When dawn breaks tomorrow, various events and activities will be held to mark this year’s International Women’s Day, to celebrate women worldwide, in all walks of life – farmers, traders, teachers, other female professionals and the psychedelic ones; those that are single, married, widowed, rich, poor, divorced, separated, half-educated and glass ceiling breakers, among others. As the excitement continues to rise, I want to ask women: whose hand are you holding, to help that person get to the Promised Land?
The theme for this year’s IWD celebration is #Choosetochallenge. Elaborated, it simply means that “a challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.” So, let’s all choose to challenge. How will one help forge a gender equal world? We should celebrate women’s achievement; raise awareness against bias and take action for equality.
Now, challenge actually brings the needed change. The theme provides an expository opportunity to challenge some of the ill-attitudes of some women who would mark IWD2021 without knowing that they do not deserve to be part of the celebration. World-renowned journalist, feminist and activist, Gloria Steinem, postulated that, “The story of women’s struggle belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.” I fully agree with Steinem and ask women again: whose hand are you holding in the struggle to forge a gender equal world?
As women and organizations line up activities for the big day, how many accomplished women are bold and proud of their humanitarian services towards other women? Apart from their families and friends, how many wives of government functionaries, even though most of them are not office holder, have held other women’s hands to pull them up, raise awareness against bias and take action for equality?
Are ladies proud of other ladies in corporate settings, organisations, the academia and the professions as well as in other walks of life?
There are women who want to remain super-stars, live the life of ‘me, myself and I’ perpetually without providing the ladder for the younger generation to climb up? Now, some would engage the services of the best make-up artists, wear the best of designer outfits with bags to match, alight from the best SUVs to attend various IWD2021 events while covering up their husbands’ sins of rape and abuse on their domestic-helps who are also ladies that should be celebrated. Have we forgotten so soon the late Ochanya Ogbanje, the 13-year-old student of Federal Government Girls College, Gboko, Benue State, who was frequently raped by an evil tag-team of father and son, while her aunt looked the other way? Poor Ochanya was abused until she was diagnosed of Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) which led to her death while her mates were in school. Should such an evil aunt who ought to have shielded Ochanya from her wicked husband and son be celebrated tomorrow? I doubt it. What about women who are experts in maltreating other people’s children; should they be part of tomorrow’s celebration too because I am challenging them, bearing in mind the theme of the year’s celebration. Let us cast our minds back, to Enugu, where a 10-year-old house-help, Nneoma, had a nail driven into her head by the aunt, apart from other hideous and unbelievable injuries inflicted on her.
Should women simply gather to have fun with a bag of ill attitudes hanging on them towards other women? Which one of the females in the younger generation whose hand you are holding, to take over from you when you retire from active service or do you want to reign forever? Does IWD mean to reduce age and falsify documents over and over until one gets near her grave while fresh, younger ones loiter the streets in search of menial jobs? How many women pray in all sincerity for another woman’s daughter to be great in life? How many of the younger ladies can boldly say, if not for this aunty, mummy or sister, I would not have been where I am today. Women who shave the hair of other women at their back, are they holding any one’s hand to uplift it? Women who walk a path and close it for others, should they be part of tomorrow’s celebration? What about women whose hands are already soaked with blood, child traffickers, whose hands have they held to enable them celebrate tomorrow in all sincerity? Women who sit on amassed wealth with primary responsibility to destroy the unity that binds families together and leave them in shambles, women who are rude, arrogant and very disobedient to their husbands, should they be bold to celebrate tomorrow? Female professionals who do hanky-panky, what legacy are you leaving behind for the younger ones? Women who cannot see that N10,000 can make a difference in another woman’s life, whose hand are you holding for the future? Ladies who are perpetual side-chicks, shake other women’s table and engage in all sorts of immoral behaviour, what torch are you passing down to the younger ones to achieve gender parity?
The list is endless, now where are the stings of jealous, competitive mentors and friends who claim to be holding the hands of younger ones in pretence, but do it with a bitter heart. How many young female bankers have you empowered and taught the nitty-gritty of the job? How many women can confide in a fellow woman and that secret dies in both ears? Jealous and competitive friends who would be warming up to celebrate the IWD tomorrow, are you holding the hands of your friends together to struggle and forge a gender equal world?
What does it mean to celebrate on IWD? It simply means that at one’s stage in life, one should receive her reward for her good deeds even though no one can fully please the whole world, but that drop of kindness will not be neglected. People whose hands were held in upliftment, no matter how little should gather to celebrate her. There are women who willingly open their doors for others. It could be by word of advice, it could be following up to raise stubborn children, little raw or cooked food, financial support, but let someone sing one’s praises. When Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala won the exalted seat of the World Trade Organisation as Director General, first female and first African, women took turns to celebrate her. If she comes to contest such an exalted office in her country, would women hold her hands to success without running her down? Wouldn’t she go the way of Mrs. Sarah Jubrin with an only vote that she cast for herself? At all times, there are situations one needs an element of human support, advice and to have genuine fellow women stand by the person.
Remarkably, this is not to say that all women are stone-hearted. Absolutely no! There have been some Mother Theresas of our time. Some women who have held and raised other people’s children to enviable heights are the best to celebrate tomorrow. Women who have fed and accommodated others without making mockery of them in times of need are the ones fit for the occasion of the International Women’s Day. I want to recall the case of Arese, the daughter of a friend, who was sent home for non-payment of school fees. Arese’s friend and classmate, Ijeoma, got home and informed her own mother that Arese, their best Mathematics student was sent home because of non-payment of school fees. Ijeoma’s mother who does not know Arese and her family got in touch with them. Arese’s mother told her that their business was facing a rough time. The woman asked for their account number and surprisingly transferred the exact amount her own daughter paid, to the couple. Tears, pain and sleepless night disappeared that same moment. My friend told me that what shocked her the most was the SMS Ijeoma’s mother, who she never knew sent to her: ‘Please don’t refund.’ This is the kind of women that should be celebrated tomorrow because she held a sister’s hand and never allowed her to be embarrassed or sink.
In 2015, we were in Abuja for Mrs. Aisha Buhari’s Appreciation Dinner. The invitation was not sent to me directly but was meant for Azuka Ogujiuba of Thisday Newspapers. She held the hand of Lanre Odukoya of Sunday Telegraph and myself on one invitation to Aso Rock. We got to the hotel room and cleaned up for the dinner. The procedure was to get to the Eagle Square, complete the protocol and a chauffeur-driven vehicle would take you to the villa. All well dressed, three journalists from Lagos on one official invitation to the event. From afar we asked questions and discovered it was strictly one invitation card to one guest. We stepped back a bit and allowed the rushing crowd to have their way. It was a bit tough. Azuka had to go on with us just nodding our understanding, because she had done her part by holding our hands from Lagos to Abuja. Miraculously, a lady who was supposed to be the Director General of the Lagos Liaison office in Abuja appeared from nowhere and gave us invitation cards. Ogujiuba also held our hands to an event organised by First Ladies in Abuja, who made our trip worthwhile.
Dear Nigerian Women, wear the feminism cap, take hold, possess your possessions, let us celebrate womanhood with hugs, laughter and appreciation. That is the challenge we need to make a positive difference!!!