Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Celebrating a New Generation of Empowered Women through WISCAR

In 2008, Women in Successful Careers, WISCAR, a non-governmental organisation, was set up to focus on empowering and developing professional women to contribute to development and growth in Nigeria and indeed Africa. With the aim to help build the next generation of women leaders in Nigeria through intelligent planning and focused effort, WISCAR’s motto is “Developing Women to Build A Better Nation”. Now in its 14th year, WISCAR is continuing its tradition of annual outreach and advocacy to working women aimed at developing women through leadership training and mentoring for professional development, leadership success, and overall wellbeing. Last year, they chose global icon, the award-winning Nigerian writer and women’s rights advocate,  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, as the headliner and keynote speaker for its annual Leadership and Mentoring Conference. Chiemelie Ezeobi brings excerpts of her thoughts on the power of inclusion, how she navigates obstacles, her love for culture, admiration for WISCAR and of course her take on feminism 

You recently attended WISCAR’s 2022 Annual Leadership and Mentoring Conference as the keynote speaker. What did it mean to you to be a part of this year’s edition?

A WISCAR woman is an extraordinary person and this was reflected in the welcome I received at the event. It was good and genuine, from the fashion presentation to the lady who sang in the Igbo language; a detailed effort was put in to make me feel honored. 

There’s something different about being celebrated at home and by women; feeling known and understood means a lot to me. I’ve come to see that life is about feeling appreciated, seen, known, and understood. WISCAR made me feel all those things, and most importantly, I felt like my parents were honored which meant so much to me. 

As the keynote speaker, I was humbled and recognised the significant opportunity to speak to and relate with a community of people committed to women’s leadership and empowerment. I was able to understand and learn from the various experiences of those in attendance as we celebrated the new generation of empowered women that night.

Looking at WISCAR’s 2022 Conference theme, “For the Nation: the power of inclusion”, what message can you deliver to young girls who feel that society unto whose care they have been entrusted has failed them, unlike the meaning of your name?

For those who don’t know, the name Chimamanda means “My God will never fail me”. Although, I should clarify that my parents named me Amanda Ngozi Adichie which I thought was a pretty nice name. When I went to the U.S., several people had the same name but hearing the way it sounded with an American accent, made me feel uneasy. 

At the time, I had finally gotten an agent who was sending out my manuscript to publishers and thought to myself that this would be the name I would be stuck with. One evening, in my brother’s house, it came to me like a revelation – Chimamanda. It was perfect. I remember leaping off the bed in this state of ecstatic discovery, opening my laptop, and sending my agent an email saying; “please change the name on the manuscript before you send it out. It’s Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.”

To young women today, I would say that we must keep pushing. We know that there are obstacles in your path just because you were born female but that is true everywhere. It might just manifest differently but it is the same, so keep pushing. As Nigerians, we are tough, intelligent, clever, funny, and strong. I feel we shouldn’t forget that rather, we should draw from it and let it be our source of strength. What is so inspiring is that there is a platform like WISCAR that young women can look up to and see that anything is possible.

Throughout your career, you must have faced a lot of challenges. As a WISCAR, how did you navigate through obstacles you were faced with and how did you overcome them?

One of the things that was important to me and what I would like to tell young women is to think about failure. When you fail at something, make sure you have tried everything possible. When I started writing, I wrote a very bad poem and sent it to Prime People Magazine which does not publish poems but to my surprise, it was published. It was not until I went to the U.S. that I started doing my homework. I went to the library and read all I needed to know about publishing and that’s how I started writing short stories. Nevertheless, my stories still got rejected which made me wonder why.

Surprisingly, I got quite a lot of rejection based on my identity rather than the quality of my writing. I was told by an agent that there was no African country in which my writing was about. I was also told that I wrote African words which no one understood and things people knew nothing about. Because I was passionate, I would get up again and send out more stories to more agents until one lady took me on. I remember she said to me “I will take a chance on you.”. Now I say to myself, what’s the worst that could happen? You just have to try. That’s how I started.

Culture seems to be important to you, and you know we have a lot of people like you, that have gone abroad, and they lose their culture. How have you been able to uphold that culture?

It hasn’t been hard. I love where I come from and that is one reason I refuse to translate any Igbo statement. I am willing to give Igbo lessons to those who come to me. I am always thrilled when somebody walks up to me and says “kedu” because they learned it from one of my books. It reminds me that I am advancing the African culture globally.

 On the flip side, I think one of the problems we have as a people and as a continent is that colonialism did something to us mentally. I think it’s hard for people to be in a place where there is a long history of degrading what they are. With that, it becomes easier to push away what they truly are.

My point is, I don’t necessarily blame people who for example, go to the US for something and pretend they can’t speak Igbo. Speaking the Igbo language and understanding my culture wasn’t difficult for me because I’m proud of where I come from and it is important to me. 

Also, in many ways, it has benefits for me because I’m reminded of where I come from, and I don’t think there’s anything more grounding for a person than to have a very clear sense of origin. I know my hometown, I know stories of my great-grandmother who was a fierce woman, and all those things give me a kind of confidence to be in the world.

 What would you tell the Nigerian child? What should we do for both our female and male children?

Do you know what I’ll say? I would say that we can not necessarily switch but we can borrow. If we had two bowls that show how I’m raising my daughter and my son, I think we could borrow a bit from the daughter’s bowl and put it in the son’s bowl, and vice versa. I think even the most progressive parents still unconsciously give different messages to their sons and daughters.

I sometimes wonder what if it was borrowed just a bit, by which I mean what if we expected boys to partake in domestic work or be the caretakers when we are sick rather than the girls. I feel like we can teach girls to do better while at the same time teaching boys to do better.

 I think a lot of men are just people who don’t know, weren’t told, and weren’t taught. The things they see happening, they continue. I don’t believe in raising them the same. I believe that boys and girls are different but deserving of equal opportunities.

 A lot of young men and women were asked about Chimamanda Adiche, and their response was in admiration of you, but they frowned at your take on feminism. Please explain what feminism means to you

What is quite interesting is that I never set out to be this feminist. All I wanted to do was write and be read. As a little girl, I was a feminist even without knowing what that word was. I was an observant child, and I knew there were certain things that we were excluded from just because we were women.

 I would ask questions about things and activities I was deterred from doing because I was a girl, and it didn’t make any sense to me even at the time. I remember while I was arguing with a friend and I said you can’t just say someone cannot be the governor or president because they are female. The person called me a feminist, which was meant to be an insult.

The truth is that ‘feminist’ is a word that has been so misunderstood and it is easy to make a caricature out of it, but feminism is about equality and justice. It is recognizing that every human being deserves an equal opportunity and we should not exclude people from things they might be good at simply because they are female. We are no longer in a time in human evolution where physical strength is the most important thing, and it no longer makes sense to exclude women.

 When I call myself a feminist, it is because I believe that people should have equal opportunities. Of course, we should recognize the fact that we are different but the idea that because you are a girl or woman, therefore, you cannot, I push against it.

If you want to speak to the world about WISCAR, what would you say?

I would tell them that, if they invite you, come. I would say what I found, witnessed, and encountered. It was a very moving evening. What was most moving and personal was seeing all the women standing on the stage and holding their certificates. 

I could see that there was a sort of pride and it moved me. So, I think I would say that WISCAR strongly believes in how important it is for us to become one community that empowers women. I would like to ask every WISCAR woman and every HeForShe to reach out and just tell someone else what it’s like so that they can also experience it. It’s a beautiful movement.

About Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

Proudly Nigerian and internationally acclaimed writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is a highly sought-after speaker that has received numerous awards and academic recognitions from globally renowned universities across the world.

Described in the Times Literary Supplement as “the most prominent” of a procession of critically acclaimed young anglophone authors who is succeeding in attracting a new generation of readers to African literature, Chimamanda’s first novel, Purple Hibiscus (2003), won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), won the Orange Prize. 

Her 2013 novel Americanah won the US National Book Critics Circle Award and was named one of The New York Times’ Top Ten Best Books of 2013.

She has delivered two landmark TED talks: her 2009 TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story” and her 2012 TEDx Euston Talk “We Should All Be Feminists”, which re-galvanised worldwide conversations about feminism and was published as a book in 2014.

“Dear Ijeawele”, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, was published in March 2017. Her most recent work, Notes on Grief, an essay about losing her father, has received critical acclaim.

Recently, she wowed the global community with another groundbreaking achievement as she became the first woman to represent the Dior Lady 95.22 bag. 

In October 2022, she became the first African woman to receive the W.E.B Du Bois Medal, Harvard University’s highest honour in the field of African and African American studies.

Notably, on December 30, 2022, Adichie became the first woman to receive a chieftaincy title in her home town of Abba, after Igwe Sir L.N Ezeh (Eze-Abba) honoured her with the title: Odeluwa, meaning the one who writes for the world. 


I was humbled and recognised the significant opportunity to speak to and relate with a community of people committed to women’s leadership and empowerment. I was able to understand and learn from the various experiences of those in attendance as we celebrated the new generation of empowered women

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