Written in Her Own Voice

Ethno-educational Autobiographies of Women in Education

by Dolapo Adeniji-Neill (Volume editor) Ann Mungai (Volume editor)
©2016 Textbook XI, 183 Pages


The contributors to Written in Her Own Voice illuminate how gender and gender roles affect women’s advancement, educational success, and life aspirations. Chapters provide thick, rich descriptions of the authors’ lives, using heuristic and phenomenological inquiry as guiding theoretical frameworks. These women write about how power relations within society continue to promote exclusion and marginalization along race, gender, class, and religious lines around the globe. They examine the influences of families, communities, and societies in their educational and professional lives. This unique project has produced fascinating stories from real-life anecdotes, examining the role of families in developing one’s sense of self vis-à-vis others and the role of culture and community in the development of personhood. Diasporic experiences give voice to adaptations and changes that occur when two cultures (i.e., Western and native cultures) collide. The authors courageously narrate how they find their voices amidst the noises that threaten to drown them out.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Preface
  • Chapter One: Written in My Own Voice: Ethno-Educational Autobiography of Adedolapo, a Yoruba Woman
  • Chapter Two: Not Without Struggle: Creating a Habitable Place in White Spaces
  • Chapter Three: Shaken Identity: A Burundian Woman’s New Take on Gender, Race, and Brilliancy in U.S. Academia
  • Chapter Four: Journey Into Academia: Reflecting on the Cultural Experiences of a Black British Scholar
  • Chapter Five: An Auto-Ethnography of a Black Woman from a Disadvantaged Home Environment: A Wellness Perspective
  • Chapter Six: An Auto-Ethnographic Life Story of a Black Academic Woman: A Story of Triumph in the Face of Adversity
  • Chapter Seven: The Quest for a Better Life
  • Chapter Eight: Silent No More: African-Born Women Faculty Expose Their Triple Marginalization in U.S. Schools of Education
  • Chapter Nine: In Their Own Words: Exploring the Leadership Experiences and Challenges Faced by African American Women Scholars in Higher Education
  • Chapter Ten: Carrying the Burden of What Africa Means: Journey of an African Woman in the Academy
  • Chapter Eleven: Metaphors, Mementos, and Myths of Motherwork: A Visual Essay on Motherhood in Art and Education
  • Contributors
  • Series index

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It is a great pleasure as the editors of this book to extend our appreciation to all the writers, who simply and masterfully wrote from their hearts and gave these invaluable gifts to all our children and our world.

We are grateful to our cover artist, Julio Desmont of Haiti and our Adelphi University students, Jiaxuan Zong, Danny Batusta and Carolyn Garcia.


I am indebted to my family—My mother, the late Deaconess Rebecca Olufunmilayo Odanye, a brilliant, strong, and loving mother, who was and will always be a constant inspiration to me and my sister Adefunke Mary Mustapha and our children: Samuel Adeniji Neill, Yewande Mustapha, Damilola Mustapha, and Eniola Mustapha. I am thankful to my wonderful husband, Philip S. Morrison, for his unwavering support.


I am grateful for the support I have received in this journey of life: I cannot express enough thanks to my husband, Dr. George Mungai, and my daughters, Catherine ← vii | viii → Auger, Caroline Mungai, Lilian Arthur, and Pauline Agornyo, for bearing with a busy mother who juggled work and school and got even busier after her dissertation as she juggled teaching and tenure process. Special thanks to my husband for the introductory poem for my chapter.

Finally, I would like to thank my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Simon Njuguna, for the sacrifice of making sure I received the best education and sending me to a boarding school to ensure that I did not fall through the cracks. I thank them for the countless times the value of education was taught in our home.

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Modern readers have become fascinated with autobiographies because they reveal much about cultures, and, especially, a writer’s sense of self and the ability for many voices to describe their world as they see it. Autobiographies offer cultural criticisms and give us a glimpse into the fragility of identity and the difficulties of attaining a strong sense of self (Conway, 1992, p. VII). The purpose of this book is to illuminate how gender and gender roles affect educational success and life aspirations using autobiographies and intersectionality inquiries as guiding theoretical frameworks (Crenshaw, 1991; Darling, 2010; Patton, 2002, pp. 107–110). Oyewunmi (2005) posited that gender is socially constructed and that the way it is used in dominant discourses implies that it is a biologically determined category. She further noted that most of the scholars who do research on gender have derived their conceptual and theoretical tools from studies based on Western Europe, the United States, and Canada. In this book, the invitation is not only to re-examine western conceptualization of womanhood but also to bring to the fore other women’s voices from around the world.

When researchers travel to Africa and have not spent a sufficient amount of years there to conduct research, they are working through the lens of Western modes of understanding and Western preoccupations. In Burundi, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and other formerly colonized nations, Christianity introduced a male deity, religious beliefs, and practices that dethroned female deities and other indigenous deities, substituting their positions in the societies with a male God and his son, his bishops, and priests. Male bias then became a strong feature ← ix | x → of government educational programs, as well as mission policies and education (Amadiume, 1987, pp. 134–135). Thus, it can be an uphill struggle for a female to gain higher education in many non-Western nations. This is especially true in families where resources are limited—a boy may be chosen for further education instead of his sister.

Authors in this book examine various layers of their lives, including discrimination against them as women through intersectionality theory. Darling (2010) defined intersectionality as an effective tool for addressing the complex diversity of women’s lived experiences, a tool for understanding and viewing how gender intersects with other identities. She further noted, “Intersectionality is also useful for identifying the ways in which some women experience multiple intersecting privileges, rights, and opportunities, thereby advancing their social standing, status, and contributions to social development” (p. 93).

In this book, layers of women’s lives and lived experiences are examined in autobiographical forms, and the struggles and triumphs of womanhood are given voice.

Womanhood is not necessarily a synonym for gender, because in Africa and many other societies, social roles are not necessarily biological roles (Oyewunmi, 2005). Therefore, in these narratives we have looked at how our pasts and presents contributed to our educational achievements and our life purposes in the hope that our stories will serve as lanterns to light the ways of young women and men in the pursuit of educational and life aspirations.

We also examined how power relations within society perpetuate rather than inhibit the reproduction of exclusion and marginalization along gender, class, religious, and ideological lines in the academy (Murunga, 2005, p. 398).

The authors of this book examined the influence of families, communities, and societies in our private, educational, and professional lives.

It was our goal to examine


Amadiume, I. (1997). Reinventing Africa. London, England; New York, NY: Zed Books.

Conway, J. K. (Ed.). (1992). Written by herself, autobiographies of women: An anthology. New York, NY: Vintage Books. ← x | xi →

Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review, 43(6), 1241–1299.

Darling, M. (2010). Gender intersectionality: Unfinished business of justice advocacy. In R. G. Johnson, III (Ed.), Women of color in leadership taking their rightful place (pp. 91–106). San Diego, CA: Birkdale.

Murunga, G. R. (2005). African women in the academy and beyond: Review essay. In O. Oyewunmi (Ed.), African gender studies: A reader. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Oyewunmi, O. (Ed.). (2005). African gender studies: A reader. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation methods (3rd ed.). London, England: Sage.

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Written IN My Own Voice

Ethno-Educational Autobiography of Adedolapo, a Yoruba Woman


I remember a time in my childhood, as I walked through my family village, Ilesha, between houses and a road that only a bicycle and a person could pass through, my great aunt saw me going by and waved me into one of our family compounds. I instinctively knew what to do: I knelt at her feet—and she cradled my head lovingly. Even though I didn’t really know her personally, I knew we were bound by blood and tradition. She began to recite our family oriki—our family praise poetry, our ancestral songs:

Adedolapo, Adedolapo, omo Sapakin, oni Ikoti, she crooned:

Emi, omo Eki lade igbo, Eki Jagun, omo arila pe ekoro iku, omo ar’obebe inu sekefa eki k’oludo, omo erin gburan ona ekun. Omo mora, mora ti ra igba eru lorijo. Omo oloni asare bu mu ni igbo iwesu. Omo loro gbenla. Loro ijale, loro imu hun oni, loro idele oni k’obrin runrun ma nu. Omo Ekun meefefa, elenu odi, Loro lo pa Ekun mefefa ni, at jie, ti jie ni Loro ti fi aso ekun da ibante idi. Logun Loro mama sojo o, aya gbogbo nso kulu kele! Momo sojo o, Aya gbogbo nso kulu kele! Momo sojo o, Aya gbogbo nso kulu kele!

[Adedolapo. Adedolapo, the daughter of Eki, the king of the forest. The brave warrior. The one whose scarification is so bold and brave it is six bold long lines tattoo in the stomach! The great elephant that opens doors, the one we asked not to buy, not to buy, who buys a thousand slaves a day. The owner of the river that people have to drink quickly because it is in the forest of Eshu (the devil’s forest). The one who does extraordinary feats. Loro does not steal, Loro does not take anything that does not belong to him; but when Loro visits, the most beautiful woman is sure to disappear. Loro is the slayer of the six lions that terrified our people. From that day on, Loro used the lions’ skins for loincloths. Warrior, Loro! Don’t be afraid, your subjects are afraid! Don’t be afraid, your subjects are afraid! Don’t be afraid, your subjects are afraid!] ← 1 | 2 →


XI, 183
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2019 (April)
Gender Educational success Race Influence of family in the lives of women Gender roles
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. XI, 183 pp.

Biographical notes

Dolapo Adeniji-Neill (Volume editor) Ann Mungai (Volume editor)

Dolapo Adeniji-Neill is Associate Professor of Education at the Ruth S. Ammon School of Education at Adelphi University. She is a social anthropologist, ethnographer, and social sciences educator, and an educational researcher, writer, and poet. Her research interests and work include sociological and cultural implications influencing individual and group educational opportunities in the U.S. and internationally; class and gender influences in K-12 and higher education settings; immigrant education; African philosophy, and multiculturalism. Anne Mungai is Professor of Education, Chair of the Curriculum and Instruction Department, and Director of the Graduate Special Education Program at the Ruth S. Ammon School of Education at Adelphi University. Her research agenda over the last several years has revolved around multicultural, special education inclusion, staff development, gender, and learning issues. She is the author of Growing up in Kenya: Rural Schooling and Girls (Peter Lang, 2002) and a co-editor of Pathway to Inclusion: Voices from the Field (2005) and In the Spirit of Ubuntu: Stories of Teaching and Research (2009). She is the vice-president of the Caroline W. Mungai Foundation.


Title: Written in Her Own Voice
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198 pages