A lesson from some African Mamas

This week has whizzed by without a post, apologies! I believe I owe a review from my August read and a bit of an update on my 365 Day Project too.

Quite accidentally, I feel like I’m reading my way through the world with my book choices, July took me to Afghanistan with The Kite Runner and August took me across the African continent with Gogo Mama. (Any suggestions for some books that will keep me to this theme over the next few months? South America? South East Asia? Comment below!) 

Gogo Mama is perhaps the most heart-wrenching, uplifting, challenging and inspiring book I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. This book shares the stories of 12 African Mamas; women who have lived through conflict, famine or natural disaster, women who have entertained guests as belly dancers or singers and women who have above all been mothers whether to their own offspring or those of their communities. Gogo Mama journeys across 12 African countries spanning the continent, from Zanzibar in the east to Ghana in the West, from South Africa in the South to Egypt in the North, I truly feel like I’ve experienced the diversity of livelihoods, landscapes and hardships that Africa embodies.

It’s hard to pinpoint my favourite stories in this collection because  they all warranted my full attention when reading and often led to the rest of my day spent on Google reading about the various issues discussed in the tales of these beautiful African Mamas, whether it be AIDs, genital mutilation or understanding the Ethiopian conflict with Italy. Some tales made me cry as I imagined myself in the shoes of these women – on the frontline of battle in Liberia or belly dancing my way across Egypt with no sense of place or purpose. Other stories made me laugh as I imagined myself as the carefree diva from Zanzibar that never seem constrained by her age or status as a woman.  Gogo Mama is a book of great tragedy and hope, it’s a book about overcoming adversity and making the worst of what you have or the experiences that have been thrown at you. I’ve always believe in the power of women for alleviating poverty, but this book spells it out even more. These African Mamas are resilient, brave and passionate and are truly the key to solving so many injustices in our world.

I’ve been blessed with sixteen years of education, and in some ways even though I’m not longer an official student, I feel like I always have education thrown at me in one way or another. If only I could give a year of my education to each of these women, rather than knowing a gun replaced a textbook from a very early age. The Girl Effect is a powerful movement about the important of women in breaking the poverty cycle, check out the video below to learn just how crucial women are within the cycle.

I’d really encourage you to get your hands on this book (MEN included!) and allow these twelve women to have their voices heard. This book is available in bookstores (try ABC  – yes bookstores still exist!), in your library or on your iPad or eReader. This book is worth your time, your tears and your attention. The book’s author, Sally Sara, is a prominent Australian journalist who writes with honesty and warmth, drawing you in with each story and uplifting you with each finishing comment from the Mamas.

I think this was best summed up by Agnes Pareyio, a Maasai Activist in Kenya –

“Women have a lot of power and a woman is somebody who can lead… I think a woman can really do it. The community is changing.”

Do you want to join me in reading a book a month until July 2013? My blogs have become synonymous with an added challenge, so why not read with me? I’m not really a book club alone, but could easily become one if someone joins me – I would love to set up an online place to chat about these books (anyone tried google hangout? I’m a Skype girl!) so let me know below. I’ve just started reading The Messenger by Marcus Zusak  for September (author of my favourite book of all time, The Book Thief) so I’m expecting big things!! I challenge you to read it as well!

On a quick note, expect a 365 Day Project update tomorrow night – I’ve had some great wins the past month and also some things to work on! I’ll be fresh from the Sydney Running Festival with a 9km Harbour Bridge run under my belt so get ready to be challenged into action!


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