Heart of Arts





Toyin Falola


It was Maya Angelou who wrote that “each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” For many years, women have had to fight for their rights: in their homes, in their communities, societies, nations and even the world at large. The male counterparts argued that if women are given a chance to be equal with them, then women become their superiors too. Several women have stood up to agitate for the right of women; as a matter of fact, women’s rights are human rights! From the right to vote and participate in political activities to sexual and reproductive rights, the right to make decisions about their bodies, to choose who and when to marry, the right to freedom of movement and speech, the right to make life decisions on their own without having to seek permission from a male partner or guardian. The subject of feminism sprung from the consciousness of women’s societal situation and various oppressive acts against women.


Since 1960, African female writers have published fiction about women’s struggles with their male counterparts. Most of these female writers were not taken seriously but rather criticized for speaking up for women. Fondly remembered as the pioneer for African women writers and a feminist to the letter, Ama Ata Aidoo surpassed this basic description. She was many African women’s heroine and, much more, a mother. Ghanaian author and activist, Ama Ata Aidoo was a writer who used her pen and voice to advocate for women’s equality. Aidoo’s work emphasized the improvement of women’s lives so that they could be great contributors to nation-building rather than being subjected to marriage, copulation, “rear” children or being full-time housewives. Aidoo strived to create a space for women in politics and nation-building through fiction so that women could emulate successful characters used in her work to become exemplary people. She revealed that most myths hindering women’s participation are social constructs and can be reversed. She emphasized that the arrogance of male superiority, women’s inferiority, and gender inequality are all social constructs. Aidoo believed that women are self-effacing and oriented and should be allowed to participate and contribute to the development of Africa and take up economic, political and social roles.


Her works never fail to depict feminism and advocacy for women against societal norms. In Our Sister Killjoy: or Reflections of a Black-Eyed Squint (1977) and Changes: A Love Story, Aidoo presents outspoken, strong female protagonists who, in the course of changing their lives, faced opposition and difficulties either from society or men. She changed the African narrative regarding women as victims. Her books are relatable to African women and women worldwide, as she portrays the circumstances of different women in her writings. She tackled patriarchy and societal complexities regarding women and maintained that a woman has a choice to make and that her life and destiny are her responsibility. Through her work and legacy, she was able to stamp in the heart of females worldwide that they are entitled to enjoy their rights on an equal footing with men.

Ama Ata Aidoo & Sheila Ruiz at Africa Writes 2014


In Africa, women have long been defined as lovers, wives, mothers, daughters, and granddaughters. Many feminists have condemned this definition of women through fictional writings. Over the years, Adioo has used her work as a tool to give a different account of women by portraying them as powerful nation-builders. Women are makers and builders. A woman’s power and ability should not be underestimated. Women should not be compared to men; they should occupy the same space as men. Scientifically speaking, if men do not have more bones than women, they do not have more brains; if a human’s thinking capacity is not determined by gender, the fight for women’s rights should be continually encouraged. The awareness of the power and ability of the female gender is an equal force in political, economic, and national development.


Women like Ama Ata Aidoo have not only preached this message with fiction but have successfully proven it with their contributions to politics and nation-building. From 1982 to 1983, Aidoo served as the Secretary of Education under Jerry Rawling’s administration. It was her dream to make education completely free for everyone, a dream she could not achieve, not because she was a woman but because the country’s economy could not afford to make education completely free. In her bid to promote the work of women writers in Africa, she established the Mbaasem Foundation in the year 2000.


Ama Ata Aidoo’s work focused not only on women’s involvement in politics and nation-building but also on women’s suffrage and confusion with marriage and motherhood. Through her work, she addressed the question: “if a woman is educated and has successfully secured her space in politics and nation-building, how about her space as a married woman?” Aidoo’s work has successfully addressed this reality by discussing polygyny, the lack of distinct change in women’s circumstances, working women and family management.


On feminism and women’s activism, Aidoo has blazed a trail and created a path for the female gender to walk in. Legacies like hers should never be forgotten or swept under the carpet. Ama Ata Aidoo has laboured for the voice of women to be heard in society. The modern world has started to adjust and give room for women to rise and make their impacts and contributions. Nevertheless, advocacy for women should be continually encouraged. Women should not tune down their voices until there is equality in every sphere of influence.


Ama Ata Aidoo’s ideas on women’s activism must be sustained for future generations. Her work is a fuel of inspiration for African women writers not to relent in the fight for female advocacy and inclusiveness.


Sunday, July 2, 2023

4:00 PM Ghana // 5:00 PM Nigeria // 11:00 AM Austin CST

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