A young woman from Nigeria, born fifth of six siblings to scholars for parents, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has observed life and penned some unique stories. She is known for books such as Half of a Yellow Sun, Purple Hibiscus, and even Americanah. Chimamanda is a renowned writer, acknowledged for her efforts of rewriting the African narrative for the world to read and propagating feminist values.
In a speech, the 2009 International Nonino Prize winner addressed students of the prestigious Wellesley University, the alma mater of the Democratic presidential candidate for 2016, Hillary Clinton. Chimamanda shared a moving commencement speech at the women’s liberal arts college, famed for its graduates known as the “most powerful women’s network in the world.”
From her 20-minute speech, the cheerful orator shared important principles each woman should live by when facing life. For the graduates present, a strong feminist theme carried forth the message of the day.
Here is what she had to share:
1.Victimhood is not a virtue
Being young and female, many may look down upon you. Do not let this tear down your spirit. Playing the victim is not something to glorify, neither should gender injustice be your excuse for a life unfulfilled. According to Chimamanda, “… the world does not extend to women the many small courtesies that it extends to men. I also knew that victimhood is not a virtue. That being discriminated against does not make you somehow morally better.” Set yourself up for success, regardless of the hurdles all women face.
2. Don’t be blinded by your privilege
Privileges like receiving a university education and coming from a good background, are some advantages only a few can experience. In many ways, these privileges are barriers to the truth of life, the harsh realities that many are exposed to. Chimamanda shared with the graduating class of 2015 from her personal experiences. She admitted, “the class privilege I had of growing up in an educated family, sometimes blinded me, that I was not always as alert to the nuances of people who were different from me…” For those fortunate enough to receive a good education, one must remove the blinds that privilege provides.
3. Always try
As the popular saying goes, you never know till you try. The courage it takes to try something new and move away from the conventional. Chimamanda chronicled her academic struggles and doubts. Choosing to leave medical school, she opted instead to study the arts which led to her current success. “We can not always bend the world into the shapes we want but we can try, we can make a concerted and real and true effort… Always just try. Because you never know.” Putting in effort in whatever endeavors you are involved in could be what sets you apart from the pack. Just like Chimamanda, any woman can make follow her dreams and achieve fulfillment and true success.
4. Dare to take
As women, we are taught to give. Though it may be instilled in young women that it is a woman’s role to do certain jobs, it is important to not be restricted by these roles. It is paramount to acknowledge that any woman can do anything she sets her mind to. Embodying feminist values, Chimamanda states,”Please love by giving and by taking. Give and be given. If you are only giving and not taking, you’ll know. You’ll know from that small and true voice inside you that we females are so often socialized to silence. Don’t silence that voice. Dare to take.”
Watch the full speech below: