During much of its history, most feminist movements and ideologies have had leaders who were mostly middle to upper-class white women from North America and Western Europe. Yet, it could be said that since Sojourner Truth’s 1851 speech ‘Ain’t I A Woman’ to American feminists, in Akron, Ohio, women from different races have stepped forward with varying ideas of feminism.
This movement gained pace in the 1960s during the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. before expanding to Africa, parts of Latin America, and the Caribbean. Since then, women from these countries have developed postcolonial feminist theories, which were created in response to feminist ideas that appeared to focus on the experiences of Western cultures.
African feminism is a type of feminism that concentrates on the conditions and needs of African women. The birth of African feminism was due in part because of the exclusion of black and African women from white Western feminist views. Dr. Naomi Nkealah, senior lecturer in the Department of English Studies at the University of South Africa, once wrote that African feminism ‘strives to create a new, liberal, productive and self-reliant African woman within the heterogeneous cultures of Africa. Feminisms in Africa, ultimately, aim at modifying culture as it affects women in different societies.’
Since the time of Truth’s speech delivered at the Women’s Convention nearly 170 years ago, feminism in Africa has come a long way.
One African nation that is shining a light for feminism is Rwanda, which has the highest percentage of women appointed to government in the world. According to figures from Inter-Parliamentary Union , women hold nearly 62 percent of the seats in the lower house in Rwanda’s national legislature. This is compared to the U.K., where 30 percent, and just under 20 percent of seats in the U.S., are held by women in government positions.
The fact that Rwanda has the highest percentage of women in government demonstrates how far the country has come. In 1994, the country was in the midst of a genocide, that continued for 100 days, leaving around 800,000 people, mostly men, dead. With around 70 percent of the female population remaining, it was down to the women to rebuild the nation who formed local councils, looked after the land, climbed the ranks of government and headed court proceedings. From a decimated country, the women helped to bring in peace and reconciliation that shaped the country into what it is today.
Rwanda, however, is not the only country that is making significant progress with women’s equality. So too are Malawi and Liberia. In 2012, Malawi saw the appointment of its first female president with grassroots women’s rights activist, Joyce Hilda Banda, who was in office until 2014. Meanwhile, in Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was appointed as the first female president in 2006 after nearly 80 percent of female voters flocked to the polls during the country’s first postwar presidential election to usher in a female president in a country that had, for centuries, been under patriarchal rule.
Africa’s strong legacy of female leaders is a major positive statement as to where the continent is heading.
Just as African feminism is helping to concentrate on the needs and conditions of African women, cryptocurrency is giving a voice to individuals who have no access to financial services.
According to a report from the World Bank , two billion people remain unbanked. However, financial inclusion has been recognized as a vital component in reducing poverty and achieving inclusive economic growth.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the opportunity for financial inclusion is at its greatest where 350 million people lack a bank account, and 22 percent of unbanked adults – around 80 million people – send or receive domestic remittances in cash. And yet, with nearly 63 percent of the sub-Saharan population living in rural locations, simply walking to a bank is not as easy as it sounds.
However, an explosion of wireless telephony has brought telecommunication capacity to rural areas and shanty towns. It is because of this that a 2014 report from Ericsson ConsumerLabs estimated that 635 million mobile subscriptions have been activated in sub-Saharan Africa. This is predicted to rise to around 930 million by the end of 2019.
Unlike the rest of the developing world where 54 percent of adults have an account, according to the Global Findex database, sub-Saharan Africa is harnessing mobile money technology. So much so, that mobile money account adoption increased to 34 percent in 2014, while 12 percent of adults in the area are reported to have a mobile money account, four times that compared to the developing world average.
With a basic smartphone costing as little as $25, digitizing payments could help to reduce the unbanked population in sub-Saharan Africa by 125 million, according to the World Bank. Steps are already being taken, which can be seen in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, where over 10 percent of adults receive agricultural payments into accounts, which often include mobile money accounts.
Humaniq , which is a mobile app that uses a new reputation concept based on facial recognition for identity management, is a fourth-generation mobile bank based on the Ethereum blockchain. Aimed at tackling the global problem of financial exclusion for those without bank accounts, it is designed for those who don’t possess the identification that traditional banking services require to open an account.
Designed to provide a solution for disenfranchised populations, all users need to do is complete a biometric identification process, which can be completed in 20 seconds. By simply using a smartphone to take a photo of themselves, record a video of them smiling and grinning and pronouncing randomly selected text to record their voices, users can open up an account.
Just as African feminism is reshaping African ideologies on women, so too is Humaniq hoping to open the door for the unbanked.
Featured image from Shutterstock.