Africa: Blackness, Pan-African Consciousness and Women’s Political Organising Through the Magazine AWA read full article at

Debating Concepts goals to mirror the values and editorial ethos of the African Arguments book series, publishing engaged, typically radical, scholarship, unique and activist writing from throughout the African continent and past. It affords debates and engagements, contexts and controversies, and evaluations and responses flowing from the African Arguments books.


Right here we look at the function of the journal AWA: la revue de la femme noire (English: Awa: the black girl’s journal) (1964-73), launched by a community of ladies’s rights activists, in shaping the emergence of a pan-Africanist political consciousness by transnational organising. As well as, the journal promoted ladies’s literacy {and professional} coaching to assist contribute to nation-building efforts particularly after independence. AWA was created by a bunch of ladies together with the primary Senegalese skilled journalist Annette Mbaye d’Erneville. It was a platform connecting ladies in Africa, the diaspora and globally round gender and societal points, utilizing print media to specific themselves, articulate their pan-Africanist thought, and attain a wider viewers. This illustrates African ladies’s engagement in socio-political, cultural, and financial spheres and an consciousness of how their interconnectedness impacted their lives, prompting them to mobilise and organise in associations and actions to battle in opposition to gender inequality and to rework patriarchal techniques from inside. Immediately AWA constitutes a uncommon archive that paperwork a wealthy parenthesis of the emergence of women’s political consciousness and their organising. The journal’s editorial selections illustrate this dedication within the interval between 1964 and 1976 in Senegal.

What was AWA?

Celebrating black womanhood and contributing to the emergence of a pan-African political consciousness in Africa and its diasporawas howAWA’s Editor in Chief Annette Mbaye d’Erneville described themain purpose she advocated for by her journalism, writing and activism. On this, the journal follows the lead of many different magazines created on this vibrant interval together with Présence Africaine launched as a political, cultural and literary quarterly journal in 1947 earlier than changing into a publishing home.Certainly, within the fast aftermath of independence, the duty of nation-building went together with the necessity to promote feminine literacy and lift ladies’s political consciousness to ensure that them to contribute to the progress of the continent and its peoples. In opposition to this background, Mbaye d’Erneville and a community of different ladies’s rights activists conceptualised the journal “Femmes de Soleil” (English: Ladies of the solar) in 1957. The month-to-month journal in French was subsequently renamed AWA: la revue de la femme noire. The title AWA derives from the mom Eve, Awa in Wolof. Mbaye d’Erneville, a Senegalese journalist and poet born in 1926 in Sokone, wrote the introductions to every problem highlighting the mission of the journal:”Nous dirons à toutes nos sœurs d’Afrique et du monde, Voici notre fille! Qu’en ferons-nous? Awa deviendra ce que toutes nous déciderons qu’elle soit.” [We will say to our sisters from Africa and the world: this is our daughter! What will we do with it? AWA will become what we all want it to be.][1]

The journal launched in 1964 and was revealed till 1973. The journal was printed because of the benevolence of the non-public and unbiased printing press Abdoulaye Diop. It was funded by memberships, subscriptions and, commercial in addition to receiving a contribution from the then President of Senegal, Léopold Senghor. When it began in 1964, the journal used to publish points each month. In 1965 publication was diminished to 4, then in 1966 the editorial staff solely issued one version. After that there was a pause till 1973 with solely two editions revealed as a consequence of monetary points.

AWA’s editorial selections: literacy,transnational black femininity and pan-African politics in ladies organising

AWA’s editorial staff comprised a bunch of ladies together with Annette Mbaye d’Erneville, Marie-Anne Sohai, Henriette Bathily, Virginie Camara and Marie-Thérèse Diop, amongst others, who had been additionally identified for being both artists, ladies’s rights activists, or journalists. The editorial staff was dedicated to highlighting the experiences of black ladies.

AWA was not only a reflection on the lives and experiences of African ladies, it was additionally a platform for black girl around the globe to community and embody solidarity and sorority. Their purpose in creating AWAwas to spotlight the totally different spheres of motion of ladies’s actions in relation to the struggles they confronted as a consequence of gender inequalities.

The assertion under is from the editorial web page of the primary problem of AWA in 1964 underneath Annette Mbaye d’Erneville’s route:

“AWA se propose seulement simplement d’être une raison de nous rencontrer, de nous retrouver pour mieux nous connaître et nous apprécier, nous femmes d’Afrique, femmes du monde entier.”

“AWA wants to simply be a reason for us to meet, to renew ourselves to know each other better, to appreciate one another, us African women, women from all over the world.”[2] (Translation)

The usage of the pronoun “we” on this assertion underscores the journal’s invitation to all black ladies to get entangled within the development of the journal. The journal’s advocacy for feminine schooling, skilled coaching and promotion of literacy is preeminent. As Ruth Bush makes clear in her article “Mesdames, Il Faut Lire!” (English: Girls we should learn!), which borrows the title from an article by a contributor writing underneath the pseudonym “Sim” within the second problem revealed in February 1964, AWA editors “played a significant role in defining in specific local settings the value of literacy itself as a means for self-improvement and collective identification”.

As well as, their advocacy for the development of black ladies’s lives is pragmatic, based mostly their on a regular basis experiences. Many articles, songs, poems and different features of black ladies’s life had been revealed between 1964 and 1973 exhibiting the multidimensional abilities and roles of ladies in society. The journal’s imaginative and prescient was to achieve ladies and have fun their achievements in addition to their contributions in societies which the patriarchal surroundings tended to miss. Plural definitions of femininity and black womanhood and pan-Africanist consciousness are two vital editorial themes of curiosity. AWA advocated for black ladies’s company and amplified their voices in each facet of their communities’ socio-cultural, political, and financial realities. To do that, AWA celebrated the achievements of ladies in management equivalent to members of parliament: Caroline Diop, Awa Dia Thiam, Lena Dianne Gueye and Marie-anne Sohai Sambou. Caroline Diop, from Mbour, as an illustration, was the primary girl MP in Senegal, elected amongst 69 males. She was a part of the Ladies’s department of UPS, the Democratic Bloc of Senegal (BDS). Equally, AWA additionally celebrated the achievements of different ladies equivalent to Suzanne Diop, the primary Senegalese feminine Justice of the Peace.

In doing this, AWA purposefully centred biographies of ladies in public life and their function in nation-building. The dedication to be a part of nation-building struggles was essential on this post-colonial context as illustrated by these phrases from the primary Senegalese feminine member of parliament Caroline Faye Diop:

“Nous voulons participer au développement de notre nation, avoir une part entière aux responsabilités. Aux heures importantes de notre histoire, nous avons toujours été à vos côtés, souvent même devant vous.”

“We want to contribute to the development of our nation, to have a full share in these responsibilities. At important times in our nation’s history, we have always been by your side, often even taking the lead.” [3] (Translation)

In consequence, AWA mentioned amongst different themes: skilled and reproductive roles, the situation of feminine staff (as secretaries, MPs, or fighters in Guinea in Could 1964, in Moscow, September 1964 and Senegal, Could 1965).

Pan-African consciousness was key to AWA’s contents as a result of a few of its editorial committee members had been additionally ladies’s activists who took half in key continental initiatives of ladies’s organising. In consequence, AWA documented and took half within the many essential steps of pan-Africanist movement-building and anti-colonial struggles. A defining second was their participation within the first African ladies’s convention: the Worldwide Convention of African Ladies (CAF) on 31 July 1962 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (then Tanganyika) the place just a few ladies’s rights activists together with Aoua Keita, Jeanne Martin Cisse, Virginie Diallo Camara and Pumla Kisosonkole performed a key function. This convention was instrumental within the institution, the next yr, of the Organisation for African Unity (OAU). The truth is, it may need constituted the “building block” for ladies’s political activism at a continental degree contributing to pan-African consciousness. After a congress held in Dakar Senegal in July 1974 together with 14 unbiased international locations, and 10 nationwide liberation actions, the African Convention of Ladies was to grow to be the Pan African Women’s Organization (PAWO) with a long-lasting nickname: “La panafricaine des femmes” (English: Ladies’s pan-Africanism). On the similar assembly, it was determined that 31 July would symbolically grow to be African Women’s Day.

Transnational politics of black womanhood is one other important focus of AWA’s editorial line. That is as an illustration the article of the journal’s sections “Echos” and “À travers le continent”(Information from the continent) because the journal’s essential readership was Francophone Africa and Black worlds. In different phrases, the journal highlights an aesthetic and a imaginative and prescient of blackness that includes the lived experiences of black ladies. That is illustrated by the truth that the journal spotlighted stunning photos of black ladies symbolising a sure imaginative and prescient of femininity and Afro-modernity with photos of landscapes the place black ladies evolve. These had been assumed to be the primary issues that attracted readers, curated with the purpose of difficult single narratives on African and black ladies. Certainly, such visible representations contribute to the deconstruction of unfavorable stereotypes and misconceptions about African and black ladies’s realities and articulate as an alternative an alternate picture of their company. These photos go together with stunning and dense texts that mirror the lives and experiences of African ladies. A few of the headlines embrace “Oumar et la calebasse'(Oumar and the calabash], “Petits Problèmes Scolaires” (Small issues with schools] and “Les Femmes et l’expérience de la journée proceed au Sénégal”(Ladies and their experiences with all-day college in Senegal).

AWA: a platform for femininity or feminism?

AWA didn’t have the ambition to publish revolutionary or feminist content material, which on the time was removed from being singular in Africa or globally. Because the editorial of the primary version of the journal presenting the target of AWA makes clear, the journal doesn’t purpose to “serve feminism”, however somewhat to be a platform to emphasize “our possibilities, our femininity … It is out of question to use AWA either to launch a crusade for the equality between men and women or claim the emancipation of the African woman. All this is already passé as everywhere, women have shown their abilities” (AWA, January 1964). Moderately, the journal’s focus was primarily to teach ladies to be good residents, housewives and moms. AWA did so by offering its readership with insights starting from literature to well being, developments in style and decor, to information on ladies’s organising and recipes, to highlights of key feminine figures.

At its inception, the journal’s focus was to create a platform for ladies in Francophone Africa to mobilise, and to organise. For example, the editorial of its third problem (3 March 1964) was “let’s unite”. On this name for unity, they invite ladies to place collectively their experiences, mental contributions, group organising abilities and encourage all ladies to have fun the totally different values that enrich their Pan-African and Black political consciousness. They cite the Worldwide Council of Ladies and the Pan-African Ladies convention as examples of ladies coming collectively to construct stronger alliances and resist patriarchal societies. The staff of the journal additionally included males (although they had been restricted as the main target was primarily to amplify ladies’s voices) which mirrored the desire to deliver collectively the voices of all in society on the understanding that gender inequality is a societal problem, not simply ladies’s accountability. By publishing and by organising and mobilising politically, AWA’s editors had been radical. The journal hosted the musings of an overtly feminist technology together with sociologist Fatou Sow and MP Caroline Faye Diop. For example, concerning the celebrations of Ladies’s fortnight, Caroline Diop mentioned: “the baobab may be strong and tall, it was mothered by a little grain”. And about feminism, she mentioned: “I am a feminist. I am for equality between men and women, but I am not talking about mathematical equality. But one which subsumes itself in the complementarity between genders” (AWA, March 1964, p. 32).

This ideological positioning on the difficulty of ladies’s liberation as one which required the “complementarity of sexes” could be fixed as was illustrated by editorial of the final problem revealed in Could 1973 that includes the feminine fighters of the African Celebration for the Liberation of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) co-founded by Amilcar Cabral in Bissau Guinea (Cabral died in January 1973): “Cette complémentarité dans l’action favorise justement l’émancipation de la femme du maquis… “(This complementarity in motion is essential to ladies’s emancipation). [4]

Unsurprisingly nonetheless, the male contributors typically used the journal to convey patriarchal messages equivalent to Joseph Mathiam’s contribution within the first problem defending polygamy and calling African ladies to be “less irresponsible and more mature” (p. 29, problem 1, 1964). Such recurrent positioning has been the article of criticism even throughout the journal. For example, take into account a response by Helene Pillote to an editorial by Goor Gu mak (a frequent contributor) in opposition to the paternalism (and sexism) of a few of AWA’s opinion writers. In her response, Helene Pillote referred to as out Goor Gu Mak’ssexist article that reduces ladies to the place of submission by wanting them to have keep at their place of servitude and a supply of inspiration. Pillote replied by stating that emancipation is feasible and has been the only wrestle for ladies who advocate for liberation in opposition to what the article (which Pillote seeks to reply to) claims. It’s as much as males to problem that development if they’re scared that their privileges and luxury are being threatened by emancipated ladies.

One other problem for the journal was to connect with grassroots ladies and transnational organisations regardless of Awa’s ambition to characterize ladies from all walks of life and social courses and publish content material that may converse to all. For example, underneath the journal part “la lettre du mois” (Month-to-month letter] of AWA problem 8 of October 1964, the letter titled “Awa : est-elle nationaliste ?” (Is Awa nationalist?) states: “Awa est un journal féminin qui s’adresse à toutes les femmes noires, de tous les milieux”. (Awa is a feminist journal devoted to all black ladies, from all courses). Regardless of these declarations, the journal’s editorial line typically contracted this imaginative and prescient and it struggled to actually join with the grassroots due to its elitism: “AWA doit être la revue de l’élite féminine” (Awa should be the journal of elite ladies] (p.32, problem 1, 1964).