When Wangari Maathai won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her work in sustainable development, she became the first African woman, and the first environmentalist, to win the prize.
To countless people around the world, Maathai became the new image of African womanhood and illuminated the possibilities that can arise when women are seated at the tables of power.
With her autobiography, The Woman in Me: The Struggles of an African Woman to Discover Her Identity and Authority, Ngozi Udoye, also known as Mama Sophia, author and activist, looks to continue this course.
“My mother taught me that I am an eagle and not a chicken,” Udoye says. “My parents directly told me, ‘The sky is your limit.’ But society and religion, at different times through different means, said to me, ‘Yes, the sky is your limit but we have to define that ‘sky’ and that ‘limit’ for you.’ It became stressful and sometimes depressing trying to understand the sky as defined by them and actualize the limit as set by them.”
Udoye, an Igbo woman from Igbo-Ukwu, the archeological city of Eastern Nigeria, is a consecrated celibate of the Cor Unum Community of the Women's Institute of the Heart of Jesus, a canonical institute of lay men, women and priests.
She recently released a music album, African Women & Liberation Story. Her self-published autobiography is her first book. She chronicles, with candor, her childhood and her graduation with highest honors from the University of Nigeria, where she received the Indira Ghandi award for outstanding female graduate. But she was intent on not letting her accomplishment be a singular act.
“With my college education, I gained a voice and became empowered. I started to speak but felt like a lone voice,” she says. “At this time, I made a firm resolution to stand by my African sisters, mothers and daughters in their quest for justice, truth, peace and liberation.”
Activism led Udoye to rural villages and prisons, initiating empowerment programs everywhere she traveled. She eventually moved to the U.S. to continue her studies and her commitment to the liberation of African women.
Within five years, she graduated from Loyola University in Chicago and received master’s degrees in psychology and pastoral studies and a Ph.D. in educational psychology.
She also co-founded African Women in America, a human rights advocacy organization, of which she is president.
The Woman in Me is a personal memoir that details Udoye’s fight for equality. She includes the stories of other African women and their struggles.
“Our world is becoming a global village,” she says. “It is our responsibility to care for, or at least be concerned about, one another, particularly the vulnerable and minority groups in our world village. However, I do not think world societies understand fully the critical situations and conditions that African women and children face. I do not claim that I understand fully myself. But I want to listen.”
The Woman in Me is published by AuthorHouse, a publisher for emerging self-published writers.
For more information on Udoye’s work, visit www.afwiam.org. For more information on the publisher, visit www.authorhouse.com.
SOPHIA BAIRAKTARIS/THE PHOENIX/LOYOLA UNIVERSITY. THE WRITER: Ngozi Udoye, also known as NG or Mama Sophia