By Nomali Cele
African women belong in Africa’s bright future.
Afrofuturism is the radical belief in a future in which black people exist as gifted and beautiful and as black as ever. It’s a radical belief because a single look at news headlines and it starts to look like black people don’t stand a chance of surviving into the great beyond. In countries such as America, and in the UK, it seems like there is an unspoken agenda to wipe out black people and with wars, poverty and disease still gripping Africa, we’re not fairing that well on this side of the world either. But Afrofuturism rubbishes that and says we will still exist in the beautiful, black future.
So if we are working towards a Very Black future wherein we exist in all our glory, where does that put African women? Malcolm X may have been talking about black women in America during segregation but the sentiment, sadly, still rings true here in Africa as well.
“The most disrespected person is the black woman. The most unprotected person is the black woman. The most neglected person is the black woman.” – Malcolm X
From Dutywa, to Cholocho to Chibok, black girls and women are still going missing and unaccounted for. No government agency has sprung into action to locate them and protect the others that remain. Black girls and women are disappearing into thin air and it’s business as usual – what does Africa’s future look like without us?
In “Black Panther”, the blockbuster film that has become the poster child of Afrofuturism, the women are in charge. They are respected and empowered; they lead the Wakanda nation. It was beautiful to watch women who’ve come into their full power on screen and the portrayal has been lauded across the African diaspora. But in real life, the same can’t be said for African women on the continent and in the diaspora.
Most of us believe that Africa has a bright future, there are even t-shirts to that effect. The continent is slowly changing and more and more, leaders who put the people first are being elected. Yes, there’s still a long way to go in terms of education and other services and peace-keeping but important services affecting women are low on the list. That’s even if they are on the list.
While access to menstruation products (affecting cis women and trans men from poor backgrounds the most) might be a popular rhetoric topic for leaders and corporations across the continent, but concrete changes are yet to be made. In South Africa, girls and young women between 15 and 24 are still are the highest risk of HIV infection; they are contracting the disease “at rates twice as high as young men.”
If we say works of art like “Black Panther” are one of the blueprints for the beautiful, bright future we want to have, why isn’t more being done to protect girls and women? Policy is not changing to reflect our desire to see empowered, balanced black girls and women in this shiny black future we dream of.
If Africa is the future, what does this mean for African women? Why aren’t more concrete moves and policies to protect girls and women and make sure they are empowered being made?