Fresh from winning a Grammy at this year’s awards, Angélique Kidjo gives a no-holds-barred interview to New African Woman Magazine about the status of women in Africa.
She stresses the need to speak out: ‘For me, silence is a killer and a lot of violence towards women continues because they are silent about it.’ She is adamant that the status of women has to be tackled right from childhood:
‘… The damage has been done to our brains when we train our boys to think that they are more important than girls… The day women [in the homes] decide that the boy is not going to have a different status under the same roof as their sisters, we are going to win the gender war… we need to lobby African governments to be specific on the status of the girl, that from the day that child is born, that child is a human being and has the same rights as any boy.’
She added: ‘When a girl is born, her father has the right to marry that girl off. Who gave the father the right to do that? A child is not a possession. She is a human being. That’s the start of the discussion we need to have with our leaders and with civil society.’
But some types of feminism risk alienating potential supporters: ‘A lot of the feminism around is too aggressive for me and we cannot find solutions to women’s issues if men are not part of the solution.’
The three-times Grammy Award winner, Nollywood actress and Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience for 2016, Kidjo benefited from her father’s support. She recently told the magazine Newsweek:
‘The deal I had with my father was: “You want to sing, you go to school. You’ve got to do good in school otherwise there’s no singing.” My mum and dad believed that the best tool and weapon and wealth they could give all of us [children] was school.’