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The first thing I noticed was the audience. There was something special about this particular crowd. A majority of women of all ages, colours and shapes – interspersed with some men. Apart from looks the audience was rapturous, you could feel the energy and the excitement reverberating in every single heart that night in London’s Southbank. It was all for her. She, who is a reluctant feminist. She, who says she is still unsure of what it means to be an icon. Nonetheless, she embraces it with all her smart vigour. She, that is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  Shero of a generation of women who are looking for a voice and for the right words to articulate what we all feel and are rarely able to say. Not the way she does anyways.

It’s a Saturday night and Chimamanda is greeted like a rockstar when she enters the main auditorium to speak about what it means to be a woman today as part of the Women’s of the World Series.

She started off her talk with a profound statement from her new book, Dear Ijeawele. Dear Ijeawele, is a small booklet with 15 suggestions on how to raise a strong independent woman. The statement is quite simple, really, it says: I matter equally. Not ‘if only’, not ‘as long as’. I matter equally. Full stop.

This sets the scene and Chimamanda then explains how she became a feminist. She talks about how she was at carnival and had to go inside when the beautiful masks came out whereas her brothers were allowed to stay outside. She questioned the distribution of domestic chores, where she had to do the dishes – hating it – whilst her brother who actually enjoyed doing the dishes didn’t have to do it. She was told too that she must learn how to cook, whereas this was optional for her brothers. She said she asked a lot of questions and was never satisfied with the answers. Why aren’t roles assigned based on interest but based on gender? She talked about how girls and women from the early ages are taught to talk themselves down, make themselves less intelligent and how those constant sacrifices we make are in a perverse way rewarded by society. Like us being small is somehow beneficial for humankind.

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A long commute to work and a surgery that temporarily bound me to the couch have had the positive effect that I read several eye and mind-opening books in the past weeks. Three lessons stood out:

  • We live in the most peaceful of times
  • All is not lost in international peacebuilding and
  • Trust your guts when making a decision.

1. We live in the most peaceful times ever

Steven Pinker: The better angels of our nature. A history of violence and humanity.

Pinker - Better Angels of our Nature Image: www.BookDepository.co.uk

Pinker – Better Angels of our Nature Image: http://www.BookDepository.co.uk

In 1000 odd pages Steven Pinker has managed to answer every single question I ever had about violence and war. Would the world be more peaceful if it is ruled by women? Is the War on Terror justified? Were the dark ages really that dark?

First, Pinker  sets out to convince the reader of his main point: Violence is and has been in steady decline. The rest of the book is dedicated to identify, proof and refute several explanations for why that is. Homo universalis Pinker delves deep into history, politics, sociology, psychology and biology to seek explanations. We learn that through the Flynn-effect humankind becomes gradually more intelligent. The literary revolution and globalisation has brought us closer together and made us more empathetic and thus less inclined to hurt each other.

And more Americans condone violence to reach political goals than Pakistanis. His source base is a joy for every researcher: surveys, quantitative data sets, literature from Kant to Nabokov, secondary studies, archival documents and art.

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Exhibition banner Congo Connect

Photo Credit: Congo Connect

Congo Connect‘s I dream of Congo exhibition is shown in London till the end of February. A panel discussion on Valentine’s day held amidst the images centered around the ongoing violence with a focus on the mass rape of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The discussion aimed to show hope by bringing the voices of Congolese women to the London audience. Further to that the event raised the questions for me whether these issues can be presented in a balanced manner or whether NGOs and activists need to simplify in order to get their message across.

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