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"'Because you are a girl' is never a reason for anything. Ever."
April 17, 2017

When Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie received a letter from one of her friends asking how she could raise a daughter to be a feminist, she responded with a long Facebook post that is now the basis of her book “Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions.”

As Adichie says, the premise of feminism is simply: “I matter. I matter equally.” From there, she asks women to question many of the unhealthy social norms they have inherited that have damaged their self image in addition to their careers. Now raising a young daughter herself, Adichie realized that from a mother’s perspective, what they tell themselves is just as important as what they tell their daughters.

To mark International Women’s Day, she used her Facebook profile to post photos of people sharing quotes like these from her book:

  • “Teach her about difference. Make difference ordinary.”
  • “Clothing has nothing to do with morality.”
  • “Never speak of marriage as an achievement.”
  • “Tell her that it is important to be able to do for herself and fend for herself.”
  • “Teach her to stand up for what is hers.”
  • “Teach her to reject likeability. Her job is not to make herself likeable, her job is to be her full self, a self that is honest and aware of the equal humanity of other people.”
  • “When there is true equality, resentment does not exist.”
  • “Measure her on a scale of being the best version of herself.”
  • “Encourage her participation in sports.”
  • “Feminism and femininity are not mutually exclusive.”
  • “Teach her to love books.”
  • “A father is as much a verb as a mother.”
  • “‘Because you are a girl’ is never a reason for anything. Ever.”

“Gender roles are so deeply conditioned in us that we will often follow them even when they chafe against our true desires, our needs, our happiness,” she wrote in an article that appeared in the Washington Post. “They are very difficult to unlearn.”

As YALI Network members, which one of her quotes most resonates with you? If you have a daughter, what do you think is the most important concept that will help her overcome generations of gender inequality that exist in every society?

Be sure to take the #Africa4Her quiz and tell us how you will be bold for change to make a difference in the lives of women and girls in your own community. Then tell us about what you have done and follow the hashtag #Africa4Her to see what others are saying. Learn more at https://yali.state.gov/4her/.