The great global reckoning with sexual harassment is “long overdue”, says acclaimed Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, but the feminist figurehead in Africa hopes it is not “a passing fad”.
As the global #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct continues in the wake of the disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s downfall, the novelist said it should be only the beginning.
“For a long time, women in many parts of the world felt that they couldn’t talk about these things because they would not be believed and because there would be many consequences for them,” Adichie said in an interview with AFP.
The author of several award-winning books, including “Half of a Yellow Sun”, “Purple Hibiscus” and “Americanah”, has tirelessly campaigned against gender inequality.
Her viral TEDx talk “We Should All Be Feminists” in 2012 has been viewed more than four million times.
Adichie, who splits her time between Nigeria and the United States, said the #MeToo movement had also provoked debate in Africa — although not as much as in the West.
“I know that in Nigeria young women followed the news and I also know that suddenly some young women started to talk about their own experiences,” Adichie said.
She told the story of a woman who had recently posted on Facebook about a professor who sexually harassed her in medical school.
“To talk about it openly and to name the man who was a professor… that is very unusual,” she said.
“It’s just one story but for me it is symbolic of what this all movement has brought about.”
Being a feminist in Africa means being willing to go against convention, she said.
“There are many women in the African continent who are feminist but who don’t use the language of western feminism, who don’t even call themselves feminist,” she said.
“But in the way that they live their lives, they are feminist because they consider themselves to be fully human and fully equal and they go against conventions.”
This includes “single mothers leaving abusive marriages even though they have a lot of family pressure to stay on”, as well as “choosing to be ambitious and not apologising about it”.
Adichie spoke at a talk on Thursday night in Paris for “La Nuit des Idees” (The Night of Ideas), a series of 170 events in 60 countries across the world on the subject of “Power to the imagination” run by Institut Francais.