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Unquoted quotable African women.

"I sit before my computer wholly ashamed," begins Julia Stewart's book, Quotable African Women, a collection of quotes by women from all over the continent. In 2004 Penguin Books published Quotable Africa by the same author. It was a collection of 5000 quotes from people living on the African continent. Julia Stewart describes it as a groundbreaking work, illustrating the 'breadth and depth of African writing and thought'.

Following this publication the editor asked Stewart to put together a shorter version of Quotable Africa with 750 quotes exclusively from women. This seemed to be an easy task. But to the author's horror she discovered that of the 5000 quotes, only 400--less than one-tenth--came from a woman's mouth or pen! Stewart, a woman herself, had committed what she deems 'one of the most persistent crimes against women'--overlooking them in a world that is crying out for their healing voices.

Stewart, who has a master's degree in African Studies and lives in South Africa, immediately began to search for 350 more quotes to make up for her 'crime'. Along the way she was introduced to amazing women such as Unity Dow, Botswana's first female High Court Judge; Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; Antjie Krog, the South African poet. She also met Cameroonian and Nigerian novelists and journalists, Egyptian and Algerian feminists and many more women 'who are blowing all the old rules right out of the water'.

The selected quotes are compiled under more than 200 different subject areas including activism, beauty, dignity, democracy, feminism, liberation, politics, power, and war, with a subject index for easy reference. There is also a list of sources and a speaker index. Stewart dedicated the book, Quotable African Women, to her African sisters, with a quote by Adeola James: Our problem is that we have listened so rarely to women's voices, the noises of men having drowned us out.


Unfortunately most quotes were collected from written sources, therefore excluding the rich oral culture of African women's sayings and advice. Also regrettable is the fact that no Namibian women have been awarded a place in this collection. As the wisdom of our grandmothers and mothers could easily fill a book, a Quotable Namibian Women could be a worthwhile project for the future.

Quotable African Women, Julia Stewart Penguin Books 2005

RELATED ARTICLE: Quotable African Women


(Our own parents) destroy us the moment they choose to send boys to school, leaving us girls at home. Their thinking is that we get married and thereafter love happily forever. This is crooked thinking as there is nothing like that. Not sending daughters to school is the same as raising slaves.--Woman in Zimbabwe, quoted in Zimbabwe Women's Voices


I knew that in order to be considered the equal of a man in that milieu (Parliament), I had to be better than them, and that wasn't too difficult because, really, most of them were third-rate.--Helen Suzman, South African parliamentarian


African women in general need to know that's okay for them to be the way they are, to see the way they are as strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence.--Wangari Maathai


God is not an individual ... And woman is half of God.--Kola Boof, Sudanese-American writer and activist


I wonder if it will prove to have been easier to fight the oppression of apartheid than it will ever be to set women free in our societies ... Male domination does not 'burn down'.--Lauretta Ngcobo, South African writer
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Author:von Wietersheim, Erika
Publication:Sister Namibia
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:May 1, 2007
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