The African Dream
This week, the daughter of a poor immigrant who emigrated in a broken boat from Abyan, Yemen became a new leader. This may sound like the American dream we are promised in the United States—equality of all sexes and genders—but it is not. This is a dream realized in Tanzania, the country of my birth. And that new leader is Samia Hassan Suluhu, who was sworn in as the President of Tanzania, succeeding President John Magufuli.
Tanzania has witnessed immigration for ages. My grandfather started his business there and my dad pursued his passion for teaching as an education officer, whilst my mom was a successful businesswoman and mother of six. She was not only a great designer, but she also raised 4 strong daughters. Our life in Africa was beautiful, but the promise of the American dream encouraged my father to emigrate with his wife and two teenage daughters. They wanted us to have the privilege of the best higher education possible, and they pursued that in the US. However, comparing the rights and status of women in Tanzania to the veiled xenophobia and Islamophobia in the USA, I can’t help but feel that all too often, our American values of equality are too much in name and not enough in action.
Growing up later even in Central Africa, I can remember never feeling a difference in my treatment as a female. On the contrary, I felt a freedom to be and pursue anything. In Tanzania, women today own 47% of non-agricultural household enterprises in the country and occupy more than a third of Parliamentary seats. In contrast, in the United States, women only account for about 20% of members of Congress and about a quarter of state legislature members. Women made up only 5% of Fortune 500 company CEOs in 2017 and about 20% of Fortune 500 board members in 2016.
I have yet to see a female President in the United States, but that day has come for my homeland in Tanzania. I have hopes that America can follow the example of this African nation, usually referred to as “third-world,” but far ahead of itself in terms of gender equality. When the day does come for America, I believe our country can welcome not only a female President, but one that can be welcomed from a minority background, or with an accent, or proudly wearing a hijab.
Sabiha Ijaz is the founder & owner of an online Jewelry brand “Farah Jewelry.” As a mother of three very accomplished children who she raised whilst pursuing her own career, her passion is to help women achieve fulfillment and working around motherhood and their families. She comes from a background of Finance & Banking and also supports women focused charities through Humanity First and now the newly established Noor ul Haq Khan foundation for education founded in honor of her father.