Louise Lief

Obama Step-Grandma on Women's Rights

The Root


No visit to Kenya is complete without calling on Sarah Obama, President Obama’s remarkably sharp 90-year-old step-grandmother, the woman who raised his father, Barack Obama Sr.

Since the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, Westerners have trooped to her door, eager to learn about the president’s African heritage from the woman he calls “Granny.” Obama used her accounts of the family history extensively in his 1995 autobiography, Dreams From My Father. Thrust into the spotlight by improbable circumstances, Mama Sarah, as Kenyans call her, graciously receives these many visitors.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Mama Sarah several times, most recently this past June, and have visited her with two groups of journalists. It is revealing to hear the narratives Western visitors bring to these encounters, preloaded storylines that can become obstacles to seeing Africa for what it is.

Read more at The Root.

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Louise Lief is an independent consultant to philanthropy, non-profits and media, helping mission-driven organizations design, execute and communicate program strategies to achieve their objectives with maximum impact.

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