Andrea Grieder is a poet and social anthropologist. She is the founder and director of Transpoesis, an organization based in Rwanda with the aim to empower through Poetry. Originally from Switzerland, she has a PhD from the University of Zurich and Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris. She is the Head of Department in Social Sciences and a lecturer at the University of Technology and Arts of Byumba (UTAB), Rwanda.
Ain’t I a Woman? questions Sojourner Truth, to claim her womanhood, beyond race and social status. As Isabella Baumfree, she had been born into slavery in 1797. As an emancipated woman, she spoke for freedom and for women’s rights as human rights. Her voice is a call to be recognized as a woman, in all her body and soul.
Truth’s question echoes in the voices women poets today. I am a Woman, writes Anisia Byukusenge, a Rwandan poet. For her, her blindness makes the society question her capacity for being a woman, a woman of desire, a mother, a mother of children, a wife, a wife for a caring and loving a man.
The line, ‘I am the woman I am’, connects the two poetic voices of Yasipi Casmir Uwihirwe and Zenah Nakanwagi—two other young Rwandan poets.
Today’s women poets tell us: The mothers we have, we love them but do not need to follow them in their womanhood. Yasipi speaks on the obligations and expectations to face a as a woman:
Am the one who has been told that my perfections had limits, that my life revolves around an inch, besides my thoughts, that my tongue twists in the wrong language, claiming for its rights. Just that I have to stuck under the will of a man.
She speaks out her own strengths:
Am a holder of thoughts which extend beyond the Universe, am a holder of mankind before his rebirth and its first sight. I am a territory with an anthem of success. Just a woman, not a noun. Just a woman of meaning. Not of an appearance, just of actions, And even of my home knows. Am a heartbeat of the soul.
From Sojourner Truth’ affirmative questioning a right to the affirmative answer of Anisia Byukusenge’s I Am A Woman, we find women’s voice to powerfully say: I am, I am a woman beyond my womanhood, I am a poet. And with the International Day of Women just passed recently, I think speaking out as a poet is breaking the silences of women who suffer, of women who keep quiet out of fear of a man, or the society.
Thus, poets give meaning to the experience of women and contribute to a society of respect and of joy.