African Women Leaders to Be Honored By Judith Scherr

Tuesday February 14, 2006


they have come for my body 

fault lines etched across my back 

my stomach a hollow grave 

to bury everyone else’s blame 

take on everyone else’s shame 

instead of singing my name 

—from “They Came for Me”  

by Uchechi Kalu 


Uchechi Kalu is a Nigerian-born poet who writes about the heavy burden African women bear. She will share her poetry at an event honoring three African women whose work has helped lighten that load. 

The event, “In Honor of the Women of Africa: Stories of Courage, Perseverance and Leadership,” will be held Thursday, 7-8:30 p.m. at the Linen Life Gallery, 1375 Park Ave., Emeryville. 

One woman to be honored is Bongfen Siona Forba from Cameroon. Co-director of Community Education and Development Services, she and the women she works with look for ways to support the women of their community. 

Typically, women and girls in many parts of Africa toil daily, walking long distances to fill buckets with drinking water, then hauling the precious water home to their families. Forba worked with her local organization to get funding from the Global Fund for Women to bring potable water to the community.  

The San Francisco-based Global Fund for Women is sponsoring the event and honoring its grantees. Co-sponsors include the Priority Africa Network, located in Berkeley, and the Women of Africa Resource Center and the Women of Color Resource center, both based in Oakland. 

Wanjiku Macharia, from Kenya, will also be honored. Macharia began her community work with a focus on children, but soon noticed the big cars coming by to pick up some of the young girls she worked with, according to Sande Smith, GFW’s senior communications officer. 

Once Macharia understood the girls were sex workers, “she realized she had to address the conditions that led to sex work,” Smith said. 

The organization Macharia works with, SourceNet2000 Plus Development Agency, offered the girls opportunities to get out of the sex trade, beginning with education.  

Education is key, Macharia said in a statement: “In our culture, if you educate one person, it will help 10 people, because we share what we learn.”  

The third honoree will be Mariam Kamara. Originally from Guinea, Kamara founded the Women of Africa Resource Center, which provides support to African immigrant women living in the Bay Area. 

One reason to honor women, especially African women and women of African descent, is to reverse stereotypes, said Nunu Kidane, spokesperson for the Priority Africa Network. These women “are projected as victims, as poor and as passive,” Kidane said. This event is an opportunity to showcase the capabilities of African women. 

Moreover, Smith said, “We are holding this panel now because we feel it is important to bring attention to both the challenges facing African women, and strategies that they are implementing to address those challenges, and African American history month is a perfect time to do that.” ›