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July 31: Reflecting on Pan African Women's Day through an African Woman’s Eyes

Updated: Sep 24, 2023

Wangari Maathai (1940-2011) was the founder of the Green Belt Movement and the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate


As someone who proudly embraces her African identity, I find the significance of today, the 31st of July - Pan African Women’s Day, intriguing. This commemoration, established in 1962, predates even the Organisation of African Unity, now known as the African Union (AU). But what exactly does this day symbolise, and what has it accomplished in over six decades of its existence? To gain insight, I reached out to 28 African women in my circle - colleagues, family, and friends. Most were unfamiliar with the occasion.

Understanding Pan African Women's Day

Both International Women's Day, celebrated globally every 8th of March, and Pan African Women's Day aim to champion gender equality and empower women. However, the latter specifically focuses on women across the African continent. It honours the contributions of African women in shaping our society, from farmers and teachers to scientists and politicians. It is a celebration of women who have spearheaded Africa's development, making it a day of vital importance.

The Impact of Pan African Women's Day

In all honesty, assessing the impact of celebrating this day is challenging. I first became aware of the day in 2012 when I was in Addis Ababa for work, entirely unrelated to the events of the day. Some of the colleagues I was working with at UNECA were apparently involved in planning some of the activities for the day. While I do not follow the happenings in relation to the day, I have noted that every year, like clockwork, there is a surge of activity and discourse surrounding this day as it approaches. Once the date passes, the fervour fades. The discussions, the events, the acknowledgement - it all seems to disappear almost as quickly as it came. It is as though the day is a flash that brightly illuminates the calendar, only to recede back into the shadows for the rest of the year. This pattern has led me to ponder more deeply. If the day is of such significance, why does it seem to be forgotten so quickly? This observation brings me to the question that has been looming in my mind, the question that perhaps we should all be asking...

Is a Day Dedicated to Celebrating African Women Necessary?

The necessity of such a day is a topic of debate. On one hand, yes, because it offers an opportunity to highlight the historical and contemporary achievements of African women, though the impact of this spotlight is a subject of discussion.

Drawing upon the example of International Women's Day, on the other hand, one might argue against its necessity. Allow me to explain before you form any conclusions. Through my dealings with numerous local African governments, I've discovered a common narrative surrounding International Women's Day. These governments often laud themselves for their gender sensitivity, largely because they dedicate a small fraction of their budgets to initiatives aimed at women's empowerment. These funds are typically used to celebrate Women’s Day with food, entertainment, and allowances for transport for the organisers. While this does bring attention to the day, the question remains: do such celebrations truly advance the cause of gender equality and women's empowerment?

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, Pan African Women's Day serves as an important reminder of the critical role African women play in shaping our society. It is not just a day on the calendar, but a powerful symbol of the resilience, strength, and spirit of African women. However, as we have explored in this blog post, the recognition and celebration of this day should not be confined to a single date. The spirit of Pan African Women's Day — the spirit of championing gender equality, empowering women, and honouring their myriad contributions — should be carried forward every day. After all, the progress of a society is deeply intertwined with the progress of its women. Therefore, let us not allow the conversations and initiatives sparked on this day to fade away. Instead, let us ensure that they resonate throughout the year, inspiring change and fuelling progress in our journey towards a more equitable and inclusive society. Let Pan African Women's Day be not just a moment, but a movement.

Participate in the Conversation!

1. What are your thoughts on Pan African Women's Day?

2. How do you perceive the celebration of women's days in your context?

3. Do you believe these celebrations contribute to the empowerment of women?

I eagerly anticipate your thoughts on this matter and look forward to learning from your experiences and insights!

About the Author

Nite Tanzarn is a dedicated Independent International Consultant with a passion for advocating for the rights of women and children. Her commitment to these causes extends far beyond the confines of her professional work; it is a principle that shapes her worldview and informs her actions. She firmly believes that the celebration of women should not be limited to a particular day, but rather, it should be a continuous, daily movement. Nite envisions a society where every day is a celebration of women's accomplishments, their strength, and their potential. For her, the quest for gender equality is not just a mission—it's a lifelong commitment to making a difference.

14 views4 comments

4 Yorum

05 Kas 2023

Dedicating a day is important but it is not enough to highlight the important role that African women play in the development of the continent.


05 Kas 2023

The day is important to celebrate women and their achievements but why the focus on only one day


Celebrate women

Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
07 Eyl 2023
Şu kişiye cevap veriliyor:

Hi Canisius,

While July 31st is the official Pan African Women's Day, your comment serves as a beautiful reminder that celebrating women should not be confined to a single date on the calendar. Let us take your cue and celebrate women every day, all year through, recognising their invaluable contributions and unwavering resilience. 🌟 #CelebrateWomenEveryday #PanAfricanWomensDay


Nite #NITETANZARNIntellectNest

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