International Women’s Day: Wakanda and the Vision for Women in Africa

The female warriors of Wakanda’s Dora Milaje in Marvel’s 2018 film, “Black Panther,” are revered for their strength and beauty. This portrayal of these women has been heralded for its empowering message to little girls, particularly little Black girls.

Based on the recounts of many online, viewers have been emotionally swept by the images of bold, brave, kick-ass women, leaders in their own right. And although this is a powerful experience to have, we mustn’t forget that it isn’t real. Wakanda is a vision of an African nation we want to birth, not an African nation that currently exists.

“The harvest is now. We lack nothing. We are here and we are ready to determine our OWN destiny.”

And then Danai ended her speech with commanding us ONWARD in Wakandan like she would the Dora Milaje and so I am now inconsolable. #BlackWomeninHollywood pic.twitter.com/zLdfvjGVUW

— Sylvia Obell (@SylviaObell) March 1, 2018

It’s true that many African cultures are perceived to be matriarchal, and certainly many follow a matriarchal lineage when it comes to status and ethnic identity. However, the status of women all over the continent is a far cry from those of the fabled Dora Milaje.

In 2018, women in Africa suffer higher rates of poverty, are significantly less educated than their male peers, hold far less political positions than men, and lack access to capital, a vital component for economic empowerment. Violence against women is rampant, including female genital mutilation, and little girls are still married off as child brides in alarming numbers.

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