Op-Ed

100 Women Letter From the Editor

OkayAfrica's Editor in Chief Rachel Hislop tells us what 100 Women 2019 means to her.

Every time I reflect on my career in journalism, a memory close enough to touch reappears. The feel of the smooth glossy paper under my index finger while I sat, legs folded, on the iron-burned carpet in the Brooklyn bedroom I shared with my sister is still palpable. I would run my finger down the magazine mastheads, reading every name and corresponding title as I tried to imagine what their jobs entailed. This was long before we had access to content in a digital space. There wasn't a quick place for me to explore the world that existed within the binds of a magazine, so I assumed this space was out of reach.


The Internet is a hard place to come of age. It's an even harder place to grow up. And for Black women, it is a minefield of volatility to navigate. Digital spaces allow us to partake in global connectivity in the most beautiful of ways. But for all we love of the Internet, it magnifies the traditional norms of masculinity and femininity that can hold us back. This tends to mute the voices of brilliant women who are afraid of using this space as an amplification of the amazing work they are doing.

We're here to be that megaphone with OkayAfrica's 100 Women.

When we sat down in September of 2018 to begin planning for this year's list, the first and only focus that came up was the youth. The web has allowed youth to tell their stories in a way that was unfathomable to me as a young girl marveling at the pages of print magazines. They are using the Internet to activate as creatives, artists, organizers, personalities; they are eschewing the expected career routes, and even using their platforms to breathe new life into traditional practices across the board.

And the rest of us? Our role is to celebrate, amplify and support. This year's 100 Women list celebrates not only the youth, but the women amongst us who are doing the work to ensure that the lessons they've learned provide a clear pathway where they were once blocked. And with the youngest population in the world, Africa's youth is quite literally the future. If there is going to be any actionable change in the fate of the youth on the continent and the diaspora, we must turn our heads to not only acknowledge them, but to also do work to amplify their passions, provide them with resources, and eliminate the barriers that they may face.

If you've followed the campaign in years past you'll notice that we've made a few intentional changes. Our goal was not to simply create a list, our goal is to create a community of women who share a distinct honor. We have eliminated categories and leaned heavily into the ease of exploration. On each woman's bio page you will find two suggestions for other women to explore, women who may work in different industries but share similar stories. I implore you to re-visit the space throughout the month as it is updated with new information.

We will also be programming 100 Women throughout the month of March, so keep your eyes open for new updates.

And lastly, to that young girl who may not be flipping through glossy pages as I once did, but who may scroll on our site, I hope you use this list as a starting point in the exploration of your possibilities. As a first-generation Cape Verdean-Jamaican girl from Brooklyn, New York, it took me a while to find a multi-hyphenate woman I could relate to. But I sincerely hope someone, somewhere, can find inspiration in at least one of the dynamic, brilliant, and nuanced women on this list.

Wishing you a Women's History Month filled with meaningful connections.

Warmly,

Rachel Hislop

Editor-in-Chief

OkayAfrica + Okayplayer

P.S. OkayAfrica's 100 Women is a project for women by women, so I would be remiss if I didn't provide a special thanks to the women who graciously lent their gifts to this project. Alone we are mighty, but when we come together we can shake the globe.

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Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for BET

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