As Valentine’s Day grows more popular in Africa individuals have brought various characterisations to the celebration. Nevertheless, what resonates is the tendency for the celebration to bring emotional issues to the fore, be they political or romantic…

Is ‘Love’ Universal? 

For some, love knows no cultural bounds and is “universal” (Woman in Accra, 2002). Conversely this particular holiday has frequently remained the territory of those in affluent ‘urban’ areas or of a younger generation receptive to new, even taboo, ideas of love…

How is the day celebrated?

Couples face many choices before the big day, surrounded by advertisements of free dinners or vacations, the latter industry enjoying enormous success in Eastern Africa. ‘Westernised’ elements can include imported greeting cards, as well as flowers or chocolates. Various local aspects across the continent coexist, however, ranging from emphasising familial celebrations to incorporating African music. In Ghana the holiday has been made a patriotic ‘Chocolate Day’ in order to depart from associations with promiscuity.

What role do women play in all of this?
Pigeonholes or power?

On the most part sources emphasise the task or burden of the man to impress the woman. A Ghanaian card shop owner suggested in 2002 that “[a]ll year women keep the marriages and relationships together, so why shouldn’t Val Day be their day to be treated?”

Safe sex

As a result of disputes surrounding polygyny and AIDS, Valentine’s Day often coincides with anti-AIDS campaigns. On the big day, campaigners make condoms available to the public to reduce risk and protect women from unwanted pregnancies.

Women protesting against violence via a global forum

There are growing numbers of women protesting against violence. An example is V-Day, a global movement, now adopted by several African countries, protesting against and aiming to end violence against women and girls.