The Akụkọ Diaries: Am I empowered?

Hello, y’all. Welcome to The Akụkọ Diaries series! This is the first in what I hope to be a series of around six posts, covering issues and topics of current importance to me. I hope you like it!  Maudz x


Dear diary,

                      I’ve recently finished my university coursework, and all the essay writing and researching has got me thinking: Am I Empowered? Empowered with a capital E and with capital capabilities? Am I given the tools to succeed in education, in my future career and in all areas of my life, or do I even need to be empowered before I can do these things?

I can go to school, because of the opportunities available in the country I live in. I’ve got the internet, where information and opinions are everywhere. I’ve got books and magazines and photography. I can talk to people, visit places and learn first hand about other people’s experiences. Sometimes I don’t have to go looking for information; it comes to me. I don’t need to trawl through social media- invariably I see something I don’t necessarily want to, or have never thought about. I am more connected now to people all over the world than I have ever been, but does this mean I am Empowered?

Empowering is described as giving someone the power, authority or permission to do something. I sometimes wonder whether I have the power, authority or permission to be formally educated, because it has been written into law, and the things I would never have been able to learn 100 or even 50 years ago I can learn now.

I feel like I, as a young woman from a nation with a turbulent history, have been given the power to learn about my country’s past and its present. I read about slavery, colonialism, inequality and ethnic traditions and I form my own opinions based on this knowledge. 

But being female, I’ve been strengthened by other women and girls. This power has enabled me to take back what has been taken away. For a long time before (and even in some areas now), women and girls were the second-class citizens of the world. We were like apartheid South Africa: prisoners in the lands of our own bodies, and even when not prisoners, restricted to be a certain person, and to do certain things. They say when you educate a girl, you educate a country. I think this is true, because in teaching a girl, you are teaching a nation about the value of equality, of womanhood beyond the home. 

Not all girls have been allowed access to education. Malala Yousafzai was catapulted onto the international stage because she fought to get this access. Boko Haram, the Islamic extremist group in Northern Nigeria, oppose the ‘Western’ education of girls in that part of the country. Some girls still cannot go to school. Multiple doors are closed to them, and there is only so far a person can go when every door is closed. It is like a car without enough petrol for its journey- it will stop before it has reached its destination.

And this is why I wonder, am I Empowered? Can I change the realities of some of these girls without education or proper educational facilities? I wonder how far I can get, how much I can do on my own. Or must I protest, and get a bullet to the head before the problems are addressed?

It’s possible that I have been empowered only to see where the wrongs are being done. And what about the accused sexual offenders, the ones in powerful positions?

Harvey Weinstein?

Bill Cosby?

John Worboys?

And all the cultural practices that demean and undermine women, some of which we don’t even realise are demeaning? They say our times are changing, but I wonder why there has to be slow progress. It is ingrained in some work environments, in some people’s mind states. It is so great and so deep, that some are unwilling to let go, instead referring to it as part of the ‘culture’ and ‘tradition’.

I ask, am I Empowered? Because sexism is so everywhere. It is like ice in my blood. I see it, or I hear it, and I think: that is so wrong. But it’s one of those slightly touchy subjects where some males and females will say that it isn’t that serious and what more could I want?

But does it become serious when you have to give up your university place so a guy can take it, or be told to remain in a loveless, abusive marriage for the sake of tradition? 

I’m not so angry about it, but it makes me think. And when I think, I write poems. Because for me there is no better way to capture my thoughts, like the petals of a dandelion in the palm of my hand, before they float away. 

They say when you educate a girl, you educate a country
Cause we are like athletes, we women, we run things
Cause we catch no feelings for losers, or attached strings
And no more empty talk of empowerment, but done things
From the beginning of time, we’ve only demanded for one thing
EQUALITY, our names written into history, or something
We asked that our girls were not packaged and parcelled to countries
Where their dignity, self-worth, and bodies were hunted
Like prey, even today. Honestly, it’s disgusting.

They say, ‘Our times are changing’
But let’s face it
You wash what’s dirty, not disgrace it
And people still bringing dirty faces out,
Saying, ‘I’ve placed it’
Too smart, too sexy, that dress, too naked
Too much money and power for a woman, too graceless
Yet it’s from these positions of power that they say this.
I call that hypocrisy, at its greatest.

And they also have names for some of us: Feminazis
As if a supercharged drive for equality
Has the same kind of notoriety
As the extermination of peoples, the size of a small country
And they’re the same? Really, Shawty?

They say she looks okay, the ass fat, but she fat
A mathematical mystery, like: How can she be that?
Nature has made her, no mistakes there, can’t you see that?
Trends and bandwagons leave their dust,
I’d rather have my confidence, than the lust
Of a person who sees only measurements, who breathes stats.

They’re not all bad, I won’t tar everyone
With the same brush. In truth, I’m just making sure the youth
Are in touch. In touch with themselves and each other
And with their world. Untold stories go cold
And we lose love. Our girls
Are our women, and mothers.
And they’re the ones suffering the struggles
The worst off in war, usually the victims in a tussle

Where power meets power, a bleeding cesspool.
Yet still expected to pick up the pieces and juggle
Like a circus act, gather resources and hustle.
Their not the ‘man of the house’, but still the muscle.
But can you be all that and still be docile?
They say when you educate a girl, you educate her nation.
I’m educated, but sadly can’t say the same for everyone
The girls who can’t go to school, with no one to lead them
I only pray, one day, things change
Cause God knows, we need them.

        “I come in peace, but mean business ”           –     Janelle Monáe 



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