7 Female Writers Fighting Against Patriarchy Across Africa With Their Words

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Feminism, which is defined as the advocacy of women’s rights based on gender equality, is a significant movement among women around the globe. African Feminism, however, did not begin today. In the twentieth century, African Feminism arose as a result of economic and political regimes that excluded women, as well as the examination and denigration of aspects of African culture that see patriarchy and oppressive practices of women. These feminists expressed their displeasure with the discrepancy in a variety of ways, such as by forming political institutions that rally behind women’s rights, forming organizations that promote women’s development, and so on.

Women novelists and authors also utilize their characters, storylines, and words to rebel against gender inequity, thwart patriarchal society, and raise awareness of women’s issues. These women, in doing this, also dispelled the stereotype of men as being the only literature writers in their respective countries and paved the way for other younger female writers to follow in their footsteps. Among these novelists include:

Flora Nwapa (Nigeria)

Early Igbo society was based on superstition and tradition, which disadvantaged women greatly. Female circumcision is one of these traditions, as is the mistreatment of widows and childless women. There was also a notion of women as inert, docile, and incapable of making their own decisions, which was evident in early Nigerian male writers‘ writing.

Flora Nwanzuruahu Nkiru Nwapa, the first African Woman novelist, altered that thought with her debut work “Efuru,” released in 1966. In “Efuru,” she developed a woman of valor who is independent,door-strong, business-minded, bold, and capable of making her own decisions while uncovering these Igbo conventions designed to oppress women. 

While Efuru, the protagonist, was courteous to two of her husbands, she had her thoughts and didn’t let them push their agendas on her. Buchi Emecheta, whose second book, “Second Class Citizen,” was inspired by a personal experience followed in her footsteps and also developed a female character with desires, ambitions, and a clear sense of what she wanted even though the society she lived in was designed to frustrate her.

Miriam Tlali (South Africa)

In the twentieth century, women in South Africa were seen as domestic characters whose sole responsibilities were to take care of the house, conceive and breastfeed children, and assist on the farm. It was as domestic servants and labor market workers that they were spotted working outside of their homes. However, in 1956, a march by women to protest the use of passes and permits resulted in some women being appointed to political positions and marked an important turning point in history, but it also led to the deaths of others, as some were assassinated by government officials and others faced long-term imprisonment.

Even at that, academics, writers, and novelists were also only identified with men. In 1975, Miriam Tlali (November 1933–24 February 2017) made history by becoming the first black woman in South Africa to publish an English-language novel, Between Two Worlds, defying stereotypes. The South African apartheid regime first banned most of her writing. She was a well-known anti-apartheid activist who was instrumental in the development of the South African women’s charter.

That huge step she took paved the way for other remarkable women to enter the field of writing, like Zukiswa Wanner, author of Madame, Bessie Head, Ronelda Kamfer, and others.

Ama Ata Aidoo (Ghana)

Ghana’s first published female author. She was fortunate to have grown up in a family where girls’ education was recognized because her father was the village head and the founder of the first school in the village. So, she was given a good education.

However, in 1982, she became the minister of education under the Jerry Rawlings administration, making her the first woman in Ghana to hold the position, which ended in 1983 due to her being a woman. In an interview, she revealed that her cabinet members and colleagues would often belittle and criticize her ideas and opinions. She concluded that the cabinet was not ready to hear from women in power, so she could not carry out her plans to improve education and therefore had to quit. 

In one of her famous books – Anowa,  there is a strong aim of preaching gender equality.  Anowa suggests there may be life for girls other than making toddlers and cooking for husbands. It indicates that women could be in an identical field as men and be successful at it. Anowa worked with her husband in his discipline and flourished at it. 

The book also depicts the reactions of others to women who aren’t all concerned about family and childbirth – odd. Even Anowa’s husband saw her as such.

In Aidoo’s goal to foster women’s growth, she established the mbaasem Foundation in 2000 to promote and support the work of African women writers. Through this foundation, she aimed to create a better world for Ghana and Africa as a whole by providing young girls and women with the means to strengthen and empower themselves mentally, financially, and otherwise.

Writers who continue in her stead are Yaba Badoe, Yaa Gyasi, Abena Busia, and several others.

Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe)

‘Nervous Conditions,’ released in 1988, was the first book written by a black Zimbabwean woman. She became a writer as a result of two circumstances. First, as a member of the university theater club at the University of Zimbabwe, she discovered that there were no plays with roles for black women, or if there were, they were unavailable. Second, at the time, most of Zimbabwe’s writers were men.

She calculated that until a woman started it first, there would be no opportunity for women to demonstrate their creative skills. As a result, she chose to be that woman. Lost of the Soil, She No Longer Weeps, and The Third are among the plays she wrote at the time.

‘Nervous Condition’ introduces us to many numerous struggles that ladies revel in. Women in this book had been dealt with as inferior and secondary to the male gender. To diverse African men, ladies are less significant and must be within the background. And additionally, they need no schooling. Tambu’s father – Jeremiah, subsidized this view: ” Can you cook books and feed them to your husband? Stay at home with your mother. Learn to cook and clean. Grow Vegetables.”(pg 15).

However, ultimately, Tambu went to school, showing that the whole lot, no matter the gender, is attainable.

Grace Ogot (Kenya)

Alongside Charity Waciuma, Grace Emily Akini Ogot became the first Kenyan women writer to be published in English. After presenting her work ‘ A year of sacrifice’ at a conference on African literature at Makerere University in Uganda, she discovered there was no other work displayed by East African writers and as a result decided to publish her works.

Her female characters in “The Rain Came” and “The Empty Basket” are depicted as African women who are fearless, courageous, and have a sense of duty. When men were afraid and dressed with panic, Aloo in “Empty Basket” was able to tackle a dangerous scenario head-on with confidence. This dispels the stereotype of women as timid and weak individuals.

Mariama Ba (Senegal) 

Mariama Ba made a name for herself in 1979 with the publication of her two-language novel “So long a letter.” It was written as an African feminist book since it depicts the experiences of women in African and Muslim societies.

Men marrying more than one wife is common in Muslim society, but Aissatou surprises everyone by refusing to accept a second wife from her husband. Her self-worth was more important to her than a marriage that didn’t value her. So she took her sons and left her husband, even though the older women of the community warned her that life without Mawdo would make her life and that of her children uncomfortable. “I am stripping myself of your love, your name, clothed in my dignity, the only worthy garment, I go my way,” she writes in a letter to Mawdo. (page 33) Her decision demonstrates that men’s actions have consequences, and they won’t always get away with it.

Goretti Kyomuhendo (Uganda)

Goretti Kyomuhendo, (born in 1965) in Horma, Uganda. She went to the University of Kwazulu- Natal(South Africa). FEMRITE, a Ugandan women’s writer’s association, and publishing business were also founded by her.

“First Daughter,” her first work, was likewise about the girl child and schooling.

Violet Barungi, Beatrice Lamwaka, Ayeta Anne Wangusa, Lillian Tindyebwa, and other Ugandan female writers whose works are also noteworthy.

These African women have given voice to women in their own countries and have left an indelible mark. They are ladies who left a legacy that other women will follow. 


Precious Uzoma-Nwosu is a Kogi-based content and creative writer with a skill for writing insightful and compelling articles about women, literature, and entertainment. Her work has appeared in Document Women, Opera news, and AAUA Insider; a campus media organization. She currently reviews books for Nwanyinodulokwu’s blog. When she’s not writing, she is reading a nice book. 


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