Paradise is at her feet.”


  • The Continued Push for Education

Rihanna's recent trip to Malawi (on behalf of her Clara Lionel Foundation) generated a renewed public interest in education of undeserved children in Africa. Working with the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen, the Clara Lionel Foundation's mission in Malawi was to observe the quality of education in the country, understand how students learn, and brainstorm ways to improve access to, and quality of, education in Malawi .

The lack of access to good education across the continent is alarming - even more so for girls and children with disabilities. Research shows that it is possible, albeit difficult, to scale up quality education in regions that need it the most - but success relies on multiple interacting factors. Education has a positive relationship to socio-economic empowerment and is a fundamental human right, considered essential to exercise other rights. It is only just that we fight for it. 

Watch for: “This is a beautiful school; good teachers, good learners, but there is some lack of blocks, lack of chalk, lack of books..."



Nneoma Nwankwo