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Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

Empower yourself, empower your daughter

By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
18-minute read
Audio available
Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Dear Ijeawele (2017) is a series of suggestions for raising young girls to be strong, independent women. A few years ago, a childhood friend of author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie asked her advice on a very important topic – how to raise her daughter to be a feminist. Her friend was called Ijeawele, and this book is the author’s response.

  • Feminists
  • Parents of daughters
  • Men looking for insight into what it’s like to grow up as a girl

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian author. Her previous books include Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah. In 2012, she gave the TEDx talk, “We Should all be Feminists.” In 2014, this was published as an essay in a standalone volume. Adichie was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant in 2008.

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Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Read in 18 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 11 key ideas
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Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Synopsis

Dear Ijeawele (2017) is a series of suggestions for raising young girls to be strong, independent women. A few years ago, a childhood friend of author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie asked her advice on a very important topic – how to raise her daughter to be a feminist. Her friend was called Ijeawele, and this book is the author’s response.

Key idea 1 of 11

You should be a full person, defined by more than just motherhood.

Like it or not, our children will follow our example. How you see yourself will determine how your daughter sees herself. That’s why it’s important to remember you’re a full human being – being a mother doesn’t define you.

The most obvious way to do this is to reject the idea that you have to choose between motherhood and work. In many societies, people will tell you women shouldn’t work because it’s not how things are traditionally done. But the only thing that matters is that you are happy with your decision. It’s also worth noting that the “tradition” or history of women not working isn’t that long. In some areas of Nigeria, trading was done exclusively by women, meaning Igbo families usually had two incomes. That only changed with British colonialism.

One great example of a woman who balanced work and family is American journalist Marlene Sanders. Not only was she the first woman to report on the Vietnam war from inside Vietnam – she did it while raising her son. She believed women should never have to apologize for working, and once advised a younger journalist that loving what you do is a gift to your child.

But what if you don’t love your job? There are still plenty of other advantages to work, such as confidence and the sense of achievement that comes with earning an income. Most importantly, you should make an effort to remain a full person by making sure your needs are met and by pursuing your passions.

Of course, it’s hard to take care of yourself when you’re looking after a child – especially in the early weeks. You can’t do everything. But what you can do is be kind to yourself and ask for help when you need it. One way to be kind is to allow yourself to fail. There’s no one way to be a parent, and there is no shame in making mistakes. Nor is there shame in turning to friends, family or even the internet for advice.

Finally, you should never see yourself as a woman “doing it all.” The idea of doing it all – work and parenting – is based on the sexist view that childcare and domestic work is inherently female. That said, this doesn’t mean you can’t be proud of what you do.

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