Patricia Amira, Global Board Co-Chair, celebrates Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as part of Equality Now’s 30 for 30, featuring 30 women and changemakers who have played a key role in making equality reality as part of our 30th anniversary celebrations.
I recall the excitement I first felt when Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie arrived on the literary scene. I had just read her debut novel, Purple Hibiscus, and even as an African from a different corner of the continent, the story felt honest and the characters relatable.
My joy was also based on the fact that Chimamanda was a woman whose writing appealed to a broad generation of contemporary Africa—confident and bursting with possibility. From her earliest days, she has consistently articulated the importance of men being part of the feminist movement toward justice—and a vital step toward meaningful change.
Today, as one of the world’s most influential women celebrated globally for her writing and creativity, and revered for the power of her thinking and her expression of it, Chimamanda enjoys remarkable reach with her views, particularly on feminism.
Chimamanda’s intellectual leadership helps to set a standard that influences and inspires millions around the world. On a personal level, I have always loved Chimamanda’s open, wholehearted embrace of joy, bringing a playfulness to her public persona that often disarms her critics and endears her fans. Through her numerous lectures and articles, her storytelling has managed to transcend the literary sphere and penetrate global pop culture, including the spaces of youth and the media. No matter the medium in which she’s delivering her message, Chimamanda’s emotional intelligence and her humanity shines through; her words are relatable, accessible, and vitally important in the gender space.
It’s often said that “To speak one’s truth, one needs courage.” Chimamanda’s opinions, accepted or otherwise, often come under intense scrutiny from the media. In spite of these pressures, she has stood true to her own beliefs. But Chimamanda doesn’t ask her audience to agree; she asks them to think critically — at the very least engage in self-examination — and, to my mind, those are precisely the kind of supporters, thinkers, and changemakers the women’s movement should be seeking to attract.
I often think about Chimamanda’s 2017 work, “Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions.” Her eight suggestions address teaching our daughters to reject likeability. “Her job is to be her full self,” Chimamanda writes, “Embracing honesty, kindness, courage, speaking truthfully; a self that is…aware of the equal humanity of other people.”
As a mother, I am fully cognizant of how I, too, must practice this tenet as I raise my daughter to ensure I do the best I can to teach her this lesson well.
Photo Credit: Manny Jefferson